GUATEMALA CITY – Guatemala’s government decreed Monday a state of emergency in a town where at least eight people died last weekend in clashes between supporters and opponents of a cement factory.
Interior Minister Mauricio Lopez Bonilla and presidential press secretary Francisco Cuevas independently confirmed the measure that has been imposed for 30 days.
Under the state of emergency, authorities have the right to disperse by force any public gathering that lacks the required authorization.
Located some 31 kilometers (19 miles) west of Guatemala City, San Juan Sacatepequez has been the scene since 2005 of a series of protests against the installation of a cement factory.
Last weekend disturbances among locals left at least eight people dead and 15 injured, authorities said.
Some 600 police have been sent to the area since Sunday.
Lopez Bonilla said security forces have warrants for the arrest of 36 people suspected of instigating the violence.
Cuevas, for his part, said the government’s measure seeks a return to normalcy and an end to confrontations between those who support and those who oppose the cement factory, who also oppose the construction of a regional highway.
Guatemala’s National Ombudsman Jorge de Leon Duque urged authorities to guarantee the safety of the population.