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VADO HONDO, Guatemala – Hundreds of Honduran migrants woke up tired and hungry Monday after being trapped for the second night in a row along a rural highway in Guatemala when police and soldiers barred them.
A steep mountain and a high wall next to the rural highway have allowed the Guatemalan authorities to block the way to the group of approximately 2,000 people who passed into Guatemala on Friday night.
Some migrants gave up and agreed to be taken back by bus to the Honduran border. A smaller group was forcibly returned after confronting officers who forced their way through with sticks and tear gas.
Guatemalan immigration authorities indicated Monday that another group of about 800 migrants had been located about 40 kilometers to the north, along the highway near Río Hondo. They also blocked their way there, but the authorities indicated that they negotiated the opening of a lane for the passage of vehicles.
In total, between 8,000 and 9,000 migrants are believed to have entered Guatemala in the first caravan of the year that left San Pedro Sula, Honduras on Friday. The country has been hit by the COVID-19 pandemic and two strong hurricanes that left thousands of people homeless in November. That’s coupled with a lack of economic opportunity and persistent gang violence.
On Monday at Vado Hondo, the site of the blockade on the outskirts of Chiquimula, migrants lean against the wall or sat down after a night of intermittent sleep on the brush by the side of the road, or on the pavement. Some migrants have returned to the town in search of food or shade, waiting for the end of the impasse.
Numerous semi-trailers lined the road long. The locals made their way through the migrants, with the authorization of police and soldiers.
On Sunday, the Guatemalan Ministry of Health reported that 21 of the migrants who sought medical attention at health centers tested positive for the coronavirus. The department indicated that 12 men and nine women would not be returned to Honduras until they complete a quarantine in centers in Guatemala.
Even if the migrants make it to the Mexican border, that government has shown a show of force by deploying thousands of National Guard members and immigration agents to the scene.
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