Guatemala charges five more officials over fire that killed 41 girls

By Andrew V. Pestano  |  June 26, 2017 at 9:55 AM
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June 26 (UPI) -- Guatemala's Public Ministry said two police and three social welfare officials were charged with crimes after an investigation into the deaths of 41 girls in the fire at the government-run Virgen de la Asunción shelter.

In a statement on Saturday, the Public Ministry said the charges were brought after an investigation showed more people were involved in the tragedy and in other criminal activity not directly related to the fire.

Three of the officials, who are remanded while awaiting trial, are identified as Lucinda Eva Marina Marroquín Carrillo, deputy inspector of the National Civil Police, who is charged with manslaughter and mistreatment of minors; Brenda Jullisa Chamam Pacay, department supervisor against abuse for the shelter, who is charged with abuse against minors, breach of duties and manslaughter; and Luis Armando Pérez Borja, a National Civil Police commissary who is charged with abuse of authority and abuse against the elderly.

The two other officials facing charges but who are on house arrest were identified as Harold Augusto Flores Valenzuela, chief of the Guatemalan attorney general's child welfare office, who is charged with non-compliance with duties, mistreatment of minors and manslaughter; and Gloria Patricia Castro Gutiérrez, the head of child welfare division for Guatemala's Human Rights Ombudsman who is charged with breach of duty and abuse of minors.

Human rights abuse allegations dating back to 2013 plagued the shelter. The fire caused outrage in Guatemala, which led to protests demanding justice for victims.

Prosecutors said the night before the fire dozens of girls tried to escape the facility in San José Pinula. Those who escaped were captured and brought back to the shelter. Officials locked 56 of the girls in a small room, where the fire occurred after a girl set a mattress alight in protest of their treatment at the shelter.

Prosecutors said firefighters were not quickly called to the scene because the incident was first reported as a riot. Public prosecutor Edwin Marroquín said the fire lasted for 25 minutes. Seventeen girls died at the scene and 24 later died in hospitals.

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