Appalling tragedy at a so called safe home – The Virgin de la Asuncion Safe Home in Guatemala – 19 dead 30 more in intensive care

WE ARE IN MOURNING

Article by – Carolina Escobar Sarti  – to read the full article click here

Two nights ago, many girls, boys and adolescents (NNA) of the Virgin de la Asunción Safe Home fled the place, like almost any NNA who is in a situation of confinement. They got out, but they were discovered and returned home. Usually, when this happens and because they are underage persons, there must be a judge order to re-enter the premises. Therefore, the young people were not returned to their dormitories, but placed in the school and in the auditorium.

As I write this text, 19 teenagers are dead. Their calcined bodies are unrecognizable. Two more are with the trachea undone and the lungs collapsed. And approximately 30 more are in the intensive care units of the large public hospitals of Guatemala.

How do we get to this? Could it be prevented? Of the few certainties that I have today, it is yes, this could be prevented. And not precisely by calling the police, as was done that night of the flight, by order of one of the high authorities of the SBS.

Why, if it is a place of protection and shelter, do they have to use repressive measures as a restraining mechanism?

It is true that we know the dynamics of a protection home, we know that it is not easy to control large groups of angry young people, especially when they have been victims of so many forms of abandonment and violence since they were born. That is why we use prevention and comprehensive care as a method. The Safe Home Virgin of the Assumption, that of “sure” has nothing, it was formerly the Solidarity House Virgin of Hope – they changed virgin and name according to the party agenda, which shows that it is not part of a State policy – was born dead since its foundation, because the model corresponds to that of the great institutions of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, which served the “marginalized” from a welfare perspective. But also, because this “Home” is built in a Guatemala where the political class has not understood that childhood and adolescence must be at the centre of the political agendas of the State.

A place like that, built from a narrow vision, in a non-country like Guatemala, where money is not in schools or hospitals, but in bank accounts of tax havens, does not work.

Moreover, it was made to serve 400 NNAs, and it turns out that almost always its population has oscillated between 700 and 900. At the moment, in addition, there are investigations by treaty and other similar facts, that weigh on the place. Each party that comes to the government imprints its stamp on management, and almost always puts these issues in the hands of well-meaning ladies but with little experience and knowledge of this problem in Guatemala. This is a definitive theme for the future of the country that we long to be, and must be State policy.

Going back to the facts. A Safe Home is not a “confinement” or jail for young offenders, as many believe. There are, in one of the sections, adolescents in conflict with the law, but the vast majority are children who have experienced situations of violence and neglect. And many are sent there because the adults who must protect them do not. They are there because the state has abandoned them, and we are all the State, from the families to the government. Civil society and political society.

What happened hurts and makes us angry and full of rage, because it is the symbol of a state that has not known how to take care of their childhood and adolescence. It is clear that we do not have an Integral Protection System that works. Now, what is lacking is that they do not assume responsibility who must assume it, and blame the adolescents for what happened there. Only that would lack, that of the abandonment passed to the death or to be considered criminal. For the dead teenagers and for all the abandoned, we are in mourning. Because it is the symbol of a state that has not been able to care for its childhood and adolescence. It is clear that we do not have an Integral Protection System that works. Now, what is lacking is that they do not assume responsibility who must assume it, and blame the adolescents for what happened there. Only that would lack, that of the abandonment passed to the death or to be considered criminal. For the dead teenagers and for all the abandoned, we are in mourning. Because it is the symbol of a state that has not been able to care for its childhood and adolescence. It is clear that we do not have an Integral Protection System that works. Now, what is lacking is that they do not assume responsibility who must assume it, and blame the adolescents for what happened there. Only that would lack, that of the abandonment passed to the death or to be considered criminal. For the dead teenagers and for all the abandoned, we are in mourning

We need International pressure demanding a response from the State is important at this time:

  1. Decision makers to review, act accordingly, issue criminal proceedings
  2. immediate attention to the children and their families.
  3. Joint immediate instigation of a system of protection that works, with personal & individual care
  4. investigation of what happened at the home. There are allegations of torture and rape.
  5. Sanctions to ensure that nothing like this happens again.

We need financial support to back up with an emergency strategy , we need to send psychologists, social workers.  Stay tuned. Thank you for your solidarity.

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