March 20, 2001

Guatemala police chief resigns amid crime wave

                  GUATEMALA CITY (Reuters) -- The head of Guatemala's embattled National
                  Civilian Police (PNC) resigned amid complaints the fledgling force has failed to
                  bring down snowballing crime rates.

                  "I've decided to hand things over to Interior Minister Byron Barrientos so that he
                  can name a replacement," PNC chief Rudio Lecsan said on national television on

                  Lecsan said he was stepping down for health reasons. But his departure comes
                  amid an increase in bank robberies and attacks on armored security vehicles.

                  An election promise to combat violent crime helped rocket President Alfonso
                  Portillo to power in January 2000.

                  The perceived failure by his government to control crime is among factors that
                  have eroded Portillo's popularity during his first 15 months in power.

                  Handing over crime-fighting responsibilities to a civilian police force independent
                  of the armed forces was a condition of peace accords signed by the government
                  and leftist guerrillas in 1996 to end a bloody 36-year civil war.

                      Copyright 2001 Reuters.