Guatemala slowed down on Sunday with tear gas and batons the advance of thousands of migrants who left Honduras hoping to reach the United States, when several cases of COVID-19 were declared among them.
To date, 21 people in the group who have passed health checks have tested positive for the coronavirus and will need to be quarantined in Guatemala before returning to their country, said Julia Barrera, spokesperson for the Ministry of Health.
The caravan, made up of at least 9,000 Hondurans divided into several contingents, progressed about 50 kilometers inside Guatemala.
Arriving in the town of Vado Hondo, in the department of Chiquimula, nearly 6,000 of them, according to police figures, clashed with the police and soldiers deployed there, who used tear gas.
The deafening detonations of tear gas canisters and smoke pushed back thousands of people on the road, while others sought refuge in the nearby mountains, AFP said.
In their flight, some have dropped their belongings. Those who tried to cross the roadblock by the security forces were beaten with batons. According to a local health official, speaking on condition of anonymity, several people were injured.
Unlike on Friday, when the police were unarmed and were overwhelmed by the flood of refugees at the El Florido border post, the police were this time armed and equipped with riot gear.
Here is the bulk of the caravan and
we won't let them pass, launched a policeman to AFP. Since Saturday evening, migrants have been stranded at this strategic point due to the rugged geography of the place.
Many walkers have already been intercepted, according to the local Migration Service, which again asked them for papers and COVID-19 test. Nearly a thousand of them were returned by bus and truck to the border with Honduras, including 163 children, the same source said.
Shortly before the clashes, the Director General of Migration, Guillermo Diaz, warned on local television that a new forcible passage, as at the border, would not take place.
They had entered the country between Friday evening and Saturday morning, at the El Florido border post, 220 kilometers east of the capital Guatemala.
The decision to open the border was made because of the presence of many families with children, according to a police official.
The human caravan had left Friday at dawn from the city of San Pedro Sula, industrial heart and economic engine of Honduras, which has 9 million inhabitants, located 180 km north of Tegucigalpa.
The Guatemalan authorities had announced the obligation for all migrants to present documents in order and a negative PCR test.
After the 450 km to travel inside Guatemala, new migrants should attempt to enter Mexico through the Tecun Uman border post (southwest), according to details provided by migration authorities.
The economic situation of many inhabitants of the small Central American country subjected to the violence of gangs and drug traffickers has deteriorated further with the passage of two powerful hurricanes in November and the consequences of the pandemic.
We have no jobs and no food, so I decided to go to the United States, explained Dania Hinestrosa, 23, on the way with her daughter. The young woman, who worked as a domestic worker, left behind another 3-year-old child and 4-year-old twins.
We leave heartbroken. Me, I leave my family, my husband and my three children, launched Jessenia Ramirez, 36, hoping that President Joe Biden, who will be sworn in on Wednesday, leaves her
a chance in the USA.
More than a dozen migrant caravans have left Honduras since October 2018, but all have clashed with thousands of U.S. border guards and military personnel positioned on the southern border with Mexico.
Many, however, want to believe that Joe Biden will ease US migration policy, even though Washington has already warned them.
Do not waste your time and money and do not risk your safety or healthUS Customs and Border Protection official Mark A. Morgan said on Thursday. Outgoing President Donald Trump on Friday declared a state of emergency on the border with Mexico, a measure first taken in February 2019.
New measures must be taken to deal with the humanitarian situation and to be able to control immigration, as well as the flow of drugs and delinquents, said the White House.
The Mexican government warned him that he
would not allow the illegal entry (into its territory) of migrant caravans. Some 500 police officers have been sent to the border with Guatemala.
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