Guatemala: Maya priests to purify sacred site after Bush visit

From AP, March 9:

GUATEMALA CITY — Mayan priests will purify a sacred archaeological site to eliminate “bad spirits” after President Bush visits next week, an official with close ties to the group said Thursday.

“That a person like (Bush), with the persecution of our migrant brothers in the United States, with the wars he has provoked, is going to walk in our sacred lands, is an offense for the Mayan people and their culture,” Juan Tiney, the director of a Mayan nongovernmental organization with close ties to Mayan religious and political leaders, said Thursday.

Bush’s seven-day tour of Latin America includes a stopover beginning late Sunday in Guatemala. On Monday morning he is scheduled to visit the archaeological site Iximche on the high western plateau in a region of the Central American country populated mostly by Mayans.

Tiney said the “spirit guides of the Mayan community” decided it would be necessary to cleanse the sacred site of “bad spirits” after Bush’s visit so that their ancestors could rest in peace. He also said the rites _ which entail chanting and burning incense, herbs and candles _ would prepare the site for the third summit of Latin American Indians March 26-30.

This also happened a year ago when Bush visited Yucatan, where he has just arrived again… Merida is said to be virtual fortress in perparation for this visit. Stay tuned…

See more reasons Guatemala and Central America, and Bush’s Latin America tour.

  1. Guatemala: Bush challenged on immigration raids
    Some 2,000 demonstrators clashed with police in Guatemala City on March 12 as US president George W. Bush visited Guatemala during the fourth day of a Latin American tour. Chanting “Bush, go home” in English and carrying signs reading “Long live Bush, but in hell” in Spanish, students, unionists and human rights activists marched from Sixth Avenue toward the National Palace of Culture, where Bush was meeting with rightwing Guatemalan president Oscar Berger. After burning a two-meter effigy of Bush, the protesters tried to approach the palace. Hundreds of riot police with shields and gas masks blocked their way about 200 meters from the building, and agents and protesters faced off for several hours, with some demonstrators throwing bottles, rocks and burning sticks at the police.

    At about 3 PM, the protesters tried to approach the palace from a different direction. The agents responded with some 20 tear-gas bombs. A total of 19 people, including seven minors, were taken to the San Juan de Dios hospital to be treated for tear-gas poisoning. A photographer for the Agence France Presse wire service, Orlando Sierra, was hit by a stick thrown by a police agent. (Prensa Libre, Guatemala City, March 13; La Prensa, San Pedro Sula, March 12; La Nacion, Costa Rica, March 12 from AFP)

    Bush’s visit to Guatemala was meant in part to promote US neoliberal trade policies on the model of the Dominican Republic-Central America Free Trade Agreement (DR-CAFTA), which went into effect in Guatemala on July 1, 2006. But the focus turned to criticisms of US immigration policy, especially the arrests of at least 361 workers, many of them Guatemalan women, in a massive raid at the Michael Blanco Inc. leather goods factory in New Bedford, Massachusetts, on March 6. Even Berger, one of the Bush government’s strongest allies, joined in. “As is the case in every mature relationship, once in a while differences of opinion arise,” Berger said in the ceremony welcoming Bush. “For example, with regard to the issue of migrants, and particularly those who have been deported without clear justification.”

    Bush denied mainstream US press accounts of children being separated from their families when their parents were arrested in New Bedford. “No es la verdad [It’s not true],” Bush said in Spanish. “That’s not the way America operates. We’re a decent, compassionate country. Those are the kind of things we do not do. We believe in families, and we’ll treat people with dignity.” (New York Times, March 13) Bush admitted that the “system needs to be fixed” and for the first time set a date for getting immigration reform through Congress. “It seems like to me, we’ve got to get this done by August,” he said. (Washington Post, March 12)

    During the one-day visit, Bush stopped at a medical facility run by the Guatemalan and US militaries in Santa Cruz Balanya; at a US-funded food cooperative in Chirijuyu, Chimaltenango department; and at the Mayan ruins of Iximche. Some 3,000 indigenous Mayans protested near the ruins. In a communique the Mayan National Coordinating Committee and Convergence said the Mayan people found it “incomprehensible” that “the president of a country that takes it on itself to be democratic invests billions of dollars in wars. The billions of dollars spent on wars during the last few years would have been enough to eradicate infant malnutrition and a range of curable diseases in Latin America.” (NYT, March 13; Siglo XXI, Guatemala City, March 12)

    After Bush’s visit, a group of Mayan priests burned incense and candles at an altar in Iximche to “cleanse [the site] of evil spirits.” The priests said the ceremony was necessary because Bush’s government had started wars in other countries and had persecuted undocumented Guatemalan immigrants. The priests also prayed to their ancestors for success for the next Meeting of Indigenous Nationalities and Peoples, to be held at Iximche March 26-30. (Univision TV, March 15 from AP)

    Weekly News Update on the Americas, March 11

    On Feb. 14, 948 US soldiers arrived in Guatemala, ostensibly on a mission to build two schools, two health centers and three wells. (Guatemala Hoy, Feb. 24)

    Weekly News Update on the Americas, March 4