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Guatemalans perform rituals after Bush exit

They say president left 'bad spirits'

IXIMCHE, Guatemala -- A whiff of incense, a sputter of candles, a hum of prayer.

Mayan Indian activists yesterday offered the gentlest protest yet to the recent Latin American tour of President Bush as they held a purification ceremony to drive out the "bad spirits" they said he had left behind during a stop at their ancient pyramid.

The activists said the bad spirits were roused by Bush's policies, including the US-led war in Iraq and the immigration raid last week in New Bedford, Mass. Several Guatemalans were among the 361 alleged illegal immigrants detained.

Bush visited Iximche, capital of the pre-Hispanic Kaqchiqueles kingdom, during his daylong trip to Guatemala as part of a five-nation trip to the region.

"Today is a special day on the Mayan calendar," said Jorge Morales, director of the Young Mayan Movement. "That's why we are taking advantage to do this special event to clean and get rid of the bad spirits and reestablish this sacred place's harmony."

The organizers of the protest are leaders of Indian rights organizations associated with the left-leaning National Indian and Peasant Coordinating Committee.

Material from Reuters was included in this report.