Thousands of Guatemalans have staged a rally to call for a probe into a deadly fire incident at an overcrowded state-run shelter that claimed the lives of 39 girls.
The protesters, who gathered in front of the National Palace in Guatemala City on Saturday, demanded a prompt investigation.
“All of the people from the government looking over the girls. Why didn’t they do anything earlier?” asked a woman at the rally.
The protesters held President Jimmy Morales responsible for the tragic event.
“A series of very bad decisions by the president and his administration… cost 39 girls their lives and we cannot allow that,” another protester said.
Morales has already announced the resignation of the director of the Virgen de la Asuncion facility, where the incident occurred, and promised to investigate the tragedy. The protesters, however, said the government was directly behind the deaths, claiming the abused victims at the sanctuary were intentionally terminated.
“We came today, on Saturday, to the central square in order to show our indignation and our pain at this massacre perpetrated by the state … [girls] were burned and executed; they were murdered,” said another woman at the rally.
Relatives and friends carry the coffin of 17-year-old Siona Hernandez, who died in a fire at a state-run shelter, during her funeral at the general cemetery in Guatemala City, March 10, 2017. (Photo by AFP)
The Virgen de la Asuncion children’s shelter had been criticized in the past for being overcrowded.
The center had a capacity of 500 children and adolescents; however, at the time of the incident, an estimated 800 under-aged children were being kept there.
Complaints about the dire living conditions at the overcrowded center had been frequent, and according to the distraught relatives of the residents, abuse was common at the center.