US, Mexico, Guatemala bar migrant caravans, citing Covid

US, Mexico, Guatemala bar migrant caravans, citing Covid

Security forces block a caravan of US-bound Honduran migrants in Vado Hondo, Guatemala, on January 18, 2021
Security forces block a caravan of US-bound Honduran migrants in Vado Hondo, Guatemala, on January 18, 2021

GUATEMALA CITY - The United States, Mexico and Guatemala agreed Friday to bar migrant caravans from passing through their territories due to the Covid pandemic, days after one from Honduras was violently broken up in Guatemala.

US Ambassador to Guatemala William Popp stressed that any migrants who cross the US border in an irregular manner will be returned home immediately, citing national health security.

His comments came after a meeting with Guatemalan Foreign Minister Pedro Brolo and Mexican Ambassador to Guatemala Romeo Ruiz.

"Any attempt to create massive flows of people will not be tolerated and will be countered," Brolo said.

Added Ruiz: "Please don't leave your homes, don't put your families in danger, don't put your children at risk."

The deal came after Guatemalan authorities on Monday broke up the latest caravan of Honduran migrants, who set out hoping for a more welcoming US policy on immigration following President Joe Biden's arrival in office.

Some 4,000 migrants had massed in the Guatemalan town of Vada Hondo on the first leg of their journey of thousands of kilometers through Central America on foot.

The migrants did not have required travel documents or proof of negative Covid tests, so President Alejandro Giammattei ordered his troops to halt the caravan's advance.

Officers used tear gas and batons to break up the caravan. Several migrants were hurt, as well as police hit by stones hurled by some in the group, AFP reporters said.

Women carrying small children were among those to flee before the police.

More than a dozen caravans, some with thousands of migrants, have set off from Honduras since October 2018, aiming to walk to a better life in the United States.

But all have run up against thousands of US border guards and soldiers under Donald Trump.

The latest attempt has given rise to neighborly tension, with Honduras complaining about the forceful tactics meted out to its citizens, while Guatemala accused Tegucigalpa of doing nothing to prevent the caravans from forming.

The members of this latest caravan said they were fleeing poverty, drug gang violence and the crisis left by the passage of two hurricanes in November.

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