Police in Guatemala have shot dead two protesters and wounded others during a demonstration against a new trade agreement. The men were killed on Tuesday of last week, following six days of mass protest.
The police, backed by the army, used live ammunition as well as water cannons and tear gas to drive protesters off a road in Huehuetenango, a highland region 180 miles north of the capital, Guatemala City.
Thousands of indigenous farmers, students and trade unionists have protested against the planned trade deal, known as Cafta, which will draw several Central American states into a free trade area with the US.
Small farmers in the country fear that their markets will be swamped with cheap US agricultural products. Many people will be denied access to life-saving drugs as new patent laws, designed to protect powerful drugs multinationals, come into effect.
Protesters are demanding a referendum on the Cafta deal and also calling for the resignation of the interior minister and the chief of police. Following the killings they vowed to carry on protesting against the trade deal.
Similar protests took place in neighbouring Honduras when the government signed up to the Cafta deal a month ahead of schedule.
Trinidad Sanchez, director of an organisation connected to Christian Aid, said, “We have raised our voice to denounce the danger that comes with this free trade agreement.
“This is going to increase unemployment. It is going to increase the crisis of food security in the country. It is going to make health and education less accessible for the people in Honduras. And this is not only for Honduras, but for the whole of Central America.”
Guatemala was the third country to sign up to the agreement, following Honduras and El Salvador. Protests are likely to spread to other countries in the region as Panama, Costa Rica and Nicaragua discuss signing up.