Guatemala City, Jan 17 (efe-epa).- Guatemalan security forces on Sunday violently reprimanded a migrant caravan of thousands of Hondurans attempting to reach Mexico en route to the United States.
Efe witnessed members of the armed forces using canes and tear gas against the caravan as it tried to advance away from the Guatemala-Honduras border along a road in the west of the Central American country, where many had been held up since Saturday night.
The Guatemalan migration institute told reporters there had been “several people injured” during the incident, including members of its personnel, the armed forces and migrants, although it fell short of offering further detail.
The caravan, divided into three groups of approximately 3,000 people crossed illegally between Friday night and Saturday through the El Florido border post, located 200 kilometres west of Guatemala City, even though security forces initially had blocked their way.
The 9,000 people are part of a caravan organized in Honduras that left San Pedro Sula in different phases over Wednesday, Thursday and Friday. They seek to reach the US for better living conditions, away from the poverty and violence that plague the isthmus, especially after the pandemic and hurricanes Eta and Iota in November.
The group caught up in the clashes on Sunday is around 6,000-strong. They were held up after security forces erected a police barrier around 20 kilometres from the El Florido border crossing.
Another 3,000 members of the caravan have made it further into the country, often in thinning groups, while others have turned back.
At around 7 am local time (1 pm GMT), the migrants held up near the border tried to push beyond the police barrier but their attempts were met with a violent clampdown by the soldiers and police officers stationed at the checkpoint, which forced the caravan to withdraw.
Guillermo Díaz, the director of the country’s migration institute, on Saturday said that a part of the caravan “cannot pass through and will not pass through.”
He added that security forces had erected 30 control posts along the road the migrants planned to travel down to reach the Mexican border.
“It’s impossible for them to continue the journey. They have tried and it was not possible to pass through. The people who have already crossed have been detained. We invite them to return to their place of origin,” Díaz said.
The Guatemalan government has held tight to its policy not to let the caravan pass through the country.
However, due to the sheer number of travelling migrants arriving at the border Friday, members of the police decided to let the crowd through.
Authorities have warned that they would not grant entry to anyone without the proper requirements, including a negative Covid-19 test result. EFE-EPA