People scream “We want justice” during a vigil for victims of the horrific fire. | Photo: Reuters

Q24N – As many outraged Guatemalans are calling for his resignation over the fire, Morales said that the state wasn’t paying attention.

Guatemalan President Jimmy Morales acknowledged Friday the responsibility of the state in a tragic fire days before in a government-run shelter for abused teens which left at least 37 children dead and dozens injured.

“We are sad, yes, totally sad, and convinced that these things should not happen and convinced that the responsibility as a country can not be thrown to anyone else, but ourselves,” Morales said in a press conference from the country’s second largest city, Quetzaltenango.

“It is truly sad and regrettable that dozens of children can die in a situation like what happened and that this can happen again in all places where we, as the state, are not paying attention.”

Morales said by referring to the state he was referring to all Guatemalans, where the tragedy demonstrated the need for a “deep and severe reform.”

At least 37 were killed and nearly 40 others were injured after a fire broke out at the Virgen de Asuncion, which houses abused children up to 18 years old. Run by the Ministry of Social Welfare, the attorney general for human rights decides which children are placed in the home. The country’s secretary of social welfar, Carlos Antonio Rodas, has since resigned over the tragedy.

According to officials, the fire was started by youths inside the center as an act of public mutiny and as an attempt to escape. The shelter had continually received complaints over dismal and overcrowded living conditions and abuses. Local media said more than 800 children lived there, despite its capacity to hold only 500.

Relatives of the victims and outraged Guatemalans have demanded Morales’ resignation over the tragedy, with hundreds using the cry of “Fue el Estado,” or “It was the state,” to make their point.

On Thursday evening, demonstrators gathered in front of the National Palace in Guatemala City and held a vigil for the victims with many yelling “We want justice.” Three days of national mourning was previously announced over the tragedy.

Authorities have been working to identify victims, but said DNA tests might be necessary for some remains.


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