Latin American Resentment: Ruins to Be Cleansed Following Bush Visit

A site close to the hearts of the indigenous Maya people of Guatemala is to be spiritually de-contaminated after a visit by US president George Bush.

Mayan Indian priests in Guatemala have vowed to hold a cleansing ceremony following a Monday visit by US president George W. Bush to sacred ancient ruins.

As part of his stopover in the tiny, Central American nation during a five-nation-tour of Latin America, Bush's itinerary has him visiting the Mayan ruins of Iximiche, some 50 kilometers west of Guatemala City. Native dances and a welcoming ceremony will greet the president when he arrives at the ruins of the former capital of the Kaqchikel Maya people.

But after he leaves, Mayan leaders say that a special cleansing ceremony to restore peace and harmony will be necessary to remove negative energy left by Bush's visit.

"We will burn incense, place flowers and water in the area where Bush has walked to clean out the bad energy," said Jorge Morales Toj, a Guatamalan youth leader. He added that Bush's visit to Iximiche treats the Mayan people as little more than a tourist attraction.

Resentment in Guatemala against the United States remains high due to CIA support for the overthrow of a democratically-elected socialist government in 1954 and US support for Guatemalan military governments during the country's 1960-96 civil war -- a conflict that left about a quarter million people dead or missing. A scorched earth counter-insurgency campaign at the peak of the war saw US-backed troops destroy entire Mayan villages.

On Sunday around 50 Mayan Indians accompanied by left-wing sympathizers protested in Guatemala City against Bush's visit.

It was far from the first protest during Bush's Latin America trip. Last Thursday violent demonstrations in Sao Paulo against Bush's visit left several people injured following confrontations with police. Meanwhile around 150 protesters attacked riot police in Bogotá on Sunday during a brief stopover by Bush in the Colombian capital.

The protesters -- who burnt US flags, sprayed graffiti and smashed windows -- claim that millions of dollars of US military aid received by Colombia each year fuels the country's decades-old civil conflict and encourages human rights abuses by the armed forces.

Bush's stop in Guatemala was the fourth of his tour designed to improve US ties with leaders of the right and moderate left in Latin America, where the Iraq war and US trade and immigration policy have made him deeply unpopular.

On the first visit by a US president to Guatemala since 1999, Bush pledged support to Guatemalan president Oscar Berger in the war against drugs.

Bush also extolled the benefits of free trade when he visited a vegetable packing co-operative in the village of Chirijuju which now sells its produce to Wal-Mart. The thriving Labradores Mayas packing station has received $350,000 in US assistance since 2003 and is taking advantage of eased trade restrictions between the US and Central America which came into force last year.

Last week, on the first stage of his Latin American tour, Bush signed an agreement on bio-fuels with Brazil that promises co-operation on technology and development. However, the agreement failed to address the issue of access to the US market for Brazilian producers of ethanol.

lat/reuters/ap

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