By Liisa L. North, Alan B. Simmons
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Extra info for Journeys of Fear: Refugee Return and National Transformation in Guatemala
Refugee return — collective and individual - faced highly volatile circumstances in Guatemala. Thus, while UNHCR projections had predicted a rise in numbers to twelve thousand returnees in 1996, events in late 1995 (discussed below) heightened fear among potential returnees and consequently, only about four thousand did go back (Reding 1997, 62), the majority of them in collective form. " But in addition to volatile circumstances in Guatemala, refugees faced uncertain circumstances in Mexico. In combination, these factors constantly reshaped attitudes regarding return.
In total, about thirty-five thousand refugees had returned as of mid-1997, about half of them collectively under CCPP auspices (COINDE, in Action Concertada 6, no. 19, 1997, 12). While the collective return process and national transformation are the focus of the works included in this volume, it should not be forgotten that, according to Guatemalan government figures, persons internally displaced by the civil war numbered about one million (Sollis iggGa, 7; Reding 1997, 67). About these people, as Gellert notes in her contribution, little is known, since they have tried to make themselves "invisible" in Guatemala's cities and towns.
For example, after a year-long campaign, the government succeeded in pressuring the UN Human Rights Commission (UNHRC) to remove its representative, Monica Pinto, from Guatemala in 1997. Pinto, who was mandated to speak out on individual cases and to issue detailed reports, was so effective in this role that the government wanted her replaced by a permanent advisor to the state who could address only general policy issues and hence would not be able to address, and disseminate views on, specific cases.