Historic elite-level corruption in Honduras, narc-trafficking, and brutal internal violence, much of it state-sponsored, as well as the effects of climate change, especially as witnessed by the successive hurricanes that battered the country, Eta and Iota, within the unprecedented situation of the global coronavirus pandemic, has led many people to try their luck North. It can be a thin line between being a migrant and being a refugee, in the ‘accepted’ discourse, and it is time to have that discussion, especially within the context of Central America. What is somewhat different from the earlier refugee caravans that came to dominate some of the news agendas in 2017 and 2018, is that the Guatemala State has decided to do the bidding of both the Mexican and United States governments in keeping the caravans away from the borders of either.
Sandra Cuffe has been following the events closely in Vado Hondo, in south-eastern Guatemala, for Al Jazeera.
Military and police forces in Guatemala cleared thousands of United States-bound migrants and asylum seekers off a highway on Monday after blocking their advance for two days.
“I was so scared,” Kayla, a 16-year-old transgender girl from a town in western Honduras, told Al Jazeera shortly after the eviction.
At least 8,000 Hondurans crossed into Guatemala since Thursday in several large caravan groups and some 300 Salvadorans caught up with them on Monday. Most hoped to make it to the US, while others planned on staying in Mexico.
Honduran migrants and asylum seekers told Al Jazeera they were fleeing devastation from two Category 4 hurricanes last November, as well as chronic unemployment and diverse forms of violence in their home country.
The piece ‘I was so scared’: Guatemalan forces disperse migrant caravan also contains many moving photographs.
Al Jazeera has also posted In Pictures: Guatemala forces battle desperate Honduran migrant, from which comes the above photograph.
The Guardian reported Monday 18th January of the violence that greeted migrants from Honduras as they tried to make their way towards the United States.
Guatemalan troops with riot shields and truncheons have forcibly cleared a road of hundreds of mostly Honduran migrants who had camped out overnight when authorities barred their caravan from advancing toward the United States.
The government said the road in eastern Guatemala had reopened to traffic on Monday after troops and police officers launched teargas and pushed the migrants with their riot shields back down the highway.
Security forces closed in on the migrants just beyond the village of Vado Hondo, some 55km (34 miles) from the borders of Honduras and El Salvador.
The removal of the large group was the latest effort by Guatemalan authorities to break up the caravan, which authorities said numbered close to 8,000 people within hours of its departure for the United States from Honduras last week.
The Guardian had reported, a week earlier, that US federal prosecutors have filed motions saying the Honduran president, Juan Orlando Hernández, took bribes from drug traffickers and that he had the country’s armed forces protect a cocaine laboratory and shipments to the United States.
PBI-Guatemala posted an article from Prensa Libre, highlighting a quote from Guatemalan Human Rights Ombudsperson Jordan Rodas who has stated: “[Migrants] flee social inequality, poverty and violence, and cannot be subjected to cruel and inhumane treatment on Guatemalan territory.”
Amnesty International wrote of the effect of the hurricanes on Honduras at the latter end of last year.
Categories: Accompaniment, Corruption, Environment, Gender, Genocide, Guatemala, Human Rights, Indigenous peoples, Justice, Land, Migration, Military, Natural Disaster, Resource Extraction, Solidarity in Action, Solidarity in Action/Guatemala, Violence