Thousands pay tribute to Guatemala's ex-president who helped end civil war

The frag-draped coffin of Guatemala City Mayor and former Guatemalan President Alvaro Arzuis escorted by military personnel during his funeral as they arrive to the municipality in Guatemala City, on April 29, 2018.
The frag-draped coffin of Guatemala City Mayor and former Guatemalan President Alvaro Arzuis escorted by military personnel during his funeral as they arrive to the municipality in Guatemala City, on April 29, 2018. PHOTO: AFP

GUATEMALA CITY (AFP) - Thousands of Guatemalans paid their last respects on Sunday (April 29) as ex-president Alvaro Arzu, who helped end the country's 36-year civil war, was laid to rest.

Crowds thronged the capital's main pedestrian street, Sixth Avenue, to shout his name and throw white roses at his coffin as it was borne past on a gun carriage.

The brown wooden coffin, wrapped in the blue and white flag of Guatemala, was flanked by military officers as it made its way slowly from the National Palace of Culture to the Municipality building, his political headquarters as five-time mayor.

Arzu died on Friday aged 72 after suffering a heart attack while playing golf.

In December 1996, Arzu's government and Guatemalan National Revolutionary Unity (URNG) guerrillas signed a peace accord ending the 1960-1996 civil war.

The conflict left 200,000 dead and disappeared, most of them from military repression.

The military paid a final tribute with a 21-gun salute and the cortege was overflown by a flight of four helicopters.

"We are going to miss him a lot, he was a great person who helped a lot of people," said Marina Barios, a housewife.

Arzu's remains were buried in a private family ceremony in the city of Antigua Guatemala.

Arzu was a prominent and controversial political figure who was elected mayor of Guatemala City five times.

The Guatemalan prosecutor's office opened a corruption investigation against him last year, accusing him of illegal campaign financing.

President Jimmy Morales acknowledged Arzu's legacy of peace in an official state ceremony on Saturday.