Guatemala beat back on Sunday a large migrant caravan bound for the United States, just days before the inauguration of the new administration.
Some 8,000 migrants, including families with young children, entered Guatemala since Friday, authorities said. ”Guatemala's message is loud and clear: These types of illegal mass movements (of people) will not be accepted, that's why we are working together with the neighboring nations to address this as a regional issue, the Guatemalan president's office said in emailed comments.
A large section of the caravan clashed early on Sunday with Guatemalan security officials, some 3,000 of whom had mustered by the village of Vado Hondo, about 55 km from the borders of Honduras and El Salvador.
Migrants interviewed by local media said they only wanted to cross Guatemala because there is nothing left in Honduras. We're going to carry on. I want to get through because it's horrible in our country. There's nothing in Honduras.”
The coronavirus pandemic has battered Honduras' economy, which last year suffered its worst contraction on record.
The large contingent of Guatemalan security officers managed to stop the migrants from advancing beyond Vado Hondo, with perhaps as many as half of the people in the caravan dispersing into the nearby hills or heading back the way they came
Even if the migrants finally get past, Mexico is preparing to stop them at its southern border with hundreds of security forces, arguing it must contain the spread of the virus.
The robust response suggests that Democratic President-elect Joe Biden may initially benefit from the hard-line policies of outgoing Republican President Donald Trump, who made cracking down on illegal immigration a priority of his administration.
Video footage shared by the Guatemalan government showed hundreds of migrants, bounded by a hillside, pressing into a wall of security forces, which used sticks and tear gas to repel the surge. An unspecified number of people were injured, authorities said.
The first migrant caravan of the year comes less than a week before Biden takes office on Wednesday promising to adopt a more humane approach to migration than Trump.