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Guatemala mudslide survivors could get homes on alleged narco’s expropriated land

Survivors of the devastating mudslide that buried a community outside of Guatemala City on Oct. 1 could be relocated to nearby land expropriated from a notorious alleged drug trafficker.

Guatemalan Spanish-language daily elPeriódico reported Friday that the government was looking into building up to 200 new homes for the survivors on land previously owned by Marvin Montiel Marín, known as “el Taquero.” Marín is currently behind bars for his alleged role as ringleader in one of the most heinous crimes in recent Guatemalan history.

On Nov. 8, 2008, a group of hitmen allegedly headed by Marín intercepted a bus carrying 15 Nicaraguans and a Dutch tourist, killed everyone aboard and burned the bus. Authorities think the crime was linked to a territorial dispute among rival traffickers.

The mounting toll from last week’s mudslide has risen to 253 confirmed dead, authorities said Friday, with several hundred others unaccounted for. Search and rescue efforts will continue through the weekend, but on Monday officials will meet to decide how much longer to continue the operation, Deputy Public Health Minister Israel Lemus said.

Eight days after the disaster, 386 people remain unaccounted for in the town of Santa Catarina Pinula, 15 kilometres (nine miles) east of Guatemala City. More than 100 homes were leveled in a section of the town known as Cambray II.

Guatemala is no stranger to killer mudslides. Almost exactly 10 years ago, on Oct. 5, 2005, a massive chunk of hillside buried the village of Panabaj, on the shores of Guatemala’s picturesque Lake Atitlán. Some 1,000 people were killed.

It took years — which were full of political wrangling and accusations of corruption and ineptitude — to resettle the survivors. At first, the government had planned to rebuild in nearly the exact same spot as the destroyed village — a project that was shot down by incredulous disaster experts.

The Guatemalan government also faced heavy criticism in its efforts to build new homes for victims of an earthquake that struck the northwestern city of San Marcos and surrounding areas in 2012.

The head of the government’s communications ministry told elPeriódico that the homes to be built for last week’s mudslide victims would likely be similar to those built for the 2012 earthquake victims. Those homes were nicknamed “casas tipo Baldetti,” or Baldetti homes, because of former Vice President Roxana Baldetti’s role in the reconstruction effort.

Baldetti is currently in jail awaiting trial for her alleged role in a massive customs fraud scandal.

With information from AFP

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