GUATEMALA CITY – A civic leader on Totonicapan said that eight Indians died last week in a protest in northwestern Guatemala, for which she blamed the army, but authorities claim that only six people lost their lives.
The president of the Directive Board of the 48 districts in the northwestern province of Totonicapan, Carmen Tacam, in remarks published Sunday in the local daily Prensa Libre, said that “the public repudiates and regrets that there are already eight fatalities left by the attack.”
Tacam said that one of the two additional dead – above and beyond the authorities’ figure – was identified as Jesus Domingo Caniz, of Quetzaltenango, while the other dead man lived in Solola.
However, the National Institute of Forensic Sciences, or Inacif, is only acknowledging six dead as a result of the protest staged by Totonicapan residents.
So far, only six autopsies have been performed on people killed at the protest, Inacif director Jorge Cabrera said.
The coordinator of the Guatemalan presidential office’s National System for Dialogue, Miguel Angel Balcarcel, told the daily that a government investigation will determine the circumstances under which the Indians died and who is responsible.
Tacam also lamented the fact that so far no advance word about the investigation has been released.
Guatemalan President Otto Perez Molina placed seven soldiers who admitted firing into the air and in their own defense during the protest at the disposition of the judicial authorities.
Also, police arrested the private security guard of a truck who, the president said, was the one who fired into the crowd at Kilometer 170 on the Interamerican highway.
Hundreds of people mobilized early Thursday to block the Interamerican highway at six different points in Totonicapan province.
The protest was spurred by proposed constitutional changes, an overhaul of the curriculum for aspiring teachers and a recent hike in electric rates.
Two truckloads of army troops – some of them with assault rifles – were sent to a spot known as Alaska to assist police trying to clear the highway there.
The violence began, Perez Molina said, when the private security guard traveling on a cargo truck fired his gun in an attempt to clear a path through the crowd.
The army has not provided any official reaction to Tacam’s complaint.
At present, the situation in Totonicapan remains calm and there are no plans for further protests, according to Eusebio Hernandez, the vice president of the local Directive Board.
Leaders of social and religious organizations have issued a call for calm and peace to the public and have asked the authorities to investigate the incident and enforce the law against those who prove to be responsible for the massacre.
A total of at least 36 protesters were shot, while four others were injured by tear gas.