Ex-Guatemalan Fighters Urge More Pay
GUATEMALA CITY - Hundreds of former paramilitary fighters blocked highways and attacked an oil pipeline, urging the government to pay them more for battling alongside the military during Guatemala's 36-year civil war.
The government agreed this month to pay ex-paramilitary members $660 each in three installments - one this year, and two next year. But protesters said Monday they want $2,500 handed over in one payment.
They blocked highways for a few hours early Monday before officials cleared them from roads, police spokesman Faustino Sanchez said.
Later Monday, Radio Sonora reported that 3,000 demonstrators took over an oil pumping station belonging to the French company Perenco and began emptying oil from one of the pipelines in Las Pozas, 110 miles north of Guatemala City.
No one from the company would confirm the report. A spokesman for the Department of Energy, Juan Carlos Ruiz, said that unidentified vandals had provoked an oil spill at the plant. He did not say how much oil had leaked.
Former members of the paramilitary patrols have longed demanded some form of payment, arguing they were obligated to work for the government without pay.
But such payments have been criticized by human rights groups
who say the patrols were responsible for many of the human rights abuses
committed in the war that
killed 200,000 people, mainly civilians.
The U.S. State Department, in its annual report on human rights in Guatemala released Monday, called the payments "an insult to the victims."
The patrols, alongside army troops, would often attack villages where rebel sympathizers were thought to be active.