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Feb 26, 2001

Wednesday is latest date for Guat. evacuation

The painfully slow process under which residents of three illegal Guatemalan settlements in Belize are being returned across the border now has a new estimated date for completion. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs tells News five that the Guatemalan government has agreed to begin disbursing financial compensation on Wednesday to those settlers willing to voluntarily return to Guatemala. Those who decline the offer will be given expulsion orders by Belizean officials that will require them to get out within twenty four hours or face forcible eviction. However they depart, the close to four hundred inhabitants of Machaquila, Rio Blanco and Valentin Camp will find that following the evacuation their crops will be destroyed and modest dwellings dismantled in an effort to discourage them from returning. The three settlements all lie within a forest reserve where no habitation, not even Belizean, is allowed. The slow pace of Guatemalan efforts to remove the settlers is believed to be a deliberate effort to frustrate the OAS supervised negotiating process that both countries have agreed to accept.

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