Guatemala ups pressure on U.S.-bound migrant caravan, clears road
The government said the road in eastern Guatemala reopened to traffic after troops with batons and plastic shields closed in on the migrants just beyond the village of Vado Hondo, some 34 miles (55 km) from the borders of Honduras and El Salvador.
With soldiers looking on, groups of migrants, many with young children and carrying bags and luggage, then waited in lines to board buses returning them to the El Florido border crossing with Honduras, video footage on social media showed.
The removal of the large group was the latest effort by Guatemalan authorities to break up the caravan, which authorities said numbered close to 8,000 people, within hours of its departure for the United States from Honduras last week.
About 2,000 of the migrants installed themselves on the road after they clashed with Guatemalan security forces on Sunday during a failed effort to make their way past them.
Some people were injured as troops forced the crowd from the road, said Andres Gomez, a Guatemalan in the caravan.
“This isn’t a war. It’s a caravan with women and children. The soldiers have no right to beat anyone,” he said. “There are women who’ve been beaten, it’s an act of violence.”
Guatemala’s government did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the accusations.
After the clearance, groups of migrants went back into Vado Hondo looking for alternative routes, the government said. It was unclear how many were turning back altogether.
WHITE HOUSE CHANGE
Many of the migrants say they are fleeing poverty and lawlessness in a region rocked by the coronavirus pandemic and two devastating hurricanes in November.
Late on Sunday, Guatemalan authorities said they had sent more than 1,500 migrants back home since Friday, most to Honduras. Nearly 100 were returned to El Salvador.
The first migrant caravan of 2021 comes just as Democratic U.S. President-elect Joe Biden takes office on Wednesday pledging more humane migration policies than outgoing Republican President Donald Trump, who favored a hard-line approach.
Mexican President Andres Lopez Obrador on Monday warned migrants not to try to enter countries by force, and said he was in touch with both the outgoing and incoming U.S. administrations over the migrant caravan.
Lopez Obrador said he was hopeful that Biden would carry out an immigration reform and work with Mexico and Central America on a plan that could provide alternatives to migration.
Guatemalan Foreign Minister Pedro Brolo said on Monday he was surprised that Honduras did not want to collaborate in stopping the caravan, citing earlier joint discussions on it.
The head of the Honduran border police, Julian Hernandez, said more than 800 security officials had tried to stop the caravan at the Guatemalan border, but migrants pushed through the barrier, some using children “as shields.”
“We weren’t there with our arms folded,” he told Reuters.