Migrant Caravan: Honduras, Guatemala Leaders to Meet on Migrant Caravan – The Latest: UN calls on Mexico, US to respect migrants


Thousands of Honduran migrants rush across the border toward Mexico, in Tecun Uman, Guatemala, Oct. 19, 2018.
Thousands of Honduran migrants rush across the border toward Mexico, in Tecun Uman, Guatemala, Oct. 19, 2018.

The presidents of Honduras and Guatemala are set to meet Saturday to implement a strategy to return a caravan of thousands of migrants to Honduras after U.S. President Donald Trump warned the convoy must be stopped before it reaches the U.S.

A standoff between the migrants and Mexican police continued as they settled on a bridge separating Guatemala and Mexico, with some clinging to the closed border gate crying “there are children here.”

The migrants broke through the fence Friday, running into a wall of police in Mexico, whose government has promised the U.S. will confront the caravan.

Mexican television footage showed hundreds of migrants streaming onto the bridge and being met on the other side by a line of Mexican police in riot gear.

Witnesses say some of the migrants threw rocks and other objects at Mexican security forces, who used pepper spray to force the migrants to retreat.

A Honduran migrant mother and child cower as they are surrounded by Mexican Federal Police in riot gear, at the border crossing in Ciudad Hidalgo, Mexico, Oct. 19, 2018.
A Honduran migrant mother and child cower as they are surrounded by Mexican Federal Police in riot gear, at the border crossing in Ciudad Hidalgo, Mexico, Oct. 19, 2018.

Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto said Friday night in a nationally televised address that, “Mexico does not permit and will not permit entry into its territory in an irregular fashion, much less in a violent fashion.”

Honduran President Juan Orlando Hernandez posted on Twitter late Friday that he and his Guatemalan counterpart, Jimmy Morales, have asked for clearance to send civil protection personnel to help the Hondurans at the border, and is looking for ways to return the migrants to Honduras, where their march began.

“I also asked authorization to hire ground transportation for anyone who wants to return and an air bridge for special cases of women, children, the elderly and the sick,” Hernandez tweeted.

The caravan has angered Trump and his top diplomat, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, who met in Mexico City Friday with his Mexican counterpart, Luis Videgaray, who vowed to meet the “challenge” of the caravan.

Pompeo told VOA Contributor Greta Van Susteren Friday that Mexican officials want to create a situation where migrants “understand that it is not fruitful to transit though Mexico into the United States.”

He said the caravan is “not organic” and is being underwritten by political opponents of the Honduran leadership. “This is not just a group of people who happen to wander together into a big group,” he said.

The caravan of nearly 3,000 people left San Pedro Sula in Honduras late last week, making its way through Guatemala’s muddy jungle and residential streets to reach Mexico and hoping eventually to reach the United States.

On Thursday, Trump threatened to send the military to close the southern U.S. border unless Mexico stops what he calls an “onslaught” of Central American migrants. Trump claims there are criminals among the migrants and is urging Mexico “in the strongest terms” to stop them.

“The assault on our country at our Southern Border, including Criminal elements and DRUGS pouring in, is far more important to me as President than Trade or the USMCA (US Mexico Canada Agreement),” Trump tweeted Thursday.

Donald J. Trump

@realDonaldTrump

“He’s making a political calculation,” said Marcelo Ebrard, Mexico’s incoming foreign minister, about Trump’s posting on Twitter, in a reference to U.S. mid-term elections in November. Ebrard said in a local radio interview Trump’s comments were “predictable.”

While Trump has threatened to deploy the military to the border, Lieutenant Colonel Jamie Davis said Thursday the “Department of Defense has not been tasked to provide additional support.”

Mexican officials say they will not let the migrants enter as one large group. Instead, individuals must show a passport or visa to cross the border, or apply for refugee status.

Mexico’s government has sought assistance from the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) to help process migrants claiming refugee status, which could help it to disperse the caravan.

A Honduran migrant, part of a caravan trying to reach the U.S., cries after others stormed a border checkpoint in Guatemala, in Ciudad Hidalgo, Mexico, Oct. 19, 2018.
A Honduran migrant, part of a caravan trying to reach the U.S., cries after others stormed a border checkpoint in Guatemala, in Ciudad Hidalgo, Mexico, Oct. 19, 2018.

Mexican Foreign Relations Secretary Videgaray said in an interview with the Televisa network that those who want to apply for refuge in Mexico will be welcome to do so “if they have a vulnerable situation in their country of origin.”

The Mexican government has said any migrant who decides to cross illegally will be detained and deported.

Honduras is one of the most violent nations in the world, partly because of gangs and drugs.

Many of those trying to get to the U.S. want to escape violence and poverty.

VOA’s Wayne Lee and Fern Robinson contributed to this story.

The Latest: UN calls on Mexico, US to respect migrants

Honduran migrants sing their national anthem standing standing at the shore of the Suchiate river on the border between Guatemala and Mexico, in Tecun Uman, Guatemala, Thursday, Oct. 18, 2018. Mexicos foreign ministry says government officials at itThe Associated Press
Honduran migrants sing their national anthem standing standing at the shore of the Suchiate river on the border between Guatemala and Mexico, in Tecun Uman, Guatemala, Thursday, Oct. 18, 2018. Mexico’s foreign ministry says government officials at its southern border with Guatemala have started assisting the early arrivals from a caravan of some 3,000 Honduran migrants that has drawn sharp criticism from U.S. President Donald Trump. (AP Photo)more +

The Latest on a caravan of Central American migrants hoping to reach the United States (all times local):

4:30 p.m.

