LAGUNA LARGA — Four months ago, hundreds of villagers were expelled from their land in the jungles of northern Guatemala. The government claimed they were encroaching on a protected national park, sending over 700 men, women, and children fleeing to the nearby Mexican border. According to the Guatemalan daily Prensa Libre, the refugees continue to languish in squalid conditions without any government help despite growing criticism from human rights organizations.
Over 450 refugees remain trapped in the border area between Guatemala and Mexico, living in unsanitary conditions. Three women suffered miscarriages and three children were born without documents in a border zone, leaving them effectively stateless. Several women are pregnant but there is little medical care available, and there are no schools for the children.
The dispute arose five years ago when the community occupied land in Laguna Larga, near the town of San Andrés. The government insisted the land was protected, eventually evicting the villagers and blocking their return. While most of the refugees were born in Guatemala, at least a dozen minors in the group hold dual citizenship with Mexico. Neither government has made an effort to relocate the villagers or provide them asylum.
The group is seeking an immediate return to Guatemala, but has not ruled out seeking asylum in Mexico. Barred from visiting their plots until September, the villagers lost 80% of the year's harvest.
The Inter-American Commission of Human Rights sent investigators to visit the displaced community, documenting the dire conditions in the camps and criticizing the government's behavior. With the help of human rights groups, the community has sued the government in Guatemala's constitutional court.
"We are farmers, how will we work here?" Obdulio de Jesús Chomá, the community's leader, told Prensa Libre. "I just want to return to my land, we aren't asking for the moon."