Tuesday, 18 March 2008

Making it safe to talk.

La Presa Libre reports that seven raids in the Rio Dulce area have failed to apprehend the suspects that the police are hunting after the taking of four Belgian and two Guatemalan hostages at the weekend.

The 400 soldiers and police that were transferred in to the area to assist in the search of the, now released, hostages, will remain in the area over the Easter period to ensure the security of tourists in the area.

"Our position is as it has always been: we are not going to negotiate with illegalities.Kidnapping is punishable by law, and is not the way. We have plenty of desks to solve the problems of land. What they asked for was a court case, "said President Alvaro Colom.

So it appears that the Presidents agreement to have a dialogue with the disgruntled locals was premature...or has he changed his mind? Given the nuances of translation this must be a case where the definition of 'negotiation' and 'dialogue' is crucial.

Where to next? The credibility of the new regime stands at an important crossroads. their promises of dialogue are now looking suspiciously like just so much rhetoric, were I a Guatemalan national I would be looking for a strong indication that the fears of the groups involved are truly being given the air time with the relevant authority.

Any talk of the use of courts to settle these disputes is surely a return to the old ways of the landed elite's method of dealing with an unruly sector of the community. This is a defining moment when, in my opinion, more thought on how to do the right thing and less emphasis on law could allow this struggling Nation to made a massive leap forward.

What these folks need is a safe place to talk, and it is unlikely that this will be in the public arena.

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