***BTS sent a contribution to support the costs of the commemoration, but our friends at the Project Service Alliance of Canada (PSAC) have set up a GoFundMe page for the commemoration, the families and for the survivors.
Update from 8 Tijax Collective
We are at the gates of the fourth anniversary of the massacre of the Hogar Seguro Virgen de la Asunción. It would seem that time has passed quickly, but really, it has passed slowly for the families of the victims and the survivors: the criminal process does not seem to point towards justice and the living conditions and the future of the fifteen who survived the fire in the small classroom is not encouraging.
Throughout these four years as Colectivo 8 Tijax, we have been present in the processes of justice and healing. We have accompanied families in economic, spiritual and even security crises. Survivors have returned to their families and to the same environments but in worse conditions because the injuries and amputations they suffered from the fire prevents them from integrating easily into society.
We have been witnesses to a long and tiring criminal process where judges have yielded to the requests of the accused, favouring substitute measures that ignore the memory of the 41 deceased girls, their families, and the survivors. At the moment, the trial only includes the events of March 7 and 8, 2017; the incidents which led to more than a hundred adolescents escaping from the Virgen de la Asunción Home and the San Gabriel Boy’s Home have been pushed aside. The testimony of the adolescents has been clear: they were fleeing from mistreatment, torture, rotting food and a secret trafficking network that no one talks about and no one investigated, where the military and politicians were clearly involved.
In addition to this disgraceful situation, we are concerned that many of the survivors are young mothers. The programs of the Ministry of Social Welfare have been no help to them. The promised scholarships were never fulfilled and many are at risk of being recruited by gangs. In March, two girls are expecting, which greatly worries us because their current living conditions are not adequate for the survivors or for their children.
In addition to that, we would like to comment that we are shocked by the recent murder of one of the mothers who has sought justice in this process. She is 41-year-old María Elizabeth Ramírez, mother of Wendy Vividor Ramírez, who died in the United States after being transferred to treat injuries sustained in the fire. María was brutally murdered in a stabbing on February 21. Her skull was smashed with stones and her hair was cut- it appears that she was subjected to torture before dying. This is in addition to the case of Gloria Pérez y Pérez, mother of Iris Yodenis León Pérez, also killed during the 2017 fire, who in June 2018 was brutally murdered along with her husband and their second 13-year-old daughter, Nury León Pérez, leaving her three-year-old son orphaned. So far, the Public Prosecutor’s office has not investigated whether these crimes are linked to the search for justice in the case of the Hogar Virgen de la Asunción, however, as a group, we are concerned for the life and integrity of the survivors, families, and those who we have accompanied this process.
We know that this case has marked the history of Guatemala and other countries in the world must guarantee non-repetition. However, in recent years there have been other massive escapes by adolescents from state homes. On February 17, 2021, 10 girls and adolescents from the Hogar Seguro Zafiro I also escaped, but not without first mentioning the mistreatment, overcrowding, rotting food, and delays in the hearings to return to their homes. This only makes us think that institutionalization continues to be a strategy of the judges to continue feeding the trafficking networks and justify state funds invested in the institutions that should guarantee their shelter and protection.
Finally, as we do every year, we will honour the memory of the deceased girls who lost their lives in this tragedy. We have met outside the home on more than one occasion, joined by the families and some of the survivors. A Mayan ceremony will be held, musicians from the symphony will play, symbolic acts will be performed, and there will be flowers and illustrations of the 41. This year for the first time we will make public the 41 faces of the girls and we will make posters with their faces.
As you know, our group arises from the emergency and the lack of presence of the State of Guatemala on March 8, 2017. We are a group of friends who are volunteers, and we have supported this work with our own funds and a few donations that we have received to support the hearings. During the pandemic, the needs have increased, and the situations of the surviving adolescents have been complicated because although the State of Guatemala should guarantee a life pension every month, the funds are not only insufficient but they do not arrive on time and months pass without receiving them.
With the warmest of embraces, we hope to continue supporting these families together with you, with all of the love that has united us to the victims and families during these years.Collective 8 Tijax.
Guatemala, March 1, 2021.
Guatemala, March 1, 2021.