Security forces stop migrant caravan in Guatemala

Security forces stop migrant caravan in Guatemala with tear gas and sticks

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Thousands of migrants who entered Guatemala on foot, on their journey from Honduras to the United States, were stopped this Sunday by the police who fired tear gas at them and by the military who beat those who insisted on pushing forward with sticks.

The migrants were fenced off on a highway in the town of Vado Hondo, in the department of Chiquimula, on the border with Honduras. According to official figures, at least 6,000 of the 9,000 people estimated to have entered Guatemala have reached this place.

“This is too much (the attitude of the police). We come in a humble way. We are not doing harm to anyone,” Honduran Marisol Domínguez, 35, told AFP. The woman travels with her husband, fleeing the critical economic situation in their country, aggravated by the disastrous passage of hurricanes Eta and Iota in November.

“We are not going to move or give up. It is not possible to return to Honduras to the same thing,” said Domínguez, who left five children between the ages of 2 and 13 in the care of family members.

Since Saturday night, migrants have been stranded at this strategic point less than 50 km from the border, as it is difficult to continue on the other side due to the rugged geography of the place.

– El cerco de Giammattei –

The order of the uniformed men is to avoid the passage due to the risk of contagion of covid-19, according to an agreement by President Alejandro Giammattei, which authorizes the use of force to contain the exodus.

“We are not criminals. I do not understand why they are treating us badly,” added Carlos, 26, originally from San Antonio de Cortés and who travels with his wife and two young daughters.

 

After the altercation, the group fell back a few meters and waited on the road for a new attempt to pass despite the brawl that left several injured. Unlike on Friday, when the police were unarmed and did not stop the caravan from entering the El Florido border crossing due to the presence of children, on this occasion a group carried firearms.

Hondurans say they seek to escape poverty, violence, unemployment, lack of education and health, which was also aggravated by the covid-19 pandemic.

 

The caravan is also encouraged by the hope of a possible relaxation of immigration policies in the United States, when the president-elect, Joe Biden, assumes on January 20, a complex illusion.

“Do not waste your time and money and do not risk your safety and health. It is a deadly trip,” said Acting Commissioner of the Office of Customs and Border Protection of the United States (CBP), Mark A. Morgan.

 

– “They have no heart” –

Dixón Vázquez, 29, a Honduran from La Lima Cortés, pleaded with the Guatemalan authorities to let them continue.

 

“They have no heart, we are risking our lives, there is no work in Honduras,” he said.

The young man leaves Honduras but still wears it on his skin. He wears the jersey of Olimpia, a popular team from his country. He says that agriculture was left without work because the banana fields were lost in the hurricanes.

Meanwhile, young couples Víctor Clemente, 19, and Gisela Orellana, 16, decided to leave San Pedro Sula, in northern Honduras, because half of that region was affected by the storms and the pandemic.

With barely six months married, the couple wants to go “north” (United States), because “they have nothing to do” in their homeland, Víctor mentioned.

– “Infiltrated” gangs –

The director general of Guatemalan Migration, Guillermo Díaz, in a video released by the entity declared that the migrants will not pass. Whoever wants to do so must carry out a legal crossing, with documents and present a negative coronavirus test.

He assured that, after the incidents in Vado Hondo, the institutional “intelligence” services detected that “infiltrated elements of maras (gangs) from Honduras and organized crime” are marching in the group.

So far about 1,383 people from the caravan have been returned to Honduras, including 192 children.

Most of the group left at dawn on Friday from the San Pedro Sula bus station, the usual departure point for migrant caravans bound for the United States with thousands of people since October 2018, although many have failed due to the intensification of the controls.

If this caravan manages to travel 450 or 664 km through Guatemala, depending on the route they choose, it will try to enter Mexico through the border crossing from Tecún Umán (southwest), which has already shielded its border.

 

Ben Oakley
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