Entre-Ríos, Guatemala. Thousands of Honduran migrants continued their journey through Guatemala on Friday to the border posts with Mexico on their way to the United States, although some returned to their country after the Guatemalan government ordered their capture and expulsion.
Some 3,000 Hondurans, according to Guatemalan immigration authorities, entered the country on Thursday in a stampede after breaking a first military siege on the border line.
Corinto, October 1, 2020. Thousands of Honduran migrants entered Guatemala in a caravan this Thursday, challenging the new coronavirus pandemic in a dangerous journey that seeks to reach the United States to escape poverty and violence in their country. The president of Guatemala, Alejandro Giammattei, shortly after ordered the arrest of the group of Hondurans, considering that they entered illegally and put the health of Guatemalans at risk due to Covid-19.
This led President Alejandro Giammattei to decree on Thursday night a state of prevention for 15 days in six departments and to order “that all those (Hondurans) who have entered the country illegally be detained”, violating immigration laws and health services against Covid-19.
He also stated that the detainees will be handed over to the Honduran authorities on the Corinto border, an area with banana and African palm plantations.
But so far the police had not carried out any detention operations and most of the migrants continued their journey, albeit in a scattered manner, towards the different border crossings between Guatemala and Mexico.
Only about 300 preferred to return, on foot, and with their backpacks loaded with their few belongings. With faces tired from the long walk, they lined up to register at the customs office in Conrinto (northeast) to return to Honduras.
Meanwhile, Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador warned that the new migrant caravan “was armed” to involve his country in the US electoral campaign.
“It seems very strange to us, it is very strange that this caravan leaves on the eve of the election in the United States (…) It has to do with the election in the United States, I do not have all the elements but I think there are indications that this is armed with this purpose, “said López Obrador in his usual morning conference.
Ángel Martínez, a 19-year-old young man, decided to return voluntarily after the announcement of the Giammattei, but above all because he ran out of money to continue the journey.
“The little (money) that I had left will help me return to San Pedro Sula because the journey is very hard, I have been walking for three days and in Guatemala the police are scoundrels,” he lamented.
He thus alluded to the bribes that Guatemalan police demanded from him and his friends to allow them to follow the route, but they refused because it was the only money they counted.
Martínez graduated with a bachelor’s degree in computer science, but he worked as a warehouse assistant in a hardware store, and to improve his life he decided to join the caravan.
“We made the decision to return because the situation is very complicated (in) the crossing within the Guatemalan border with Mexico,” said Alexander Aguilera, another migrant who decided to return together with five members of his family.
“The president of Guatemala took drastic measures by closing 15 days and a migrant does not have the capacity to endure all that time without eating,” he added.
Before receiving the pass to re-enter their country, Honduran medical personnel take the temperature of the returnees.
The journey continues
Meanwhile, a migrant who identified himself as Carlos downplayed the Giammattei’s decision and assured that he will continue the march along with thousands of his compatriots who are advancing towards Mexico.
“Whatever happens, we will move on,” he said in a challenging voice.
“I left Honduras because the situation is bad, there is no work, they say they were going to help one, that one did not leave (…), but it is more hunger that is endured,” added Carlos, who did not give know give your last name.
Like Carlos, hundreds of Hondurans remain firm on their journey to the United States.
Most travel on foot on the side of the road, while other more daring get on trucks without protection measures, exposing their lives.
On Thursday, shortly after entering Guatemala, a migrant died accidentally falling from a moving truck, being the only registered fatality at the moment.
Out of control
Honduran migrants stampeded into Guatemala, breaking through a military barrier, without medical personnel being able to test them for Covid-19 or take their temperature.
The Guatemalan health authorities then sounded the alarm about the danger of contagion.
Giammattei argued that the order to detain the migrants is due to the fact that the caravan takes place “in the midst of the current health emergency.”
“Not only were the protocols for entering the country disrespected, but also the health protocols established for the protection of our citizens,” he said.
The caravan of Honduran migrants left two weeks after Guatemala opened its land, air, and sea borders after keeping them closed for six months to prevent the spread of the new coronavirus.
Until this Thursday, the Guatemalan Ministry of Health accounted for 923,409 cases and 3,261 deaths from Covid-19.