Dozens of migrants trying to enter Guatemala by force from Honduras clashed Saturday night with stones, sticks and bottles against hundreds of soldiers and police, who used tear gas to disperse them. At least 15 Guatemalan officials were injured in the incident, the government announced.
The confrontation began when the group of migrants tried to break a cordon of several hundred policemen. Agents with plastic shields and riot gear were formed together with the military in Guatemalan territory to prevent the entry of foreigners, who came from the Honduran town of San Pedro Sula.
After a struggle, on the side of the migrants, stones, sticks and bottles began to be thrown towards the military and police, who used tear gas to disperse them, according to images broadcast by local media.
The confrontation left at least seven police officers and eight soldiers injured, Guatemalan authorities reported during a press conference. It was not specified if there were injured migrants.
Earlier, some 300 migrants, between Hondurans and Nicaraguans, arrived in the Honduran town of Corinto and then went to the Guatemalan department of Izabal, near the border, where they were intercepted by hundreds of anti-riot agents from the National Civil Police and the Army. .
The Guatemalan Migration Institute reported that it began a dialogue with the migrants to return them to their country of origin. People who wish to remain in Guatemala must present their personal identification document, their COVID-19 vaccination card and a negative test for the virus.
The general director of the Guatemalan Institute of Migration, Carlos Emilio Morales, told the press that “people are being returned, everything is in order, humanely,” but he did not offer details.
“We are protecting our borders, we are protecting the health of all Guatemalans,” Morales said, adding that “we are seeing a small contingent that is already being analyzed and is already being studied by Army Intelligence, the police of Migration”.
The Guatemalan government reported that 36 people were deported to Honduras because they did not meet the requirements and a group of 10 who met the immigration and health requirements were allowed to advance.
The group that arrived in Guatemala is part of a large caravan of some 600 people that left the Great Metropolitan Bus Station of San Pedro Sula on Saturday morning with the aim of reaching the southern border of the United States.
The caravan, the first to be registered this year, divided into several groups to try to evade the control of the Guatemalan authorities and go through the different border crossings and illegal routes.
Among the group was Fabricio Ordóñez, a young Honduran day laborer, who said he decided to join the caravan with the personal goal of “giving my family a new life.”
“One’s dream is to be in the United States to be able to do many things in Honduras,” explained Ordóñez, after acknowledging that he decided to leave the Central American country because he does not have much hope that the new government of president-elect Xiomara Castro, who will take office on January 27, can resolve in a short time the economic and social problems of the Central American country left behind by 12 years of conservative governments. “They have looted everything. For me to lift this government it will be very hard”.
Castro, of the leftist Libertad y Refundación (Libre) party and wife of former President Manuel Zelaya, won elections in November, becoming the first woman from her country to become president. With Castro’s victory, the Honduran left managed to return to power after Zelaya was deposed in a coup in 2009.
“We know that it is a very hard road and we ask God and the Honduran government to please accompany us to the border in Guatemala, and not to put any more checkpoints on us,” said Nicaraguan Ubaldo López, shortly before starting the tour.
López said that he decided to leave Managua, the capital of Nicaragua, because the situation is “quite difficult… We are practically without resources.”
The Central American confessed that he hoped that the authorities of Guatemala and Mexico would not stop the caravan and that the US government “opens the doors for us.”
At the beginning of 2021, a large caravan of several thousand migrants left Honduras, but Guatemalan authorities broke it up before it reached Mexico.
Over the past year, thousands of migrants, mostly Central Americans, Haitians, Cubans and Venezuelans, have reached Mexico’s northern border to try to cross into the United States, unleashing a crisis that has become one of the biggest headaches in the world. administration of President Joe Biden.
In the midst of the growing flow, a tragedy was recorded last December when 56 migrants died when a truck carrying more than a hundred foreigners overturned on a highway in southern Mexico.
The U.S. Border Patrol reported more than 1.6 million encounters with migrants at the U.S.-Mexico border from September 2020 to September 2021, more than four times the number in the previous fiscal year and the highest annual total on record. .
Biden has backed a proposal to provide $7 billion in assistance to Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras to help address the poverty and violence that cause people to flee to the United States.
At the end of last year, the US government reactivated, by decision of a federal judge, an immigration policy that forces asylum seekers to wait in Mexico for their hearings, complicating Biden’s plans to deal with the growing migratory flow.
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Mexico confirmed the reactivation of the US program and reported that, temporarily, it would not return migrants to their countries of origin for humanitarian reasons.
The Mexican authorities indicated that the United States accepted the humanitarian concerns of the Government of Andrés Manuel López Obrador, among which include “greater resources for shelters and international organizations, protection for vulnerable groups, consideration of local security conditions and capacity of shelter and care of the National Migration Institute, as well as the application of measures against COVID-19, such as medical check-ups and the availability of vaccines for migrants.”
Washington said in a statement that it would take steps to address Mexico’s concerns about the program, including offering coronavirus vaccines to migrants and exempting more categories of people deemed vulnerable.