Sixty-eight Guatemalan refugee families, who have been sheltered by the Mexican government since August 23 at the town of Tenosique, Tabasco State, are demanding repatriation and relocation by the Guatemalan government. Earlier this year, the families were evicted from their village in Guatemala by the army and police, and are now faced with an unfamiliar and hostile environment, besides inadequate food and water
A representative of the refugees, Aroldo López Morales, says the Guatemalan government has backtracked after having offered each family ten acres of land near the border with neighboring Belize.
Rev. Tomas Gonzalez Castillo, a Catholic priest who heads a hospice called "La 72" and the Human Rights Center in Tenosique, said that three months since the eviction, "the humanitarian situation of displaced persons has become a tragedy". The priest said that during a visit to the families during the weekend, found that drinking water is lacking, and even the small river that passes in that area is dry. The problem has got worse, explained father Gonzalez, because both the Mexican government and the government of Guatemala are not very supportive and have provided very little humanitarian aid.
Interviewed in San Cristobal de las Casas, Aroldo Morales reported that soldiers and police evicted them from their land and their homes they had occupied since 1999 in the city of La Nueva Esperanza, the municipality of La Libertad, in the province of Peten, Guatemala , on the charge that they were occupying a prohibited zone in the Sierra del Lacandon National Park. "We fled to avoid being attacked, after the soldiers had destroyed our homes and our property", he said.
Guatemalans frequently fled into Mexico seeking asylum during the decades long war inflicted by their government and leftist insurgents. Arable land is often scarce for subsistence farmers in Guatemala, since much of the level and fertile land is occupied by large plantation owners who grow crops such as coffee and cardamom for export. The Peten region of Guatemala, as well as Quiche, are known for the rainforests and over the last few decades have been increasingly exploited for their timber. Guatemalan plantations owners and cattlemen were often encouraged to enter these areas, especially if they had ties to the military and the government. Rev. Ricardo Falla, a sociologist and Catholic priest, recounts in his books, such as Massacres in the Jungle: Ixcan, Guatemala, 1975-1982, the struggles of poor Guatemalan farmers against the country's military that went on murderous counter-insurgency sweeps in the 1980s, ostensibly to rout the leftists there.