Central America 28/11/11

Guatemala sees rampant rise in food prices, whilst El Salvador struggles to overcome floods and Honduran bishop condemns Porfírio Lobo’s political killings.

 Prensa Libre reports this week that food prices are giving no sign of truce to Guatemalans, as those living under poverty (estimated 53%) have been struggling to keep pace with their rampant rise in the past decade.

According to the country’s Instituto Nacional de Estadística (National Institute of Statistics – INE), the price of white corn has more than doubled (156%) since 2000 (from 0.79 to 2.03 quetzals in October 2011), while chicken eggs have witnessed a rise of 66%, from 0.66 to 1.11 quetzals in the same period.

Analyst for the Instituto Centroamericano de Estudios Fiscales (Central American Institute for Fiscal Studies – Icefi) Jonathan Lara told reporters this rise has worsened in the past four years due to the impact of the international economic crisis, as Guatemala remains highly dependent on foreign imports (US$13.8bi), 37% of which come from the United States.

‘Guatemala is subject to international prices, and those products which derive from oil, such as petrol and gas, are defined in the international market and this also impacts on […] commodity prices in the country’, Lara said.

On Friday, El Salvador was on ‘yellow alert’ as it registered 720 microearthquakes in the district of El Carmen. With a magnitude of 1.8-4.6, the chain of seismic disturbances caused damage to some 90 households.

This event is yet another in a series of natural disasters which have lashed the country in the past months, such as the torrential rains which battered all of Central America in mid-October, leaving 105 dead in El Salvador alone and causing billions of dollars worth of damage.

El Salvador’s ambassador to the United States Francisco Roberto Altschul Fuentes told Tico Times that the rains were ‘by far the worst phenomenon we’ve had in 40 years’. Fuentes also stressed the need for all nations to ‘chip in’ to further El Salvador’s recovery, estimating that it would take some US$1.5bi to repair the damage.

During the onset of the floods which affected all of El Salvador’s districts (14), some 300,000 people were affected, the majority in rural areas, and an estimated 60,000 were housed in temporary shelters.

Also this week, thousands of Hondurans took to the streets of the industrial city of San Pedro Sula to give voice to their indignation against widespread violence in the country, to which San Pedro Sula has been no stranger.

 Speaking against the series of political assassinations and murders of human rights defenders and journalists without judicial retribution which have been present President Porfírio Lobo’s mandate, bishop Rómulo Emiliani said that the gathering aimed to ‘express our pain, our grief and almost desperation for so many dead, so much violence, so much blood spilled and so much impunity’.