GUATEMALA CITY (Reuters) - Mayan leaders will spiritually “cleanse” ancient ruins in Guatemala after a visit by U.S. President George W. Bush, unpopular here because of foreign policies going back to Central America’s civil wars.
The leaders said they would hold a spiritual ceremony to restore “peace and harmony” at the Mayan ruins of Iximche after Bush tours the site on Monday.
“No, Mr. Bush, you cannot trample and degrade the memory of our ancestors,” said indigenous leader Rodolfo Pocop during a press conference. “This is not your ranch in Texas.”
Bush will arrive on Sunday night in Guatemala, his second-to-last stop on a five-country tour of Latin America, where his approval ratings are low. His visit sparked violent protests in Brazil and Colombia. Social groups are organizing marches against his visit to Guatemala.
On Friday, some 150 student protesters blocked off a street in Guatemala City near two U.S. fast food outlets to burn an American flag and set off firecrackers.
“We’ve burnt this flag for what the Yankee did all over the world. We remember the CIA’s policy in our country, which promoted scorched-earth policies and the bloodshed of our people,” the protest leader shouted, standing on a car.
The CIA helped overthrow a democratically elected socialist government in Guatemala in 1954 and U.S.-backed troops destroyed entire Mayan villages in a counter-insurgency campaign at the peak of Guatemala’s 1960-96 civil war.
U.S. involvement in the war, which left nearly a quarter of a million people dead or missing, makes Bush’s presence in Guatemala offensive to the nation’s ethnic Mayan people, youth leader Jorge Morales Toj said.
In a 1999 visit to Guatemala, former U.S. President Bill Clinton said the United States was wrong to have supported violent right-wing governments in the Central American nation.
Resentment still lingers across the region, however.
Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez, Washington’s principal antagonist in Latin America, has called Bush “the devil” and at a United Nations debate last year said the U.S. leader left a smell of sulfur lingering in the room behind him.
Bush will visit farm cooperatives and schools in the Chimaltenango district to the west of the capital, an area where forensic scientist have uncovered numerous mass graves from wartime massacres.
At the Iximche ruins, a capital of the Kaqchikel Mayan people before the 1524 Spanish conquest, native dances will be performed for Bush and Berger and they will be given an archaeological tour of the vine-cracked pyramids.
“We reject this portrayal of our people as a tourist attraction,” said Morales Toj, who heads a national Mayan youth movement. “We will burn incense, place flowers and water in the area where Mr. Bush has walked to clean out the bad energy.”
The activists also criticized massive deportation sweeps in the United States, where many poor Mayans live and work without papers.