Guatemalan authorities stop migrant caravan headed to US
By James Blears
The intention of the migrant caravan, which started its journey in the Honduran city of San Pedro Sula on Saturday, was to gather followers, swell its numbers, reach neighbouring Guatemala and traverse Mexico, attempting the long and hazardous trek to the border with the United States far to the north.
However, they only made it to Guatemala, where they were halted by hundreds of soldiers, riot police, and other security forces, with orders they would go no further. The Guatemalans are intent on returning them to their countries of origin.
The migrants are now between a rock and a hard place, in tense talks with the Guatemalan Migration Institute. The stark options are to stay put, if they have the proper ID and pass a covid test, or to return home. Thirty-six of their companions have already been sent back.
Guatemalan officials insist this is to protect the integrity of frontiers and also health.
The US Border Patrol has detained more than 1.6 million undocumented migrants in the last year alone. Many more are stuck in a logjam of centres in Mexico. The United States and Mexico have agreed they can stay there until a massive backlog of cases is resolved. This is putting a huge strain on Mexico, which is requesting US resources.
The administration of US President Joe Biden is considering a seven billion dollars aid package for Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador, to create homegrown jobs. The question is whether it will prove enough to stop a migration exodus, which will gather pace as economic as well as law and order conditions worsen.