The migrants that make up the caravan of thousands of people crossing the Mexican territory (7 thousand, say the authorities, 15 thousand, say the Central Americans), lost their fear. The fear would be to return to their country, where violence, misery, and lack of opportunities await them. They are convinced that they will arrive in Tijuana, and hence as “a single force,” they will enter the United States, whether President Trump wants it or not. It does not matter if they have to throw away the border fence. The future they visualize is not in Mexico, nor in Honduras, nor in El Salvador, nor in Guatemala. The faith and hope that motivates them has only one goal: to start a new life in North America.
Mapastepec, Chiapas .- Although exhausted from walking a little over 140 kilometers from Ciudad Hidalgo (municipality of Suchiate, located in the extreme south of Chiapas on the border with Guatemala), the thousands of Central American migrants who entered Mexico in caravan do not lose the faith and the hope of reaching Tijuana, Baja California, at the other end of a country that has welcomed them with total solidarity, according to what they claim, except when they were detained for a few hours on Friday, October 19, by the Police Federal, which came to use tear gas and riot shields to stop its advance.
Why Tijuana? Why not Ciudad Juárez, Chihuahua; or why not Nogales, Sonora; Colombia, Nuevo León; Piedras Negras, Coahuila; or Nuevo Laredo, Rio Bravo, Reynosa or Matamoros, border municipalities of Tamaulipas? None of the nearly twenty migrants interviewed knows this; as the visible leaders of the caravan, who left Honduras on October 13, do not know either, men and women who emerged spontaneously when they noticed that the mass of people was beginning to fall into chaos.
What they do know (or at least showed great confidence), is that when they reach the border in Baja California, they will be a single “force” (the word used by several), whose goal will be to cross at any rate towards states. United, it does not matter if they “pull the fence” to achieve their goal, the only one they have in mind since they left their countries of origin, fleeing from violence, poverty, lack of jobs and opportunities.
Hondurans add one more cherry in the cake: the “dictatorship” led by President Juan Orlando Hernández – a rightist whom his compatriots migrants qualify as “repressors”, who asks them for “papers in order” even to work as masons or pepenadores – whose presidential mandate began in January 2014, but which was extended for the period 2018-2022 and will seek re-election in that same year, as foreseen by his compatriots who make up the caravan.
BEYOND EXTREME POVERTY OR RACISM
In itself, poverty on this Chiapas side is extreme, but what Central American migrants live could be described as lacerating. In their pockets do not bring a Honduran lempira (a currency that is worth about 24 times less than a US dollar, depending on the exchange rate). The select minority can pay for a hotel to spend the night in each municipality or town in which they make a stopover on their way to the United States. Others sleep in campaign houses, but most of them do it on pieces of cardboard or packages of sweaty clothes.
Most can not buy even a bottle of water in the shops or the street vendors that swarm in the area. And if they get to opt for a product to feed themselves, they do so for a cola drink, which gives them more energy and calories than a piece of bread or a bag of chips. Nobody really knows who finances the migrant caravan. Some say that their relatives who are already in the United States send them some money to survive on the journey.
Some sources-activists or Mexican officials who requested anonymity-accuse without proof that it was the Donald Trump administration itself that injected a “considerable” sum of money to make the mass of people mobilize just in the prelude to the elections. of November 6, where, according to polls, Republicans could lose the House of Representatives and the Senate remains, however, on the side of the party that brought the New York mogul to power.
Who does not agree with this version is the Vice President of the United States, Mike Pence, who said that the President of Honduras informed him that the caravan of migrants heading to the United States was “organized by Honduran leftist groups, financed by Venezuela and sent to the north to challenge our sovereignty and our border, “so the US government will do everything in its power to prevent the mass of people from reaching its territory and” violate “the country’s southern border.
The exodus of Central Americans to the United States is just the “gasoline” that Trump needs to fuel his racist and xenophobic rhetoric -words more, words less-, said Daniel, a Salvadoran migrant who does not want to be stigmatized because he is tattooed to a large extent from his body. This young man heard about the caravan and anticipated the decision -which he had already made before- to leave San Salvador with his wife and two young daughters, 2 and 7 years old, minors who were dressed only in their underwear. pueblerinas streets of Mapastepec, under the watchful eye of their parents.
