Guatemala City – An estimated 10,000 indigenous people marched on Monday in the Guatemalan capital after they walked more than 200 kilometers (120 miles) to demand a government settlement of a conflict over land.
Tired and sweating, with bags slung over their shoulders and waving red pennants, the thousands of Indians and peasants, who were joined by social organizations, students and labor unions, marched through the historic downtown area before meeting with President Otto Perez Molina.
The director of the Committee for Peasant Unity who called the march that set out March 19 from the northern city of Coban, Daniel Pascual, told Efe that the Indians "are pretty tired now, but in hopes" of finding an satisfactory answer to their demands.
A number of women carrying toddlers on their backs and with their feet cracked from walking so far, Efe observed, were visibly exhausted.
"It's not easy to walk more than 200 kilometers (120 miles), but we have hopes that the march will end with some concrete proposals by the government," Pascual said.
The leader said their principal demands include an end to the evictions and criminal prosecution of Indians, a pardon for farm debts of more than 300 million quetzales ($38.96 million) affecting more than 10,000 families, access to land and the end of mining in the region.
"We don't expect the government to resolve the ancestral land rights problem in two or three days, but today we want concrete answers to the demands we made on March 19," he said.
According to Pascual, more than 10,000 Indians and peasants from the provinces of Alta and Baja Verapaz, Huehuetenango, Quiche, San Marcos, Jalapa, Zacapa and Chiquimula joined the march that arrived Monday in the capital.
"Thousands of us have come, far more than we expected," he said.
The secretary of agricultural affairs, Elmer Lopez, told reporters that this institution is processing more than 1,200 cases of agrarian conflict and that the government is prepared to discuss the demands of the indigenous people.