By Juan Manuel Blanco
Tapachula, Mexico, Mar 11 (EFE).- Around 200 mainly Central American migrants seized on Friday’s visit by Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador to this city on the border with Guatemala as an opportunity to draw attention to their demands for transit permits.
Carrying posters and crucifixes, the protesters marched from a Tapachula park to the army post where the president was holding a press conference and their chants of “Justice” and “Free Passage” could be heard inside the building.
Felludi Torres, a Venezuelan woman accompanied by several family members, urged the Mexican government to provide the migrants – some stranded here for months – with authorization and buses for the journey across Mexico to the United States.
“They tell us to wait for a month, two, or three months,” she said. “We demand rights, because there are people who have even had their visas withdrawn.”
The aim of the march was to “touch the heart” of Lopez Obrador, Guatemalan migrant Eddie Raul told Efe.
Amid the protest, the head of Mexico’s INM migration agency, Hector Martinez Castuera, appeared with a promise to provide more than 200 humanitarian transit permits for the group.
He asked the protesters to come up with a list of 50 women and children so the INM could begin issuing the permits on Friday.
Irineo Mujica, leader of advocacy group United Migrant Peoples, expressed confidence that the INM would follow through on the commitment and that authorities would investigate allegations of corruption inside the agency.
During his press conference, Lopez Obrador announced plans for a May tour of El Salvador, Honduras, Guatemala, Belize, and Cuba for talks with those governments on the regional migration crisis and his proposals to “address the causes.”
The leftist president’s foreign travel since taking office in December 2018 has been limited to three visits to the US.
Lopez Obrador pointed to the initiatives his administration has launched to reduce migration by providing economic opportunity, including an ambitious reforestation effort and apprenticeships.
“We are financing these programs in El Salvador, in Honduras, in Belize. We are near an accord with the government of Guatemala,” he said.
The region is experiencing a record flow of migrants trying to make their way to the US, whose Customs and Border Protection agency intercepted a record 1.7 million undocumented migrants trying to enter the country illegally in the fiscal year that ended on Sept. 30, 2021.
Mexico deported more than 114,000 undocumented migrants in 2021, according to the Government Secretariat’s Migration Policy Unit, while the Mexican Commission for Refugee Aid received a record 131,448 asylum applications.
Between Jan. 1 and March 8, the INM apprehended 73,034 undocumented foreign nationals on Mexican soil.
Mexico has been criticized for its treatment of the migrants and for deploying more than 28,000 military elements on its northern and southern borders. EFE