‘Guatemala Anti-Drug Operations Force Refugees into Mexico’

A community of at least 200 people in north Guatemala has sought refuge over the border in Mexico, after their village was allegedly torched in a government operation against drug trafficking.

The 90 families are from the village of Nueva Esperanza in the north Guatemalan province of Peten, less than a kilometer from the border with Mexico.

The group was displaced by a Guatemalan security forces operation that took place on August 23, which forced them to cross into the southern Mexican state of Tabasco, according to reports.

The Guatemalans said the authorities had accused them of working with drug traffickers, which they deny, and had burnt their houses.

Guatemala’s government imposed a “state of siege” on Peten after the massacre of 27 farm laborers in the province in May. This gives the army temporary control of the province, and allows them to detain people and search houses without a warrant.

The government has cited a drop in the murder rate as evidence this is working, but the story of these villagers seems to illustrate a problem with using the army in a law enforcement role — the risk of excessive force being used against civilians.