October 11, 2005

Sutujil Indians Refuse Assistance from Military

Again, and rightfully so: Guatemala's Indians Refuse Flood Aid.

SANTIAGO ATITLAN, Guatemala - A Guatemalan Indian community, haunted by a government-sponsored massacre during the country's brutal civil war, refused soldiers' help Monday in recovering those killed in a week of flooding and mudslides and conducted its own searches instead.

Guatemalan officials were likely to give up searching for 384 missing throughout the region. They will likely be added to the 652 people already declared dead across Guatemala from torrential rains last week associated with Hurricane Stan, raising the total number killed to more than 1,000. Another 133 people were killed in El Salvador, Mexico, Costa Rica, Nicaragua and Honduras.

[...] In Panabaj, a community on the outskirts of Santiago Atitlan buried by a mudflow a half-mile wide and up to 20 feet thick, residents on Sunday blocked troops who had come to help dig out victims.

"The people don't want soldiers to come in here. They won't accept it," said Panabaj Mayor Diego Esquina, who said memories are still too vivid of a 1990 army massacre of 13 villagers. In all, tens of thousands died in Guatemala at the hands of soldiers and death squads in the 1960-96 civil war.

"There is a very strong resistance in the name of maintaining their culture," said Rodolfo Pocop, 35, a Santiago Atitlan resident who represents a national Indian rights group.

All the mudslide victims were Sutujil Indians. There are only about 100,000 Sutujil Indians in the country, and all live in communities on the shores of Lake Atitlan, Pocop said.

"It was a very severe blow to this ethnic group," he said.

The Indians struggled Monday to reconcile the demands of tradition — which require that bodies be recovered and buried exactly 24 hours after dying — with the shifting fields of mud and rotting corpses.

I just hope they will allow foreign aid workers to assist their communities---or what's left of them.

Posted by Kyer at October 11, 2005 12:30 PM | TrackBack