CHIQUIMULA, Guatemala (Reuters) – More Honduran migrants tried to join a caravan of several thousand trekking through Guatemala on Wednesday, defying calls by authorities not to make the journey after U.S. President Donald Trump threatened to cut off regional aid in reprisal.
A Honduran migrant child is sitting on the back of the truck, after hitchhiking to get into the Agua Caliente border and hoping to cross into Guatemala and join a caravan trying to reach the U.S, in the municipality of Ocotepeque, Honduras October 17, 2018. REUTERS/Jorge Cabrera
The caravan has been growing steadily since it left the violent Honduran city of San Pedro Sula on Saturday. The migrants hope to reach Mexico and then cross its northern border with the United States, to seek refuge from endemic violence and poverty in Central America.
Several thousand people are now part of the caravan, according to a Reuters witness traveling with the group in Guatemala, where men women and children on foot and riding in trucks filled a road on their long journey to Mexico.
Reacting angrily to the caravan, which follows a similar mass migration earlier this year, U.S. President Donald Trump decried “horrendous weak and outdated immigration laws,” in a series of Twitter messages starting on Tuesday, and threatened to cut off aid to Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador if they fail to prevent undocumented immigrants from heading to the United States.
“Hard to believe that with thousands of people from South of the Border, walking unimpeded toward our country in the form of large Caravans, that the Democrats won’t approve legislation that will allow laws for the protection of our country,” Trump said on Twitter on Wednesday.
In response to the pressure, the Honduran government has urged its citizens not to join the caravan, which it said was politically motivated. But Hondurans still hoping to join could be seen being stopped by authorities on Wednesday morning near the Guatemalan border, with police in riot gear at one checkpoint halting buses carrying at least a hundred or more people.
The group of men, women and children carried on toward the border by foot, Reuters photographs showed, with some later fording a jungle river near the frontier after unconfirmed reports that Guatemalan authorities had stopped letting Hondurans enter the country.
Adult citizens of Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador, as well as Nicaragua, need only present national identity cards to cross each others’ borders. That regional immigration agreement does not apply when they reach Mexico.
Guatemalan authorities did not provide an estimate of the size of the caravan, which aims to pass through Guatemala City before heading to Mexico.
Mexico said on Wednesday that anyone who enters the country with a Mexican visa would be able to move freely, but that those without proper documents would be subject to review and potentially deported.
“This measure responds not only to compliance with national legislation, but particularly to the interest of the Mexican Government to avoid that such people become victims of human trafficking networks,” the foreign ministry said in a statement.
Reporting by Edgard Garrido and Jorge Cabrera, Writing by Daina Beth Solomon; Editing by Frank Jack Daniel and Tom Brown