Thousands of Bikers Demonstrate for Peace in #Guatemala

Each year, thousands of leather-clad bikers take off on an annual pilgrimage to pay homage to the Black Christ of Esquipulas.

Some 50,000 motorcyclists rumbled through the streets of Guatemala City this weekend as part of their annual two day pilgrimage to the border, while this year they are making a special plea for peace in Guatemala.

The majority of the bikers, also known as the Caravana del Zorro (the Caravan of Foxes), took off from Guatemala City’s center Saturday and traveled to the town of Esquipulas near the borders of Honduras and El Salvador. Scores of others met up with the caravan along the way.

The 225 kilometer journey is part of an annual pilgrimage by the bikers to visit the Black Christ of Esquipulas, a particular image of Jesus crucified on the cross that is revered by thousands of Christians in Central America.

This year, the caravan will make a special request to the spiritual figure for peace in Guatemala – one of the most violent regions of the world, and where almost 53 percent of the population lives below the poverty line, according to Guatemala’s Ministry of Social Development.

“We will ask for peace, progress and employment [for Guatemala] to the Lord of Esquipulas,” said Edy Villa de Leon, also known as the ‘Grand Zorro,’ before heading off Saturday morning. Villa de Leon is also the son of the founder of the annual caravan tradition, which began 55 years ago.

Guatemalan’s President Jimmy Morales also spoke before the caravan departed from Guatemala City, saying the thousands of motorcyclists showed that “when there is national unity, you can do amazing things.”

The Caravana del Zorro pilgrimage takes place every year on the first weekend of February. The bikers come from all over the Americas, including Central America, Mexico, Ecuador, Colombia, Bolivia, and even the United States, according to local media.

Mass Funeral for Victims in #Guatemala Massacre

The government refused to help with the burial of 49 of the victims of the 1982 massacre.
Guatemalans held a funeral march Saturday for 49 victims of a massacre committed by the Guatemalan army 33 years ago, teleSUR correspondent Santiago Boton reports.

Survivors of the massacre, commited under the dictatorship of Gen. Efrain Rios Montt, carried coffins with the remains along a main road of a remote community in Huehuetenango state.

”This is where the massacre was, this is where they burnt all the homes, where they shot everyone,” Mateo de Mateo Pedro, of the victims’ committee, told teleSUR, standing in an area that is now dirt paths and lush green forrest.

Another survivor remembered when some 300 soldiers barged into the community on July 27, 1982, and he saw them “acting like devils who had escaped from hell.”

“I saw with my own eyes, then a nine-year-old child, the army massacring children, accusing them of being guerillas, cutting off their head and sucking their blood in order to create psychological panic within the community. They raped women infront of their husbands, as punishment, as psychological torture. In a field near here, they played ball with the heads of the dead,” the protected witness, who’s identity can’t be revealed, stated.

In total, 74 people were killed that day and the next in the community, with scientific studies carried out by the Forensic Anthropological Foundation supporting survivors’ testimonies.

“We’ve recovered (the remains of) at least 49 individuals, but the problem is that we don’t have complete bones … we have a piece of skull, a piece of a femur, a bit of rib, and so on,” explained Jose Suasnavar, from the foundation.

IN DEPTH: New Guatemalan President, Old Problems

Although the remains were exhumed in 2009, it has taken this long to carry out a burial, according to the families, because the Guatemalan government has refused to fulfill its responsibility to give the victims dignity. Instead, the International Red Cross has helped the families out.

The Guatemalan civil war begun in 1960 and lasted 36 years. The government waged war on various leftist groups that were mainly supported by Mayan indigenous people and by campesinos.

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