Guatemalan security forces have cleared a road occupied by hundreds of U.S.-bound migrants who crossed into the country from Honduras last week.
Some members of the migrant caravan agreed to take buses back to the Honduran border Monday after several nights stuck at a roadblock on a rural highway in Vado Hondo, about 35 miles from the Honduras and El Salvador borders.
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A small number of migrants were forcefully sent back after a scuffle with Guatemalan police and soldiers, while others scattered into the mountains.
Another group of about 800 migrants was located approximately 25 miles farther north along the highway near Rio Hondo, where security forces blocked their advancement, Guatemala’s immigration authorities said Monday.
During Monday’s scuffle, some migrants threw rocks while authorities launched tear gas and pushed the migrants with their riot shields back down the highway. Migrants with children were more gently prodded away.
Several people were injured as the caravan attempted to push through the human barricade of security forces.
“This isn’t a war. It’s a caravan with women and children,” Andres Gomez, a Guatemalan in the caravan, told Reuters. “The soldiers have no right to beat anyone. There are women who’ve been beaten, it’s an act of violence.”
Meanwhile, Pedro Brolo Vila, Guatemala‘s foreign affairs secretary, criticized the Honduran government’s lack of cooperation regarding the caravan.
Brolo said Honduran security forces accompanied the migrants “toward our borders where regrettably we saw how they entered violently, violating Guatemala’s territorial sovereignty.”
He also said Guatemalan authorities had detected fake COVID-19 test results among the migrants who stopped to register their entrance to Guatemala.
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On Sunday, Guatemala’s Health Ministry reported that 21 of the migrants who sought medical attention at health centers had tested positive for the coronavirus. The department said the 12 men and nine women would not be returned to Honduras until they undergo quarantine at centers in Guatemala.
In total, some 8,000 to 9,000 Honduran migrants were believed to have entered Guatemala in the year’s first caravan after departing from San Pedro Sula, Honduras early Friday, just days before President-elect Joe Biden’s inauguration.
Biden has promised to take a different approach to immigration and even though immediate changes at the U.S. border are not expected, it has created some hope in Central America.
On Monday, Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador urged the U.S. to address immigration.
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“I believe that the time has come to follow through on the commitment to carry out immigration reform,” López Obrador said.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.