Re:co Guatemala on hold over security concerns

World Coffee Events (WCE) has decided to postpone Re:co Guatemala due to security concerns over political unrest in the lead up to the country’s September election. Thousands of protesters have gathered outside Guatemala City’s National Palace every Saturday for the past two months demanding the resignation of President Otto Pérez Molina. Protesters are angered by recent corruption allegations that have seen the imprisonment of a number of government officials, including Specialty Coffee Association of America (SCAA) Past President Max Quirin. An SCAA President from 2012 – 2013, Quirin has served as President of the Guatemalan National Coffee Growers Association (ANACAFE), on the Board of the Central Bank of Guatemala for several years, and the Board of the Social Security Institute (SSI) since 2010. The SSI has recently been beset by scandal, with officials accused of awarding a US$15 million contract for kidney treatments to a company without the licence to perform the service. A United Nations commission found that 13 patients died as a result. Along with other SSI Board members, Quirin has been awaiting trial in prison for almost a month. “Max is a colleague of mine and someone I consider an extremely honourable man,” Juan Luis Barrios, ANACAFE Board Member told GCR Magazine. “In many ways he has been a pioneer for the coffee industry here and has opened a lot of doors for coffee producers.” Barrios said the legal case against Quirin is not as straightforward as has been reported and that the SSI is being accused of neglect rather than any wrongdoing. “Some of these laws the SSI have been accused of breaking are very complex,” said Barrios. “I am very confidence that Max will be cleared of any wrong doing once the legal proceeding have run there course.” Barrios said the protests are well organised, ahead of time, meaning there’s been minimum disruption for coffee producers. “It is certainly not an ideal political situation and I can understand why there would be some restraint with regards to an event like Re:co,” said Barrios. “But the protests have been very peaceful, there’s been no violence and vandalism has been practically non existent.” Acting on advice from the SCAA, WCE made the decision last week to cancel Re:co to protect the safety of attendees. “I completely understand the decision to wait until the election is complete and these protests are over,” Barrios said. “I’m confident that once elections are over it will be back to life as normal here in Guatemala.” The SCAA told GCR Magazine that it is working with ANACAFE to put forward a future event in Guatemala. Re:co Guatemala was scheduled to take place in August this year.

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