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A Colonial City in Crisis Mode

Article Summary:

Designated a World Heritage Site by Unesco in 1979, Antigua is suffering the same problems that plague the outside world.

Photo Credit: Spise

Original Article Text From Spise via Google Translate :

Antigua, Guatemala colonial jewel in crisis

With its cobblestone streets and colonial buildings, Antigua has long been the main tourist destination in Guatemala , an alien to the oasis crime and chaos prevailing in the rest of the country.

In recent months, however, the city designated Cultural Heritage Site by Unesco in 1979 is suffering the same problems that plague the outside world. Increase in burglaries of homes and vehicles, and once reliable utilities such as running water and garbage collection deteriorate, as reported by The Associated Press.

Political turmoil is responsible for the current state of affairs in this city of 53,000 inhabitants. Antigua has a mayor elected since September 2012, when Adolfo Vivar and several relatives and members of his administration were accused of creating a criminal structure that stole nearly $ 3 million to the municipality. It has appointed an interim mayor, but election officials have not yet said what will be done to replace Vivar and other councilors.

You can not perform basic operations and residents are afraid, afraid that his quiet life among volcanoes be affected by a drop in tourism.

“A permit for an activity is requested and there is no one who authorize or take responsibility,” said Manuel Murillo, who manages a Spanish cultural center.

Jose Reyes, a restaurant cashier, says insecurity is palpable.

“My English teacher, an American, assaulted, stole his phone and iPad,” he said. “She lived here, but it was because she was very frightened.”

More than a million tourists visit the city every year, especially during Lent, attracted by its cobbled streets in processions
He says the attackers take advantage of the lonely places where not many people even passes on the day.

Another resident of Antigua, Magalí Gladys Mendez, that their children were robbed twice, and one was about to die after being attacked by an assailant stabbed.

“You see your family, neighbors and tourists alike complain of assaults even in places of interest and on the day. Governorate Police and has failed to give security and law enforcement,” says Mendez.

Interior Ministry statistics show that in the area there is a slight increase in crime, especially thefts, murders and theft of vehicles and residences. According to their records, department of Sacatepequez where Antigua Guatemala is located, between September 1 and November 16 of those 181 were reported crimes this year compared with 141 in 2012. In both years the majority of offenses occurred in Antigua.

Following the arrest of the mayor and other officials, municipal budgets have not been approved and the administration of the municipality has been affected, according to María Eugenia Contreras, legal adviser to the interim mayor Edgar Ruiz.

“The city continues to function – tax collection, police, water service – but all about budgets,” Contreras said. “A new year is always necessary to allocate funds and that makes the city council. Therefore it is likely that we will have more problems to provide services, especially at year end.”

To all this a wave of extortion and other crimes adds.

According to the latest reports of the Office of the United Nations on Drugs and Crime, there were five thousand 685 murders in 2011, which represents a homicide rate of 38.5 per 100 thousand inhabitants and makes Guatemala the seventh country with the highest violence.

Deputy Minister of the Interior (Interior) Arkel Benitez recognizes that increased insecurity, but says there are several actions to resolve the crisis in the department and specifically Antigua. Stresses the donation from entrepreneurs and hoteliers area security cameras, combating extortion bus drivers, including the capture of some leaders, and developing strategic plans new police controls in place.

According to the deputy minister, crime rates have improved in the first months of the year, but due to the death of the manager of the strategic plan, the situation changed.

“From January to July, we will reduce by 41 percent the insecurity in the historic town of Antigua where the dial plan, a strategic security plan operates. But following the death of the commissioner in charge offenses were again increasing,” explained Benítez.

Antigua, located about 50 kilometers (30 miles) west of Guatemala City, attracts tourists from around the world with its colonial charm and religious processions that wind through the stone streets during Lent. More than a million tourists visit the city every year.

New problems do not seem too affected tourism and tourist police continues to function normally. However, little police presence seen in streets.

But residents of Antigua feel the change. In early November, hundreds of them marched to demand the installation of a new municipal administration, saying they were tired of the water cuts that will not collect trash and disruptions in public transport.

A few weeks ago bus drivers transport paralyzed part due to murder and attack on two colleagues who refused to pay extortion. Drivers did not resume service until the government pledged to combat extortion.

The inhabitants of the city, meanwhile, get used to the new reality.

Paul Phillips, an American 70 year old who has an inn, said he has heard of the theft, but he has not been the victim of one.

“They have not won because we do not go out at night,” he said.

Murillo, who manages the Spanish cultural center, says the problem is not new insecurity and do not perceive that there is a high rise incident. “Maybe 5 percent or 10 percent,” he said.

“What we see is that the city is very left, dirtiest and disorganized,” he added. “Now it shows more. Mayor who is in jail or above worried about that, but today’s note.”

Link to Original Article:

From Spise

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