Thousands of Indigenous people gathered Tuesday in a Guatemalan village to pay final respects to two children who were recently murdered by their kidnappers in the Central American country.
Crowds mourned 9-year-old Carlos Daniel Xiquin Top and 10-year-old Oscar Armando Top Cotzajay, both from poor Indigenous families, with a ceremony at the local school where they had been students. Community members have also seized the tragedy as an opportunity to raise awareness about the plight of poor Indigenous people, especially children, and the country’s crisis of chronic violence.
“We demand justice from the government” and “We are tired of violence” were among the signs seen in the funeral procession.
A middle-aged woman and mother described the news to EFE as “tragedy” and “sadness,” but added that the community is “united” after the murders.
The two children were kidnapped on Friday when they were on their way to school, witnesses reported. The bodies were later found in plastic bags, reportedly murdered because their families could not pay the ransom demanded.
“He was always early to get to school because he wanted to become a priest,” Maria Cotzajay, the mother of the older of the two boys who were killed, told AFP.
“We don’t want them to be statistics,” a teacher at the school the boys attended told EFE.
In the wake of the killings, the United Nations children’s fund, Unicef, called for an end to violence and increased protection of children’s rights in the country.
“Violence has reached unacceptable levels,” the organization wrote. “Every day on average two children die from violence.”
According to a report based on data from the National Forensic Sciences Institute, in 2016 a total of 943 children and youth under 19 years of age died of violent causes in Guatemala.