The organizer of a migrant caravan from Honduras was detained in Guatemala on Tuesday as the U.S. government threatened to withdraw aid from both countries and El Salvador if the flow of migrants north to the United States was not stopped.
Up to 3,000 migrants, according to organizers’ estimates, crossed from Honduras into Guatemala on a trek northward after a standoff on Monday with police in riot gear.
The Honduran Foreign Ministry called on its citizens not to join the group. The government “urges the Hondurans taking part in this irregular mobilization not to be used by a movement that is clearly political,” it said.
Honduran president Juan Orlando Hernandez said in a public address on Tuesday evening some Hondurans in the caravan had already returned home and the government was preparing to support them. He did not specify how many had turned back.
Over the border, Guatemalan police officers detained Bartolo Fuentes, a former Honduran lawmaker, from the middle of the large crowd that he and three other organizers had led from San Pedro Sula, Honduras, since Saturday.
The moves followed comments by U.S. President Donald Trump that his administration would halt aid if the Central American governments did not act, his latest effort to demonstrate his tough stance on immigration.
The Honduran security ministry said Fuentes had been detained because he “did not comply with Guatemalan immigration rules” and would be deported back to Honduras in the coming hours.
Security officials at the Honduran border with Guatemala in Agua Caliente blocked the road to prevent another much smaller group from getting through, television images from the border showed.
“We can’t attend to people en masse. People are going through one by one,” police spokesman Alex Madrid said in a radio interview.
Illegal immigration is likely to be a top issue in Nov. 6 U.S. congressional elections, when Democrats are seen as having a good chance of gaining control of the House of Representatives from Trump’s fellow Republicans.
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