SAN PEDRO SULA, HONDURAS – About 600 migrants hoping to reach the United States departed in a caravan Saturday from the city of San Pedro Sula, northern Honduras.
Hundreds of young people, women and children, mostly from Nicaragua, Honduras and Cuba, gathered overnight and early in the morning at the city’s central bus station.
Just after dawn, they began walking towards the Guatemalan border in the hopes that it would be safer or cheaper to travel in groups than hiring smugglers or trying on their own. A second, smaller group soon joined.
Fabricio Ordonez, a young Honduran worker, said he joined the group in the hope of “giving a new life to my family.”
“The dream is to be in the United States to be able to do many things in Honduras,” he said, adding that he was pessimistic that left-wing President-elect Xiomara Castro, who took office on January 27, would be able to fast. quickly solve the economic and social problems of the Central American nation after 12 years of conservative government embroiled in scandal.
“They looted everything,” he said. “It will be very difficult for this government to improve things.”
Nicaraguan marcher Ubaldo Lopez expressed hope that local officials would not try to impede the group as they have done in the past.
“We know this is a very difficult road and we ask God and the Honduran government to please come with us to the border with Guatemala and not put more barriers,” he said.
He said he hoped that Guatemala and Mexico would also allow the group to pass, and that the US government “will open the door for us” – despite recent examples of governments in the region, often under pressure. of America, trying to stop such caravans.
A large number of migrants, many from Central America and Haiti, have reached the US border in the past year, giving the administration of President Joe Biden a headache.
After several hours of traveling on Saturday, some migrants managed to enter Guatemala through illegal border crossings, while a few hundred were stranded on the Honduras side of the border because they did not have the money to pay about $50 for a PCR test for coronavirus ordered by authorities.
The director general of the Guatemalan Migration Institute, Carlos Emilio Morales, said “everyone is being returned, everything is in order, in a humane way.” He did not provide further details.
“We are protecting our borders, we are protecting the health of all Guatemalans,” Morales said.
In December, 56 migrants died when a truck carrying more than a hundred foreigners overturned on a highway in southern Mexico.
The US Border Patrol said it had more than 1.6 million encounters with migrants along the Mexican border between September 2020 and the same month of 2021 – more than four times the total for the fiscal year main before.
Biden has backed a proposed $7 billion aid package for Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras in the hopes that improved economic conditions will slow migration.
At the end of last year, the US government reactivated an immigration policy that forced asylum seekers to wait in Mexico for hearings. The Mexican Foreign Ministry confirmed the reactivation of the US program and said it would temporarily not return migrants to their countries of origin for humanitarian reasons.
The government of Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador has indicated that Washington has accepted its humanitarian concerns with the program, including the need for “greater resources for shelters and international organizations” economy, protection of vulnerable groups, consideration of local security conditions” as well as vaccines and measures against COVID-19 from migrants.