Thursday August 2 9:06 PM ET
Guatemalans Hold Violent Protests
By DIEGO MENDEZ, Associated Press Writer
GUATEMALA CITY (AP) - A mob throwing stones and wielding wooden clubs temporarily seized a police station in central Guatemala, injuring 20 police officers in continuing violent protests against a sales tax hike, authorities said late Thursday.
Faustino Sanchez, a spokesman for Guatemala's national police force, said 200 people protesting the new 2 percent sales tax increase stormed police headquarters in the highlands city of Coban, 170 miles north of Guatemala City, forcing the 80 police officers inside to run for their lives.
The incident came only hours after the Guatemalan government declared a state of emergency in Totonicapan, 120 miles west of the capital, where a mob burned down the mayor's house, a bank and a government office on Wednesday in protest of the tax. Five policemen and 19 civilians were injured.
In Coban, the mob, which consisted mainly of high school and college students, briefly held a radio reporter hostage inside the police station, Sanchez said. The hostage was later released unharmed, he said.
The protesters abandoned the building after army trucks began to arrive with reinforcements, Sanchez said.
Several police officers were beaten unconscious by the mob and rushed to local hospitals, Sanchez said.
Soldiers were patrolling Coban's streets Thursday night. No arrests were made after the attack, for fear of inciting another riot, Sanchez said.
Some 200 people have been arrested in Totonicapan and Guatemala City during two days of violent uprisings against the raising of the national sales tax from 10 to 12 percent.
Some businesses have also closed to protest the measure.