Guatemalan exile finally over
Santo Domingo, Mexico, Jul 28 --(EFE)-- Mexico and Guatemala on
ended a dramatic chapter in the history of the wars that have plagued Central
America recently: the story of 45,000 Guatemalan refugees who fled the violence
in their homeland to carve out new lives in Mexico.
Presidents Ernesto Zedillo of Mexico and Alvaro Arzu of Guatemala
the last small group of Guatemalans left Mexico, bringing the total number of
Guatemalan refugees who have returned to their homes to 42,488.
The presidents also gave naturalization papers to 939 others of
the 22,000 who
opted to stay, in a ceremony in the state of Campeche to celebrate the occasion.
The Guatemalan community in Mexico burgeoned after the exodus
1982, with many Guatemalans starting or continuing their families in exile,
increasing the total population significantly above the original 45,000 refugees.
In fact, children are one of the main reasons why Guatemalans
stay in Mexico,
Mexican Foreign Secretary Rosario Green told EFE.
Francisco Baltasar Torres, a former refugee who received his naturalization
on Wednesday - the first step towards Mexican citizenship - told EFE that he is
staying because he has nothing calling him back to Guatemala, a land he left 16
``I have no land on which to grow corn there, no home, no family.
``Here,'' he went on, ``thanks to the Mexican government, I have
a roof over my
head and a small piece of land. It's not much - but it's enough to live on,'' Torres
The U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), Sadako Ogata
praised the ``warm welcome'' Mexico gave to the Guatemalan war refugees -
especially by giving them the option to choose between voluntary repatriation and
``I hope refugees in other parts of the world will be given the
said Ogata, who is scheduled to conclude her official visit to Mexico on Friday.
Foreign Secretary Green told EFE that 10,403 refugees have obtained
status and 2,184 have received naturalization letters since Guatemala and Mexico
signed a peace treaty in December 1996.
According to Green, the former refugees may opt to have a double