Hundreds in Guatemala mourn young migrant woman killed by US border agent
Hundreds of friends, family and neighbours attended the wake for Gomez in Guatemala. (AP: Moises Castillo)
Hundreds of mourners congregated in a town in Guatemala on Saturday to bid farewell to a young indigenous woman who was shot dead by a US border patrol agent in Texas last month.
- Gomez died of a gunshot wound to the head on May 23 that is still under investigation
- Her body was repatriated to Guatemala on Thursday
- 13,200 Guatemalans were deported from the US in the first quarter of 2018
The body of 20-year-old Claudia Gomez was repatriated on Thursday to her home town of San Juan Ostuncalco in western Guatemala.
Donning traditional clothing and carrying floral wreaths, her bereaved family and a throng of mourners marched under heavy rain for an hour from her parents’ home to the cemetery.
Her father, Gilberto Gomez, struggled to describe his loss.
“This is very painful. I feel like I am destroyed,” he said.
“I’d like to know who killed her and have that person right here in front of me.”
Gomez died of a gunshot wound to the head in an incident on May 23 that is still under investigation.
The US Border Patrol initially said the lone agent fired after being attacked “by multiple subjects using blunt objects”.
It later said the group had ignored his orders to get on the ground and “rushed him”.
The agency also initially described Gomez as “one of the assailants” but it later revised that to say she was “one member of the group”.
Three other Guatemalans were taken into custody during the incident.
Mr Trump has said he planned to build a wall along the Mexican border to stop immigrants. (Reuters: Jose Luis Gonzalez)
The white coffin containing her body was taken first to a sports field, where local politicians made speeches and some community members shouted “Justice!”
“It is really sad what happened with this girl,” said 40-year old housewife Maria Ventura.
“We knew her and she was a good person, that is why we understand the pain and we’re here to support.”
Many of the funeral attendees asked for justice and improved treatment of immigrants in the United States.
President Donald Trump has said he plans to build a wall along the southern border with Mexico and often rails against immigrants who enter the country illegally.
“We feel a great pain and sadness and want justice,” said 38-year-old farm worker Mateo Carreto.
Another woman, Guadalupe Carreto, acknowledged that many villagers go to the United States looking for work.
“We are poor, there are no jobs. That is why people leave,” Ms Carreto said as she helped cook food for the wake.
In the months after Mr Trump took office, the number of migrants caught along the US-Mexico border and Mexico’s southern border with Guatemala fell dramatically. But arrests have crept back up since.
Data from Mexico’s migration institute shows deportations of Guatemalans fell in the first three months of 2017 compared to the previous year, but they have been rebounding close to 2016 levels to nearly 13,200 in the first quarter of 2018.
Poverty, as well as deepening violence from criminal gangs and drug traffickers, has driven hundreds of thousands of Central Americans to try and cross the US border illegally or seek asylum.
“We regret that a country that fosters peace commits these heartless acts against a defenceless girl that was just looking for a better future,” said the mayor of Ostuncalco, Juan Alberto Aguilar.
Neighbours say the young woman lived in poverty in her small home in the village of San Juan Ostuncalco, Guatemala. (AP: Moises Castillo)
Gomez studied forensic accounting and had sought admission to a state university, but failed to pass three admission exams.
Living in poverty and unable to find work, she left for the US about a month ago.
Relatives of Gomez have asked for an investigation of the shooting death and the officer involved.