A group of 350 Central American migrants forced their way into Mexico Friday, authorities said, as a new caravan of around 2,500 people arrived — news sure to draw the attention of US president Donald Trump.
Mexico’s National Migration Institute said some members of the caravan had a ‘hostile attitude’ and had attacked local police in the southern town of Metapa de Dominguez after crossing the border from Guatemala.
The migrants were later being escorted by Mexican federal police and the civil protection service in the southern state of Chiapas, an AFP correspondent said.
‘Today at 3:30am (0830 GMT) a group of approximately 350 people broke violently across the Mexican border from Guatemala,’ the National Migration Institute said in a statement.
‘With an aggressive attitude, (the migrants) broke the padlock on the border gate and entered the country.’
The caravan set out Wednesday from the city of San Pedro Sula, in Honduras, and has picked up Guatemalans and some Nicaraguans along the way.
The migrants are mostly fleeing poverty and brutal violence in their home countries.
‘We can’t live (in Honduras) anymore. We’re heading for the border, for the United States,’ said Jorge, a young Honduran migrant who declined to give his last name.
Some of the migrants crossed the bridge over the Suchiate River, which divides Mexico from Guatemala. Others jumped into the river — whose water is low this time of year — and forded across, or paid raft operators to ferry them.
They then took to a local highway and began the long trek across Mexico — some 4,000 kilometers, depending what route they take.
It is the latest in a series of caravans to try to reach the US-Mexican border, seeking safety in numbers against the criminal gangs that extort, kidnap and even murder migrants along the way.
Highlighting the dangers of the journey, Mexican prosecutors said they had detained two smugglers who were trafficking 22 migrants in Chiapas state in a separate incident.
On Wednesday, officials said they had rescued 143 Honduran migrants, including 71 minors, who had been kidnapped in the violent state of Veracruz. The kidnappers were demanding up to $10,000 ransom per migrant, an investigation source said.
Trump, who says there is a crisis on the US-Mexican border, has declared a national emergency over the flow of undocumented migrants and illegal drugs into the United States, deployed troops to the border and repeatedly threatened to close it.
The biggest migrant caravan to date also forced its way into Mexico last October, when migrants broke down a series of border barriers, then took to the river when Mexican riot police pushed them back.
That caravan, which grew to more than 7,000 people, also tried to force its way into the United States when it reached Mexico’s northern border. But US border patrol agents forced the migrants back with tear gas and rubber bullets.
Since then, Mexico has had a change of government. President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, an anti-establishment leftist, has vowed to safeguard migrants’ human rights, and urged Trump to address the root causes of the exodus by investing in development projects in Mexico and Central America.
But his government faces huge pressure from the Trump administration to wage a more aggressive crackdown.
The US president has accused Mexico of doing nothing to stop undocumented migrants from crossing its territory, and threatened to impose 25-per cent tariffs on Mexican auto exports — a crucial industry — or close the border if that fails to produce results.
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