SEVERAL members of the Trinidad-born de la Bastide family, living in Guatemala, have criticised the Guatemalan government’s “lack of preparedness and response to the devastating Volcan de Fuego – or Volcano of Fire, which left dozens of people dead since erupting on Sunday.
Josanne de la Bastide, the niece of retired Chief Justice Michael de la Bastide, has been living in Guatemala for almost 40 years but says the country’s President Jimmy Morales is complicit in the lack of preparation for the inevitable disaster.
“Guatemala is absolutely not ready for this,” she said.
According to Guatemalan media reports, Morales claimed his government had “no funds for natural disasters.” De la Bastide described Morales, the right-wing leader of ruling party National Convergence Front, as a puppet for foreign administrations, particularly the United States.
“He is the worst Guatemala has had, and the poor country has had bad…very corrupt governments.”
Last year, large demonstrations were held in the country’s capital in an attempt to oust Morales from office after his brother and advisor, Samuel Morales, together with his (Samuel’s) son, José Manuel Morales, were arrested on money laundering and corruption charges.
Josanne said it was “unacceptable” that Morales was living a “lavish lifestyle” there was a lack of resources allocated for disasters.
The latest reports from Guatemalan media indicate that at least 75 people have died and 200 remain missing after the eruption. De la Bastide lives some 40km from the volcano, but continues to worry about five of her relatives living much closer in La Antigua, a small city approximately 18km from the disaster site.
She, with her sister Gabriela de la Bastide and Gabriela’s two children in Panajechel, live in a town located 40km from the volcano.
When contacted, Gabriela was on her way to help in the communities most affected.
“We have guide friends in the area helping,” Gabriela said. The serious situation now is landslides.”
The de la Bastides have made an appeal to TT to send help for the victims and their families. They have since made contact with Living Water Community – a local Catholic charity. Josanne confirmed that their family in La Antigua were able to leave town yesterday.
The Guatemala Embassy was reached for comment but the ambassador to TT Mario Estuardo Torres was not available to comment. On Tuesday, Newsday also contacted the Ministry of Foreign and Caricom Affairs with queries as to the possible number of Trinidadians living, or on vacation, in Guatemala. However, as at last evening, the questions remained answered.