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Guatemalan refugees stuck in the middle
©Scott Sines — During the early 80’s civil wars were ongoing in several Central American countries and large increases of immigrants from any country was a sign of increased fighting. Routine checks with the U.S. Border Patrol revealed a rapidly increasing number of indigenous Guatemalans crossing the river into southern Texas.

Coffee pickerThe Mexican American Cultural Center (MACC), a respected Catholic research institute in San Antonio, was receiving reports from its missions in Southern Mexico about refugee camps forming along the Usumacinta River bordering Guatemala. The refugees reported harassment from border incursions by Guatemalan troops ranging from burning crops and homes to wholesale slaughter. The Guatemalan government denied having troops in the region and denied that its forces entered Mexico.

On the Mexican side officials insisted they were doing their best to provide aid but conceded that their efforts were hampered by the remoteness of the camps deep in the Lacantun jungle of Chiapas. Many international agencies offered aid but Mexico insisted that all aid, including millions of dollars provided by the United Nations be channeled through a Mexican government agency and then distributed to the camps. Graft was common. They were making money on the deal.

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