Disasters & Accidents

The 6 “saddest” years in the life of a Guatemalan mother

By David Toro Escobar

Guatemala City, Mar 8 (EFE).- Dacia Ramirez, the mother of one of the 41 girls who died in a fire inside a state-run home in Guatemala in 2017, says that the six years since then have been the “saddest” of her life, and she laments the fact that the officials accused of allowing the tragedy to occur have not been brought to justice.

“(Those girls) had dreams, plans and (the officials) ruined it all,” Ramirez told EFE. She is the mother of Ashley Mendez Ramirez, who died on March 8, 2017, inside the state-run Virgen de la Asuncion Safe Home, on the outskirts of Guatemala City.

Another 15 girls received serious burns, but survived the tragedy, for which nobody has been found to have legal responsibility.

“The state has always wanted to minimize the seriousness of the case,” said Ramirez in discussing the fate of her 15-year-old daughter.

Over the past five years, the defense attorneys for eight former officials accused of being responsible for the deaths of the girls between 13 and 17 years of age have managed to delay the trials and to postpone the oral and public arguments.

Six years after the tragedy, Ramirez said that the Guatemalan judiciary has “delayed the criminal trial in favor of the accused,” but she warned that “it’s impossible” that she will halt her fight for justice along with the families of the other deceased girls.

So far, the Guatemalan court hearing the case has not set a date for the trial to start, having postponed announcing that decision five times so far in 2023.

On the fateful day in March 2017, a group of girls at the home located 20 kilometers (12 miles) southeast of Guatemala City, escaped from the site complaining of bad treatment and even alleging people trafficking by the authorities there.

The girls were captured by National Civil Police officers and 56 of them were locked in a hall at the home. On the morning of March 8, a fire broke out in that hall and it wasn’t until nine minutes later that the doors to the hall were opened by the authorities, according to various sources.

Among the accused are Carlos Rodas, the former secretary of Social Wellbeing; Anahi Keller, the former deputy secretary of Shelter; Santos Torres, the former director of the home; Harold Flores, the former attorney general for children, and Brenda Chaman, the former official in charge of protection against maltreatment.

Also charged are Lucinda Marroquin, the former assistant police inspector; Luis Armando Perez, the former assistant police chief, and Gloria Castro, the former children’s legal defense counsel.

Ramirez said that to date she has received no help at all from the state. “They never gave us any psychological help and that was a very traumatic situation for us,” she said.

“What happened to our daughters is irreparable and we demand justice,” she added.

“Don’t forget the girls, or all the women who have died in terrible ways,” she concluded.

EFE dte/jcm/bp

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