More Than 2,000 in Migrant Caravan Enter Guatemala With US in Their Sights

January 17, 2020 Updated: January 17, 2020
FONT BFONT SText size

GUATEMALA CITY/TEGUCIGALPA—At least 2,200 people have entered Guatemala as part of a fast-growing U.S.-bound caravan from Honduras, authorities said on Thursday, putting pressure on the region to satisfy Trump administration demands to curb illegal immigration.

U.S. border agents looked on as the group of Central American migrants crossed into Guatemala on their way north, a representative of the regional human rights department said, while Mexico braces for their arrival on its southern border.

The event is likely to be closely monitored by the U.S. government after the Trump administration made cutting illegal immigration a priority. U.S. border agents are assisting Guatemala, a U.S. embassy spokesman told Reuters.

Guatemala’s National Migration Institute said in a statement that at least 2,274 people had entered the country. Institute spokeswoman Alejandra Mena said the migrants had mostly crossed the northern part of the border with Honduras.

U.S. President Donald Trump, threatening trade sanctions, pressured Mexico and Central American nations to accept a series of migration pacts that aim to curb illegal migration and promote regional stability.

In order to create jobs and spur investment in the Guatemalan economy, the Trump administration on Wednesday signed an agreement to pump $1 billion into the country’s private sector. The financing will not go to the Guatemalan government.

“It’s a billion dollars of financing from us, which should catalyze about $4 billion,” Adam Boehler, chief executive of the U.S. International Development Finance Corporation (DFC) told Reuters after he signed a memorandum of understanding.

“The United States and Guatemala share a commitment to building a more prosperous, stable, and secure Western Hemisphere.

“The MOU signed by our two countries today—which will create meaningful economic opportunities and improve the lives of the Guatemalan people—represents a milestone in our cooperative efforts to achieve this common vision.”

Following the signing, U.S. Ambassador to Guatemala Luis E. Arreaga said, “Today’s memorandum of understanding is evidence of the United States’ commitment to partner with Guatemala to grow the economy, improve citizen security, and ensure transparent, accountable governance that supports human rights. It offers a tool to grow the economy for all Guatemalans, particularly those in greatest economic need.”

The Honduran government said in a statement it was creating economic opportunities and legal migration options, adding, “This caravan is another attempt to disrupt this.”

Most migrants caught on the U.S. border with Mexico have left El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras, looking to escape chronic poverty or gang violence.

“Here there’s no work, there’s nothing. That’s why we are fleeing to the United States,” a young man traveling with his wife and two children as part of the caravan told Honduran television.

One local media in Honduras posted an ad for the caravan on its social media, as had been done in 2019.

Guatemala’s new president, Alejandro Giammattei, said on Wednesday that Mexico’s Foreign Minister Marcelo Ebrard had told him the country would not allow the new caravan to cross its southern borders.

Mexico’s Interior Minister Olga Sanchez has said the border will be policed and the Mexican government would not issue any safe conduct visas to the migrants.

“That’s very clear,” she told reporters.

Some of the migrants shared communications on messaging service WhatsApp showing that some Hondurans had said they planned to meet in Guatemala’s northern town of Santa Elena and head for the Mexican border on Saturday.

Giammattei said those in the caravan with the necessary documentation would be allowed to enter Guatemala, according to the freedom of movement accord among northern Central American countries.

Honduran police on Wednesday fired tear gas on caravan members who tried to cross the Guatemalan border without going through the proper migration checks. Some who managed to cross were turned back by Guatemalan police.

By Sofia Menchu. With additional reporting by Epoch Times staff.