Protesters Block Highway in Guatemala

GUATEMALA CITY – Thousands of indigenous people blocked a key Guatemalan highway for a second day on Wednesday to protest a 30 percent hike in electricity rates.

With endorsement from the mayors of all 65 municipalities in Solola province, the protesters shut down the road at the Los Encuentros junction, 135 kilometers (84 miles) west of Guatemala City.

“On not obtaining a response on the part of the government, we will block other points and take more drastic actions,” a spokesman for a national coalition of unions and peasant groups that backs the Solola residents told the media.

Protesters want the government to roll back electric rates to where they were prior to the 30-percent increase and then freeze them at that level.

Solola residents also demand that President Alvaro Colom nationalize electricity distribution, which is currently in the hands of Spanish firms Iberdrola and Union Fenosa.

Unrest has been building across Guatemala since May 1, when government regulators authorized the hike in electric rates.

Fifty-two percent of Guatemala’s 14 million people live below the poverty line, according to government figures. EFE

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