The search for indigenous children believed to have been killed in a massacre and buried clandestinely in a former military garrison during the country’s civil war in the 1980s has been halted indefinitely due to insecurity, civil organisations said on Thursday.
The exhumation efforts in Chiul, more than 120 miles (200 kilometres) from Guatemala City, were scheduled to begin early Tuesday morning but were halted after local residents disrupted the plans without providing an explanation.
“There is no new date to resume exhumations due to the security situation,” said Diego Rivera, leader of the ASOMOVIDNQ victims’ association.
In an interview with Reuters, he said that the lack of coordination between authorities was preventing the excavation from moving forward.
While the residents did not explain why they opposed the exhumations, Arnulfo Oxlaj, one of the survivors of the massacre who was at the site on Tuesday, said that among those who opposed the search were former members of the country’s armed forces, which has been accused of carrying out the massacre.
Reuters could not independently confirm the allegations.
The massacre, one of many targeting Mayan communities during the civil war, occurred on May 21, 1988, in the remote Chiul indigenous community.
Witnesses say members of the armed forces captured hundreds of residents and took them to the military garrison, where they separated the children from their parents.
According to Oxlaj, 116 children between the ages of 2 and 15 were tortured and thrown into what was then a well inside the facility, where they drowned.
There is no official record of the number of victims or clarity about the motivations behind the killings. The Guatemalan military has been accused of conducting a genocide campaign against indigenous peoples during the conflict.