In his country, to Daniel, the gangs charged him a thousand dollars a month as a “war tax” for working as an “artistic” tattoo artist. That is why he affirms that he is not afraid of arriving in the United States, nor of walking in “other” places, since the greatest fear is to return to El Salvador, where an almost certain death awaits him if he does not comply with the demands of those who extort him. and they ask him for money that he can not collect. He says he has “hope” that the caravan is a precedent for all his countrymen to have the “open doors” of the US territory.
“Racism is not a reason for not wanting to live. One must show that you are not what others say, “Daniel responds to the reporter’s question about whether Trump is right that among the migrants there are criminals, including many Maras Salvatrucha. The young man takes the opportunity to thank those who have shown their solidarity and hospitality, “those who see us as a Mexican” and help them by giving them food, water, clothes and even a place to spend the night.
Rafael, Honduran migrant who left San Pedro Sula to join the caravan, accompanied by his wife and the five children of both children who have endured the long and exhausting days of up to eight hours walking, but that they look happy, playing on the ground – in asphalted parts and in pieces of land – while their parents rest lying on a piece of cardboard and under a thin plastic used as canvas, to cover themselves at times of the sun’s rays or the rain that falls at times and wets the few changes of clothes and belongings that they bring with them.
In his country, Rafael was a thousand uses: bricklayer assistant, vans loader, or whatever fell from work to survive. Upon arriving in the United States, the Honduran says they appeal to Trump’s business vision since they could give things in return, for example, that migrants are willing to work on anything that the “güeros” do not want or do not want. like to do “What they put me, I do,” he says, and then abound that the only thing he really wants is for his children to “have a better future” and be better than him, who did not have opportunities in his country of origin.
Rafael seems to like to be informed and therefore begins to talk about politics. He asks that Juan Orlando Hernández and his government have received millions of dollars of financial aid from the United States, but, “where did that money end up?”, He asks, and then affirm that it was the politicians, “as always”, who they left the resource that should be destined, according to the Department of State of the United States, to “support the development of Honduras as a safe, democratic and prosperous nation”, with the purpose of giving “hope to the Hondurans so they can see their future (there) and not elsewhere. ”
According to the US Department of State, the government of that country has budgeted 65 million 750 thousand dollars in aid to Honduras for the fiscal year 2019 (in 2017 it was 58 million dollars). However, Trump has threatened to cut off those resources if the Central American government does not stop the migrant caravan it represents, the New York mogul says, “a security threat and national emergency” for the United States, for which he threatens to “send military” to the southern border of your country.
However, the Honduran reporter Denis Paredes-a neat and well-dressed man, who also took advantage of the exodus of his countrymen to escape violence and lack of work in his country, says that the migrant caravan is not a topic political, but of a humanitarian crisis. The communicator who worked on W Televisión, JBM TV and NTC Noticias in Honduras, left San Pedro Sula at one o’clock in the morning of Monday, October 22, and came on a bus that arrived in Huixtla, in the middle of a downpour, on Wednesday, the 24th.
Paredes, who left behind his daughter and his mother in Honduras, does not know how to speak English, but that does not matter in the eagerness to reach the United States since in his country there is nothing to survive and his profession cannot play. , since there is no freedom and “we have to be silent” about the high rates of poverty and violence with which people live in that Central American territory.
The reporter states that President Juan Orlando Hernández paid up to 20,000 lempiras (about 832 dollars) for his countrymen to stay in Honduras, “guaranteeing” them employment within a plan he created for the promotion of family farming in rural areas. However, the migrant predicts that Hondurans will not accept returning to their country of origin since they want to reach Tijuana as “a single force” of almost 30 thousand people.
Paredes said that until Wednesday, October 23, 15,000 migrants were part of the caravan in Mexican territory, plus the almost 2 thousand who were coming, simultaneously, crossing Guatemalan territory and that is expected, cross the border international bridge Rodolfo Robles, located at Suchiate margin, river that marks the western border between Mexico and Guatemala.
