French NGO Head Killed in Guatemala

The swollen Los Esclavos River flows violently during tropical storm Amanda in Cuilapa, eastern Guatemala, on May 31, 2020. (AP Photo/Moises Castillo)

GUATEMALA CITY (AFP) — The French director of an NGO in Guatemala was killed Monday in an armed attack in the northeast of the country, a human rights organization said.

Benoit Maria was the director of the agriculture and animal health NGO Agronomes et Veterinaires Sans Frontieres (AVSF) in Guatemala.

According to local media, Maria was driving a van on a road near the indigenous village of San Antonio Ilotenango, 53 miles northwest of the capital Guatemala City, when he was shot dead.

The motive for the attack is not yet known.

“We denounce the murder of human rights defender Benoit Maria,” tweeted the Guatemalan Unit for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders (UDEFEGUA), calling for a public investigation.

The French embassy in Guatemala expressed its “dismay” in a statement, adding that it is in contact with Guatemalan authorities to “ensure that this crime is solved and that justice can be done quickly.”

“Well-known in the French embassy, Mr. Maria worked to improve the lot of the most disadvantaged people in the west of the country,” said the statement, which was published on the embassy’s Facebook page.

He had lived in Guatemala for more than 20 years, supporting agricultural projects for the indigenous Mayan Ixil communities, according to UDEFEGUA coordinator Jorge Santos.

Maria also participated in the 2011 creation of Ixil University, in the department of Quiche, dedicated to the ancestral knowledge of indigenous people.

© Agence France-Presse

%d bloggers like this: