Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Archaeologist Hansen Unveils Frieze at El Mirador

A group of archaeologists led by Richard Hansen, who discovered the frieze representing the twin heroes of the Popul Vuh, Hunapú and Ixbalanqué, revealed it to the public on Sunday. The frieze was built about 300 years before Christ in the El Mirador archaeological site, in the north of Petén.

Hansen, director of the El Mirador Basin project and who coordinates the group of archaeologists-mostly Guatemalans, who work at that site, reported the discovery of a part of the Mayan sacred book, the Popul Vuh.

The frieze is about four meters long and three meters high, and was built in limestone and stucco.

This find is very important because it proves that Ixbalanqué and Hunapú existed 300 years before Christ, confirming that they are purely a product of the Mayan civilization.

"Some do not give credibility to the Popul Vuh because they say it has Christian influence, but this find demonstrates that the Mayan culture was already aware of the Popol Vuh story in 300 BC," he said.

Hansen pointed out that the oldest copy of the Popol Vuh dates from 1700, when the Spanish friar Francisco Jiménez found a document written by the Maya and translated it. So it was felt that this book had a lot of Christian influence.

Hansen described the frieze as illustrating the story of the two twins swimming after rescuing the head of their father, Hun Hunapú, after he was deceived and decapitated by the gods of the underworld.

The frieze was a lucky find when archaeologists were trying to locate the site of water storage cisterns and channels used at El Mirador because there are no nearby rivers.

The expert explained that the major discoveries about the Maya at Mirador date from 200 to 150 BC, such as the famous La Danta pyramid, considered one of the largest in the ancient world in terms of volume, along with 45 other sites.

La Danta, which is not yet fully uncovered, is thus far the largest built by the Mayans. It is 300 meters wide by 600 meters long and reaches a height of 72 meters.

"The Mirador Basin is the beginning of the Mayan culture, which began a thousand years before the development of Tikal," he added.

Hansen reported that the archeological operations at El Mirador require a budget of U.S. $2.7 million a year to continue.

Captors of Nineth Montenegro's First Husband Finally Identified

Investigation on the part of the Procuraduría de los Derechos Humanos (Procurator for Human Rights) enabled the indentification of those responsible for the disappearance, 25 years ago, of university student, Edgar Fernando García, Congresswoman Nineth Montenegro's first husband.

The congresswoman was stunned by the news, learning that the investigation by the PDH had discovered the names of those responsible. "I can't believe it. I'm sweating, sitting still, wondering what they said to my daughter," said the congresswoman.

When the news arrived, she learned that the parties responsible were from the Fourth Corps of the National Police and the names of her husband's captors were known. She also learned that her husband was taken on February 18, 1984, from near the market El Guarda in Zone 11. Ms. Montenegro also noted that some of the police involved are still active on the force and others have been captured.

Attorney Sergio Morales, said that one of the police officers detained is the Distinguished Commissioner of Quetzaltenango, Rodero Héctor Ramírez Ríos. The attorney added that he has issued several arrest warrants and expects that they will be carried out promptly.

An excited Nineth Montenegro said, "It's a gift that 25 years later we can find the thread and follow it. I am grateful to the Human Rights Procurator, because he did what no one else would do for us."

Montenegro was repeatedly frustrated in her attempts to access the files of the EMP, which documented human rights violations during the 1980's. During that period there were hundreds of such "forced disappearances". The congresswoman also made repeated attempts to access the files of the Ministry of Defense regarding her husband but when she did gain access all she got was a packet of disordered papers containing no useful information. At the time she said that it appeared to her that it was intentional that she not be allowed to see the files.

The PDH indicated that the information came not only from files but from various other sources.

Hilda Morales, from the Red de la No Violencia contra las Mujeres, said there are great expectations about learning what is in the files of the National Police. "This will bring to light incidents that have been denied for years," she said. There is concrete information in those files about cases where the public has been accusing the police for what happened. She said that justice must proceed from this investigation and with the evidence obtained, bring about criminal convictions.

Newly Paved Streets in Puerto Barrios

Last week, Puerto Barrios inaugurated the paving of 8th Street (8a. Calle), which connects 8th and 6th Avenues, the bus terminal, and 7th Avenue and 9th Street at the Mercado La Revolución

These routes are very important in the city because there is a lot of local traffic on those streets as well as through traffic going to other destinations.

The Consejo Departamental de Desarrollo (Codede), the Municipality of Puerto Barrios and the Consejo Comunitario de Desarrollo (Cocode) worked together on the project, which cost Q1.3 million.

Prior to the paving project, traveling on these streets was a major problem due to potholes and mud. Nobody wanted to use the bus terminal at the end of the market.

Mayor David Pineda Coded Acevedo explained that the community of the town and the local villagers worked together the project as a team. He added that while they had the backing of the Department of Interior, his office still had to "work miracles" because the budget is insufficient to meet the need of the municipality.

Few Advances Against Femicide

Deputies and representatives of women's groups demanded action last Friday. Although there has been a law against femicide on the books since April 2008 there have been few results in combating violence against women.

"In the last year there was only been one criminal sentence handed out for femicide. Institutions have yet to make the law their own and apply it to the aggressors," said Ana Gladys Ollas, defender of the rights of women, from the Office of Human Rights.

Marlene Blanco Lapola, director of the National Civil Police (PNC), emphasized that the police should coordinate better with the Ministerio Publico (MP) and the judiciary to punish the guilty.

"It's frustrating for a cop who risks his life to capture a criminal, who minutes later comes out free and making fun of the cop," said Blanco Lapola in Congress during a conference that was part of a commemoration of International Women's Day. The official said that this year alone, 345 people have been caught committing violence against females and in 120 of those cases, the women were killed.

"We need to strengthen the justice system, which is weak in enforce the laws that we adopted here [in Congress]. We must unite to end this scourge that costs lives every day and leaves broken families," said the legislators.

Ríos Montt Appeal

The team of defense lawyers for Ex-president and current congressman Efrain Rios Montt presented an appeal on March 5th, insisting that military documents from the 1980's be kept secret, including the documents that Defense Minister Abraham Valenzuela was ordered to deliver to a judge.

The appeal was to Judge Jorge Mario Valenzuela of the Second Instance Criminal Court. The appeal may stop the investigation of the files of the EMP to which the media has had no access.

On March 6th, Defense Minister Abraham Valenzuela, an appointee of President Colom, mandatory complaint (denuncia obligatoria) over the alleged loss of two military files and requests that the Ministerio Publico investigate. The petition explains that the documents relating to the military operational plans called "Ixil" and "Sofia" are missing.