The U.N. special investigator on the human rights of migrants has a message for the Mexican and U.S. governments: Respect the human rights of every person on the caravan heading from Central America and consider each case individually.

Felipe Gonzalez Morales told a news conference at U.N. headquarters in New York on Friday that “there cannot be massive collective expulsions, for instance, in violation of international law.”

Some 3,000 migrants are currently trying to enterMexico from Guatemala and hope to get to the U.S.

Gonzalez said that in destination countries there has been a trend toward “xenophobia” which has left many migrants fearing to go into public spaces or tribunals “for fear of being attacked or not taken seriously.”

He said Mexico and the United States should establish channels for “regular migration.”

Gonzalez said he requested an official visit to the United States in March but has not received a response from the Trump administration.

———

3:45 p.m.

The head of Mexico’s federal police says the first two buses have arrived at the Mexico-Guatemala border crossing so that immigration officials can take women, children and seniors away to be processed safely.

Manelich Castilla tells Milenio TV it is part of their plan to process the 3,000 some migrants who are trying to enter Mexico from Guatemala.

But at the bridge migrants, who have formed orderly lines, are refusing to board the buses fearing that they will simply be deported.

Some are chanting “Walk! Walk!” insisting that they prefer to continue on foot.

Manelich also blamed people who were not part of the caravan for attacking police with powerful firecrackers and rocks.

———

1:55 p.m.

Cristian, a 34-year-old cell phone repairman from San Pedro Sula, Honduras, says he wants to reach the U.S. to work.

He declined to give his last name, because he was threatened by gang members who demanded he pay 2,000 lempiras, about $83, per month for protection. That would be about one fifth of his income. He closed his small business instead. He can’t support his four daughters on the $450 that he makes each month.

Cristian, who is among the informal leaders of the caravan, estimated about 30 percent of the migrants want to apply for refugee status in Mexico. The rest want to reach the U.S. like him.

“Honestly, I want to get to the states to contribute to that country, to do any kind of work, picking up garbage,” he said.

———

1:34 p.m.

The head of Mexico’s federal police says that they have achieved their first objective of preventing a violent breach of the border by some 3,000 migrants trying to enter from Guatemala.

Manelich Castilla told Foro TV the migrants will enter in an orderly fashion.

“It will be under the conditions that have been said since the start: orderly, with established procedures, never through violence nor by force,” Castilla said from the Mexican border town of Ciudad Hidalgo.

Police deployed pepper spray after some migrants tried to push their way through the Mexican side.

Some migrants are now forming lines on the bridge while others are sitting down and preparing for a long wait.

———

12:55 p.m.

Central American migrants in a mass caravan have clashed with Mexican riot police guarding a border post on the country’s southern frontier.

About 50 migrants managed to push their way through. The rest retreated after officers unleashed pepper spray. Some in the caravan threw rocks.

After police held off the migrants, they closed the border gates again.

A federal police officer used a loudspeaker to address the masses, saying: “We need you to stop the aggression.”

———

12:10 p.m.

Migrants in a caravan traveling through Central America have broken down gates at a border crossing and are streaming toward a bridge to Mexico.

After arriving at the tall, yellow metal fence Friday, some clambered atop it and on U.S.-donated military jeeps.

Young men began violently tugging on the barrier and finally succeeded in tearing it down.

Men, women and children then rushed through toward the bridge, about 150 yards (137 meters) away.

———

11:30 a.m.

Migrants in a mass caravan are chanting that “one way or another, we will pass” as they move toward a bridge on the Guatemala-Mexico border.

The caravan of disorganized women, men and children headed toward the border post Friday morning.

They got as far as a closed metal gate where two military jeeps were parked and Guatemalan police in riot gear looked on silently.

The migrants also chanted: “We are not smugglers, we are immigrants.”

Dozens of Mexican federal police officers were on the bridge, with hundreds of others behind.

Mexico’s ambassador to Guatemala said his country had decided to enforce a policy of “metered entry” in the face of the thousands clamoring to cross.

———

10:50 a.m.

Thousands of migrants traveling in a caravan briefly moved toward a border crossing on the Mexico-Guatemala frontier before turning around.

They stopped about two blocks from the crossing before heading back, saying they would wait another hour or so. Some of them talked among themselves.

The border post is guarded by a heavy security force and tall metal gates. Dozens of Mexican federal police officers are on the border bridge, with hundreds more behind them.

Guatemala has closed its border gate and is standing guard with dozens of troops and two armored jeeps.

Mexico’s ambassador to Guatemala says his country has decided to enforce a policy of “metered entry” since thousands of migrants are clamoring to cross.

The migrants hope to enter Mexico and cross the country to reach the United States.

Jose Porfirio Orellana is a 47-year-old acorn and bean farmer from Yoro province in Honduras.

Orellana says “the economy in Honduras is terrible, there is nothing there.”

———

7 a.m.

Participants in a 3,000-strong migrant caravan heading toward the United States have gathered in a park to wait a few more hours for members of the group who are still arriving.

The migrants have agreed that they will begin their journey to the border crossing between Guatemala and Mexico around 11 a.m. local time.

Some plan to make a valley-like formation, with men walking to the sides and women and children walking in the middle. Others intend to cross the Suchiate River on a raft.

The exhausted travelers are mostly from Honduras, but migrants from other Central American countries have joined the caravan.

Jonathan Guzman, a 22-year-old from El Salvador, said he had dreams of working in construction in Los Angeles.

“It’s the third time that I’m trying to cross,” he said.

As the sun rose, a military helicopter could be seen overhead, foreshadowing the difficulties that migrants will have as they try to reach the U.S.

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