LIFE CONTINUES DESPITE ADVERSITY
At the time of writing this report, the caravan was heading towards the municipality of Pijijiapan. A day before they were in Mapastepec, located 47 kilometers before, the equivalent of nine and a half hours walking. According to the owner of a tendajon located at the entrance of the community -whose central square was cordoned off by the authorities-, the migrants arrived in taxis, in buses, but most of them did it on foot.
Tijuana hostels, almost full and without resources
Without specifying help, authorities say “worried and in expectation” about the new arrival of migrants
Three weeks ago, Luis Fernando, of Guatemalan origin, arrived in Tijuana after spending five months in Tapachula, Chiapas, with his wife and their young son who was born in Mexico. The intention of this migrant and his family is the same as the Central American caravan that is currently in transit through our country: request humanitarian asylum from the United States authorities.
Since his arrival in this city, Luis Fernando and his family are found as refugees in the facilities of the Youth Hostel 200, located in the North Zone of the city and one of the migrant centers that is preparing for the possible arrival of Central Americans, despite being at 70 percent capacity.
“Our hostel is almost full, we have not stopped helping the migrants. We receive the deportees, the Mexicans who are fleeing from Michoacán, and we have Central Americans who always come to this border looking for a better life for their families, “said José María Lara, coordinator of the shelter.
In anticipation of the arrival of the Central American caravan to Tijuana, Lara and representatives of other civil associations that help migrants, they spoke in favor of guaranteeing human rights and dignified treatment to the contingent that is in transit through our country.
They demanded that the authorities provide support to civil organizations, given that the resources they currently have are not enough to cover the large number of migrants that could arrive to the entity; The caravan is expected to arrive in small groups to Baja California in a period of 20 to 25 days.
On October 13, a group of Hondurans left the city of San Pedro Sula, in Honduras, with the final goal of reaching the border between Mexico and the United States. On the 18th, a caravan arrived at the point of internment of Ciudad Hidalgo, in the State of Chiapas, adding to nearly 6 thousand Hondurans, Guatemalans, and Salvadorans who will try to request humanitarian asylum from the Donald Trump government.
After the positioning pronounced by the civil organizations, the head of the Municipal Office of Attention to the Migrant, César Palencia Chávez, held a meeting with representatives of the shelters to know the situation in which they are currently and what they need to receive the caravan of Central Americans.
“We are worried because a considerable number of people are coming and we are doing the same, today we meet with representatives of the eleven hostels and civil associations, and we are in the same line: worried, but in the expectation of what may happen in the next weeks, “said the official.
In the eleven shelters that currently continue to receive migrants, about 2,500 people await refuge for humanitarian asylum in the United States, among men, women, children and the elderly who on their own moved from their places of refuge. origin to this border.
Alianza Migrante proposes hosting Central Americans in an open-air camp
Because the shelters that assist migrants in Tijuana are almost saturated, the leader of the civil association Alianza Migrante, Sergio Tamai, proposed to install a new camp or shelter to “open sky” to receive the thousands of Central Americans who they could arrive in Baja California in the coming weeks.
“When the Haitians arrived, we urged the authorities to have an open camp, because there were many people who came to this city. The shelters will always be saturated, they will never be enough, “said the activist.
In 2013, when the then XXI City Council evicted the migrants who lived inside the canalization of the Tijuana River, better known as “El Bordo”, the association of Tamai welcomed them and installed a migrant camp in the plaza known as “El Mapita “, In the Central Zone of Tijuana.
On that occasion they gathered almost 800 people, who in the first instance would be transferred to shelters or rehabilitation centers by the municipal authority, however, the majority moved to the Central Zone and chose to stay in the camp.
On this initiative, the head of the Municipal Directorate of Attention to Migrants, César Palencia Chávez, said he did not agree because it would not be “ideal to serve migrants”, as entire families come with children and even elderly people who deserve a more worthy place to take refuge. Lourdes Loza Romero
The first groups were concentrated in the central park of Mapastepec, while the following groups were occupied by churches, a school, a multipurpose room and the house of culture. In that place, the population (especially Catholics and Christians) offered their support, giving them food: tamales, chicken broth, rice with beans and tortillas, picadillo, natural water, and flavor. What you can and reach.
