By Jose de Jesus Cortes
Rio Ostuta, Mexico, Nov 11 (EFE).- A migrant caravan that has spent nearly 20 days making its way through southern Mexico continued its slow trek on Thursday despite a growing number of respiratory infections and other difficulties.
That group of more than 1,000 mostly Central American and Haitian migrants, who have covered a distance of nearly 330 kilometers (205 miles) since kicking off their journey in Tapachula (a city in Chiapas state near the Mexico-Guatemala border), walked 8 km through Oaxaca state’s Isthmus of Tehuantepec on Thursday from Santo Domingo Zanatepec to Rio Ostuta.
They did so amid concerns that hundreds of people have left the caravan in recent hours after authorities regularized their status in the country.
Although authorities closed off traffic for several hours to avoid potential accidents, a midday temperature of nearly 30 C (86 F) took its toll on older migrants and those battling respiratory ailments.
Isaias, a 22-year-old Salvadoran man, rested for a few minutes at the entrance to Rio Ostuta and drank some water before continuing.
Walking under a hot sun with a cough and other flu symptoms depleted him more than usual on Thursday. “The sun, fatigue and the walk wore on me. I fell a little bad because of my cold,” he told Efe with a congested voice.
Even so, Isaias said he is not abandoning his hopes of working and studying in Mexico and says he still harbors dreams of reaching the United States.
Jose, a 32-year-old Honduran who is traveling with his wife and their five-year-old son and purchased a bike in Tapachula to help alleviate some of their fatigue, said he fled violence in his homeland and has no intention of renouncing his dream of a better life.
On Wednesday, Mexico’s National Institute of Migration (INM) said 800 migrants who had been traveling in the caravan, which once numbered around 4,000, had been granted humanitarian visas in recent hours and therefore had already left the large group.
But activists disputed that information, saying some migrants had been detained but that the caravan also had been bolstered by new additions.
Jose said he would not allow himself to be deceived.
“No, that Grupo Beta (an INM unit) is a lie. They have a bunch of people in detention. Sometimes they just trick you. I’m going to keep going,” the man said.
Irineo Mujica, an activist and member of the group Pueblo Sin Fronteras (People Without Borders) who is accompanying the caravan, said the vast majority of the 800 migrants who had received the visas were not traveling in the caravan.
He also accused Mexican authorities of using dirty tricks to disperse the caravan and added that a new large group of migrants was planning to leave Tapachula on Nov. 18 and would be made up of thousands of people.
In early September, Mexican authorities thwarted the advance of four migrant caravans that had set off from Tapachula due to frustration with long stays in southeastern Mexico while waiting for officials to process their visa requests.
Several United Nations agencies and non-governmental agencies criticized that crackdown, saying excessive force was used.
The caravans are just a small part of a record flow of migrants trying to make their way to the US, whose Customs and Border Protection agency says more than 1.5 million people were arrested for illegal border crossings at the southern border with Mexico during the 2021 fiscal year, which ended on Sept. 30.
Mexican immigration authorities, for their part, said they detected more than 190,000 migrants between January and September, or triple the number for that same period of 2020, and deported nearly 74,300 people. EFE