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Guatemala Police Chief Fired Amid Riots

July 29, 2003

GUATEMALA CITY (AP) _ National Police Chief Raul Manchame was fired Monday for failing to halt violent protests in the capital.

Interior Minister Adolfo Reyes said Manchame was removed because ``he did not act, against our precise orders that he had to act″ against demonstrators backing the presidential candidacy of former dictator Efrain Rios Montt.

The U.S. State Department said Rios Montt’s party provided tents and other materials to supporters who were responsible for the violence.

The interior minister told members of congress that Manchame would be investigated to determine if he shared responsibility.

Men armed with clubs destroyed shop windows and parked cars, chased reporters, blocked traffic and forced the closure of government buildings and the U.S. Embassy on Thursday.

Manchame said on Saturday that police held back because the demonstrators had threatened to destroy hotels and embassies if pursued.

The protesters earlier vowed to remain in the capital until the courts reversed a decision temporarily barring Rios Montt from registering as a candidate in the Nov. 9 presidential election. The protests ended after the former dictator, who is also head of the Guatemala’s ruling party, appealed for calm.