In improvised modules, long lines of up to 300 people were trained to receive a plate of food, a change of clothes, or a medicine granted by the Mexican Institute of Social Security (IMSS), an advisory service from the National Institute of Migration (INM) or medical attention of lifeguards of the Mexican Red Cross.
There was also dental care and hydration with Life Oral Serum for children and infants. In the background of the main square of Mapastepec -population located in the region of Soconusco-, live music puts to dance a group of migrants – many barefoot and with sores on their feet- who disguise their pain with a little joy reflected in their faces.
Few others, throw compliments or throw and cross deep glances with beautiful and young women from Chiapas volunteer. The eyes of the world are here. Some migrants tired of having their photos taken and video covered their faces. Others are happy because the international media (Germans, Americans, Russians and so on) interview them. Some even ask where and when the report will come out.
Others take the opportunity to ask some coins to this reporter. They use them to buy loose cigars that another migrant sells when passing with an open pack. Between the dirty and wet clothes spread on the floor, you can see smiles, faces full of hope. They do not even worry when they are questioned about what they will do in the inclement weather in Tijuana. They are told that there, on the other side of the country, it is cold, and more in this time. They do not care and they’ll see that they’ll see how they do when they arrive.
Perhaps thinking that someone will take pity and solidarity with them, as many Chiapas have done when the caravan passes, there are fewer who complain, especially taxi drivers, who say that migrants have left tons of garbage in places where They have stayed overnight.
“We’re all going to Tijuana together, our fear is gone,” says Juan, a young Honduran who left his wife and two young children in San Pedro Sula. Flee from violence. There he earned $ 30 a month, working in agriculture. In his opinion, Mexicans have behaved “very well”, not like the President of his country, who, he says, “boycotted the caravan.” However, he is hopeful that Trump will let them pass to the United States.
Juan believes that the Mexican authorities (including the Federal Police, IMSS officials, CNDH, local police corporations of the Single Command, community police, Civil Protection of Chiapas, INM and even Red Cross rescue workers) have carried out “everything” with them. In Mexico racism seems to come only from social networks, nowhere else. In reality, solidarity is visible.
Two other young Hondurans, Héctor and Javier – 19 and 20 years old respectively – interrupt them while they taste a dish of picadillo with rice and beans. He apologizes for that and I ask them if he’s good. Almost in front of the women who prepared the food, they answer a shy “yes”, seating their heads. They did not know each other before the caravan. However, the best friends were made during the journey. One is from Santa Bárbara and another from San Pedro Sula. In his country, they were almost 100 kilometers away. Now they are inseparable.
Both were peasants in Honduras. Javier left a little girl. Also to his wife. Like Jesus, another Honduran migrant who left his family, his wife and their children “little”, with “barely enough to survive.” There in his country he plated the luxurious estates of the rich for eight lempiras a day (a measly 33 cents).
In addition to poverty and inclement weather, mourning has also tarnished the caravan. At least six Guatemalan migrants were killed in a traffic accident in Mexico early Sunday, October 21, according to the Guatemalan Ministry of Foreign Affairs, which increases the total number of deaths to eight.
On Monday, a 25-year-old Honduran citizen died after falling from the back of a truck that was transporting him to Huixtla. And on October 20, another Honduran died in a traffic accident on a highway in Guatemala, likewise, falling from a moving vehicle.
POSITIONS FOUND ABOUT MIGRATION IN MEXICO
On October 21, President-elect Andrés Manuel López Obrador -who will take a protest on December 1- asked Manuel Velasco and Rutilio Escandón, governor-elect of Chiapas, during a work tour of that entity, to protect Central American migrants who transit through this entity on their way to the United States. Very different from the speech of President Enrique Peña Nieto, who exhorted the members of the caravan to desist, since to continue advancing “illegally, they will hardly be able to fulfill their objective”.
