The silent passage through Nicaragua of thousands of migrants heading to the US

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Venezuelan Astrid Cuéllar takes a brief break after traveling hundreds of kilometers by bus through Nicaragua, a country that remains silent about the growing wave of migrants to the United States, to continue her journey with the risk of "losing everything."
"If they push us back and we lose everything, it is one of the answers that we do not know," the 30-year-old Venezuelan tells AFP in Condega, a Nicaraguan municipality located 66 km from the Honduran border, where every day hundreds of migrants from Several nationalities traveling on special line buses stop to buy food and water.

The government of President Daniel Ortega remains silent regarding the crossing of migrants through the country in search of the American dream, unlike neighboring nations that announced a reinforcement of border security and allocated resources to serve travelers.

More than 400,000 migrants have arrived in Honduras from Nicaragua in 2023, more than double the previous year (188,000). The same number of travelers have entered Panama from Colombia through the inhospitable Darién jungle, according to official data.

Nicaragua has not announced any measures due to the migratory wave, however Panama and Costa Rica created camps to accommodate them and special bus lines to transport them from one border to the other.

- "I do not feel safe" -

Originally from El Vigía, Mérida state (west), Astrid Cuéllar travels like other migrants "getting excited, giving in, and wanting to get out now, finish this now (...), wait to see what" happens in Mexico with the process to enter the United States.

"On our way to God and the Virgin, saying forward for the family, for profit, for progress," adds the woman, who was dedicated to small business in Venezuela before the economic crisis pushed her to leave with her brother José Gregorio. , 24 years old.

If she obtains permission to enter the United States, she will look for work to send money to her three children and her parents, who remained in Venezuela.

The Cuéllar brothers traveled about 293 kilometers by bus from the border with Costa Rica to Managua, where they transferred to another bus to continue another 250 kilometers to Las Manos, on the border with Honduras. Crossing Nicaragua by bus takes about 20 hours.

On a brief stop in Condega, the Cuéllar brothers and the other migrants eat quickly at a popular restaurant on the side of the Pan-American Highway.

«More than anything I want to emigrate because in Latin America I don't feel safe. "I belong to the LGBT community and I have received a lot of rejection and discrimination and that is why I want to emigrate to the United States, for more protection of my sexuality," José Gregorio Cuéllar tells AFP.

"I dedicated myself to working for myself and as an artist, I designed and made drawings," he adds, indicating that the money he earned was barely enough to eat.

– Nobody knows how many –

To the travelers who crossed the Darién jungle on foot, on the border between Colombia and Panama, thousands of migrants from Nicaragua, Honduras, El Salvador and Guatemala are being added in Central America seeking to reach the United States.

Since the 2018 protests, harshly repressed by the Ortega government, and with the economic crisis that resulted, the exodus of Nicaraguans has worsened, mainly to the United States, but some went to Costa Rica, Guatemala, El Salvador and Panama.

Nobody knows how many Nicaraguans emigrate, but money remittances arriving from abroad are increasing: 3,033.7 million dollars between January and August of this year, 54% more than in the same period of 2022, according to figures from the Central Bank of Nicaragua.

- The farewell -

"The hardest thing in itself is saying goodbye to family members" when leaving, summarizes Venezuelan Aramis Tejedor, 42, during the break in Condega.

Tejedor sold ceramics and porcelain and left a daughter and other relatives in Caracas to whom he intends to send money when he gets a job in the United States.

In Condega, travelers also take the opportunity to rest for a few minutes before being called back to the bus by the hoarse sound of the vehicle's horn.

An hour later, the bus stops in front of the yellow border barrier guarded by Nicaraguan police, and about 50 migrants go down to the immigration post, where a few hours later they obtain the pass to cross into Honduras.

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