Former dictator and ex-General Efrain Rios Montt is running for president in the November 9 elections and backing a government program to compensate the ex-fighters (as a bid to secure votes on election day).
The Civilian Self-Defense Patrols were formed in 1982 from Maya Indian groups to help fight leftist guerrillas, but were disbanded in 1996 as part of the agreement ending the 36-year civil war. However, they have been demanding compensation ever since and in July 2002, staged protests across the country to demand $2,500 each for their services.
The government had agreed to pay compensation, but then reduced the amount to $650 to be paid in three installments. Thousands of them went on a rampage on the Pacific coast in May 2003 and burnt down a town hall when told that only 260 of them qualified for the first installment. - Adam Geibel
The Guatemalan army sent troops and negotiators to free four Guatemalan journalists and a human rights official abducted by 300 former Civilian Self-Defense Patrol paramilitaries during a highway-blocking protest on the 25th. Forty soldiers accompanying government negotiators arrived earlier on the 27th, joining around 500 riot police already in the area.