Guatemalan authorities on Saturday escalated efforts to stop thousands of Hondurans, many of them families with children, traveling in a migrant caravan bound for the US just as a new administration is about to enter the White House.
Between 7,000 and 8,000 migrants have entered Guatemala since Friday, according to Guatemala’s immigration authority, fleeing poverty and violence in a region battered by the pandemic and back-to-back hurricanes in November.
Videos seen by Reuters showed Guatemalan security forces clashing with a group of hundreds of migrants who managed to break through a police blockade at the village of Vado Hondo, near Chiquimula in eastern Guatemala.
“A small group got through and the rest were detained. The people who got past have been located,” said Alejandra Mena, a spokeswoman for Guatemala’s immigration agency.
Guatemala has not said how many migrants were detained on Saturday as the caravan moved towards Mexico.
The caravan is likely to come under more pressure in Mexico. Mexico’s migration accord with the US still holds, so the caravan would be dispersed, a Mexican official said.
On Saturday evening, the Mexican foreign ministry pressed local authorities to halt the caravan’s progress, pointing to the need to contain the spread of COVID-19.
In a statement, the ministry praised the Guatemalan government for acting in a “firm and responsible” manner toward migrants that had “violated (Guatemala’s) sovereignty” and urged Honduras to prevent further movements of people.
Mexico, it said, was committed to orderly and regulated migration and would oppose any form of unauthorized entry.
The first migrant caravan of the year comes less than a week before US President-elect Joe Biden takes office promising a more humane approach to migration, in contrast to outgoing President Donald Trump’s hardline policies.