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VADO HONDO, Guatemala, Jan 17 (Reuters) – Guatemalan security forces have held for hours, beating at times with sticks, the passage of the first large caravan of Central American migrants in 2021 that seeks to reach the United States and left Honduras on Friday.
After forcibly crossing the Florido border point, thousands of migrants began to gather on Saturday afternoon at a military checkpoint in Vado Hondo, in Chiquimula, where they were first asked for documents and a negative test for COVID-19 in the midst of struggles, that at night escalated to clashes.
Two groups with a total of about 6,000 migrants who spent the night in the area, got together early Sunday to try to cross the barricade of more than 3,000 police and soldiers, but were repelled, according to the Guatemalan immigration authority.
Video images shared by the Guatemalan government showed hundreds of migrants, many without masks, pressing against a wall of security forces, using sticks to repel the surge of people.
“Several injured people are reported, migrants, Army and migration personnel,” Alejandra Mena, spokeswoman for the Guatemalan Migration Institute (IGM), said on Sunday, without specifying the number, adding that they were coordinating support with health personnel to care for the injured.
The Guatemalan authorities had calculated the day before that between 7,000 and 8,000 people had entered their territory since Friday, trying to flee the violence and poverty aggravated by the coronavirus pandemic and the passage of two powerful hurricanes in the region at the end of 2020.
Between Friday and Saturday, Guatemala had sent back nearly 1,000 migrants who entered from Honduras, the immigration authority said, as the caravan tried to move toward Mexico.
The Mexican government, which tightened controls on its southern border, recognized Guatemala’s work in acting “firmly and responsibly” with respect to the contingents of migrants who “violated its sovereignty” through a statement from the Foreign Ministry on the night of Saturday.
The caravan takes place just days after the president-elect of the United States, Joe Biden, takes office. Biden has promised a more humane approach to migration, in contrast to outgoing President Donald Trump. But there are commitments in place, so the migrant group is likely to face further pressure to advance to Mexico. (Report by Sofía Menchú and Luis Echeverría in Guatemala, Gustavo Palencia in Tegucigalpa and Laura Gottesdiener in Monterrey, written by Sharay Angulo. Edited by Miguel Angel Gutiérrez)
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