“I make a respectful call so that they are clear that, if they stay in this attitude, they will hardly be able to achieve their goal, be it to enter the United States or stay in Mexico,” said Peña Nieto in a video, only to be assured that only ” under the protection of a migration and legal treatment when entering our country is how they can eventually have access to this right that our Constitution consecrates “.
On the other hand, from Tuxtla Gutiérrez, AMLO stressed that there will be work for Mexicans and for Central Americans who need it. “What do we say in families? That where they eat one, eat two. That is what we are going to carry out, that solidarity, “he said to his supporters.
“I want to thank Mexico and the leaders of Mexico, which have been incredible! And do they know why (they stopped the migrants)? Because now Mexico respects the leadership of the United States! “, Said Trump, during a political rally in Nevada, in the west of the country.
“(To the migrants) Tell them that they count on us. I offered to poor Central Americans who leave their country because they have no options, I offered work visas. Why do I offer that? Because there will be work for Mexicans and for Central Americans in our country, in our country, “said the Tabasco politician.
Who did not agree with López Obrador was the governor of Nuevo León, Jaime Rodríguez Calderón “El Bronco”, who on October 23 declared that his entity does not have the infrastructure to receive the migrant caravan and, in case its members arrive, they will be deported to their countries of origin.
The former independent presidential candidate added to agree on some points that the President of the United States highlights about the migrant caravan: “I think that when we give too many freedoms people do what they want, we also take opportunities from those here, It is our responsibility, if we have enough, with great pleasure, but if we lack, not “, abounded” El Bronco “.
EU ENDURECE MIGRATORY POLICY
The increase in migrants seeking protection from the dangers that threaten their countries – Honduras, Guatemala, El Salvador, and even Venezuela – is increasing. Last year, according to official figures, 14 thousand people arrived in Mexico in this condition, despite the fact that the country hardly meets the definition of a safe country, since in 2017 it had the highest number of deaths associated with violence in two. decades
On the other hand, according to data from the Department of National Security of the United States, almost 400 thousand people were arrested in the southern border of that country in the fiscal year 2018, which ended on September 30. Also, the Border Patrol arrested 16 thousand 658 people who traveled in family groups in September, a record amount. The number of arrests exceeded the previous historical figure of 77 thousand 857, of the fiscal year 2016, indicated the newspaper The New York Times.
The same means of communication recalled an important fact: the victims of domestic violence, and to a much lesser degree, those of gang violence, who once qualified for asylum if they could prove that the authorities in their countries of origin had not been able or they had not been willing to protect them, now they can not do it, as US Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced in June.
“Changes in policy have greatly increased the number of asylum seekers who are criminally prosecuted under the zero tolerance policy and have eliminated important categories of persecution that no longer qualify for asylum status. According to this hard-line policy, asylum seekers who enter the United States without first presenting themselves at the Border Patrol’s offices must be processed automatically. With President Barack Obama, on the other hand, they were only prosecuted if they had been arrested for illegally crossing the border in the past, “the NYT said.
The figures given by the newspaper are complemented with those of the organization for human rights in the Americas WOLA, which warned that the flow of migrants to the US is at its historical lows since the 70s of the last century, this Despite the images showing a tide of people from the caravan crossing through Mexican territory.
MIGRANT CHILDREN ARE CONCERNED
Despite these restrictions, of the approximately 7,000 Central Americans who travel in the caravan -according to official figures given by the INM-, only about 600 have requested to be repatriated. The others insist on arriving in Tijuana and then crossing into the United States. According to the United Nations (UN) and other humanitarian organizations, 25 percent of travelers are babies and children.
For most of these children, it is difficult to understand what they are doing and what is at stake. The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) identified more than 2,300 children as part of the migrant caravan that is in Mexico and said it was “very concerned about the safety and integrity of these children”.
The UNICEF law enforcement official in Mexico, Rocío Ortega, explained that many of the children who have found the equipment that traveled to Tapachula are sick. “Humanitarian support is what most urge these children, many of them stay in Chiapas with their parents, seeking refuge, but many others continue and move north and will require support throughout their trip,” he said. the international official for the La Voz de América media.
Source: Carlos Álvarez ZetaTijuana
The Mazatlan Post