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Saturday, 4 August, 2001, 03:52 GMT 04:52 UK
Guatemala leader defies protesters
Protesters block the Panamerican Highway in Los Encuentros, Guatemala, 120km west of the capital
Demonstrators protest against major tax increases
The President of Guatemala, Alfonso Portillo, has vowed to press ahead with tax reforms despite violent protests across the country earlier this week.

Dozens of people were injured in clashes with police, and at least 200 others were arrested in many cities and towns during protests in the last few days.

Among the demonstrators were business representatives, workers, farmers and students demanding the resignation of Mr Portillo after his approval of wide-ranging tax increases.

As part of the government's tax reforms, value added tax was raised from 10% to 12%, and tax on air and sea transport rose 100%.

Mr Portillo also instated a system to clamp down on tax evaders.

Virtual shut down

In protest, the national chambers of agriculture, commerce, industry and finance called a one-day strike.

Strike organisers said the stoppage, which took place on Thursday, virtually shut the country down.

Riot police detain a woman protester outside the national palace in Guatemala City
At least 200 people have been arrested

In the city of Coban, some 270km (170 miles) north of Guatemala City, an angry mob, made up mainly of high school and college students, took over a police station, injuring 20 police officers.

The mob briefly held a radio reporter hostage inside the station, a spokesman for Guatemala's national police said.

A few hours earlier, the government declared a state of emergency in the city of Totonicapan, about 190km (120 miles) west of the capital, where protestors set fire to government buildings and cars.

The website of the Guatemala City newspaper Siglo Veintiuno reported that the state of emergency could be extended for 30 days.

Intimidation tactics

The Guatemalan Vice President, Juan Francisco Royes Lopez, criticised the business leaders of using intimidation methods to coerce people to join the strike.

"There was evidence... that there are so-called leaders who used threats and coercion to have business go on strike," the vice president was quoted as saying by the Prensa Libre newspaper.

The situation calmed down by late Friday, but the Rigoberta Menchu Human Rights foundation said further strikes and protests were expected.

See also:

06 Mar 01 | Americas
Former Guatemala head loses immunity
07 Mar 01 | Americas
Guatemala steps out of military past
10 Aug 00 | Americas
Guatemala admits state killing role
27 Dec 99 | Americas
Guatemala votes for 'killer'
30 Jul 01 | Country profiles
Country profile: Guatemala
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