Mexico City – A group of almost 300 Guatemalans who were displaced from their community in the northern province of Peten and took refuge in Mexico have rejected an offer to return to their country and be resettled in another location.
A network of Mexican human rights organizations said in a statement that Peten authorities traveled Monday to Mexico to try to convince the displaced persons to return to Guatemala.
The officials, led by Peten Gov. Rudel Mauricio Alvarez, arrived with five buses that were to be used for the repatriation, the rights group said in a statement.
The delegation "tried for more than six hours to convince the families to allow themselves to be taken to a temporary shelter in the town of La Libertad, province of Peten, and then later relocated to homes, but with NO right to the land," the text read.
The displaced persons rejected the offer and demanded that Peten authorities allow them to return to the state-owned lands from which they were evicted on Aug. 23.
A statement from the Guatemalan government issued last week denied that police and soldiers used force in the eviction, saying the operation was carried out under court order and with full respect for human rights.
It added that the purpose was to "recover areas that were under the control of drug traffickers or that supported illegal activities."
The Mexican rights groups, for their part, said that Gov. Alvarez, when asked about the eviction, disdainfully referred to the lands where the displaced persons lived as "some huts."
Those organizations urged the Guatemalan government to solve the problem, give the people back their lands and repair any damage caused. They also demanded that authorities pledge not to carry out more evictions, saying the Aug. 23 incident was the "third time they have done so."
Peten has been under a state of alert since May 14, when Guatemalan authorities mobilized in response to the massacre of 27 peasants at a farm not far from the Mexican border.
The slaughter was blamed on members of Mexico's Los Zetas drug cartel, who were apparently looking for the farm's owner, a reputed rival drug trafficker.