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  • Family members wait for news of their loved ones after the fire at the Virgen de Asuncion home in San Jose Pinula, on the outskirts of Guatemala City

    Family members wait for news of their loved ones after the fire at the Virgen de Asuncion home in San Jose Pinula, on the outskirts of Guatemala City | Photo: Reuters

"This country does not invest in youth, this country considers some categories of people as disposable," said lawmaker Sandra Moran.

Lawmakers from the anti-imperialist and socialist party Convergencia filed a complaint Wednesday meant to strip Guatemalan President Jimmy Morales of immunity so he can be investigated for allegations of torture, extrajudicial execution, abuse of authority and breach of duty.

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The accusations follow the fire that instantly killed 19 girls at a government-run shelter, while others died at the hospital from fourth- and third-degree burns, raising the death toll to at least 40.

The fire has sparked international outrage and protests across Latin America as details emerge suggesting that the victims may not have been able to escape the blaze because they were locked in.

The Virgen de Asuncion shelter for abused teens up to 18 years old was run by the Ministry of Social Welfare and, according to local media, had received complaints in the past over overcrowded conditions and other abuses. Despite its capacity to hold only 500, the shelter reportedly housed more than 800 children.

The complaint noted that 25 victims were still missing, with relatives still awaiting information from the National Forensic Sciences Institute.

As several survivors accused officials of the National Civil Police of not only failing to help but actually trying to prevent shelter residents from escaping the fire, lawmakers in the Congress demanded the president be investigated.

They also requested an investigation to officially determine the responsibilities among the police and the shelter staff on duty the night of the incident.

"Stripping immunity from President Jimmy Morales is a challenge for the Congress," commented legislator Sandra Morán to reporters. "This country does not invest in youth, this country considers some categories of people as disposable."

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