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Ex-Paramilitary Protest in Guatemala

June 18, 2002

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GUATEMALA CITY (AP) _ Wielding machetes and clubs, about 8,000 ex-paramilitary fighters blocked roads in northern Guatemala on Monday, demanding payment from the government for their services during the country’s 36-year guerrilla war.

The protesters also occupied part of the national park near the ancient Mayan city of Tikal, said Rodolfo Zelada, a police spokesman.

``Right now it’s a peaceful demonstration,″ Zelada said.

The former members of Guatemala’s Civil Self-defense Patrols held up traffic on the main highway and other roads in the northern province of Peten, 330 miles north of here.

Demonstrators also blocked the access roads around Peten’s airport, causing all flights to be halted indefinitely for security reasons, said Edgar Nitsch, chief of transportation for the Civil Aeronautic Agency.

The protesters are asking for a payment of $2,500 each for their participation in the civil defense patrols.

``We are not going to give in. We want to negotiate with President Alfonso Portillo,″ Rosenda Perez, one of the demonstrators, told local radio station Emisoras Unidas.

The Civil Self-defense Patrols were formed by former President Efrain Rios Montt in 1983 to aid the Guatemalan army in its anti-insurgency campaigns against mostly Mayan guerrillas.

During the 36-year civil war, the army burned Indian villages and killed thousands of suspected leftists.

Former President Ramiro de Leon Carpio disbanded the civil patrols in 1996, the same year peace accords were signed to end the civil war.

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