On Friday, President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador of Mexico said that a caravan of over 2,000 Honduran migrants, heading through Guatemala to Mexico, was motivated by political interference. The caravan’s ultimate aim is to reach the United States.
He ordered the Mexican military to deploy along the country’s southern border to block the caravan from reaching Mexico’s borders. The Mexican military and National Guard will deploy hundreds of military and immigration personnel to its border to prevent the caravan entering the country, a senior government official said.
“They’re not going to cross,” Francisco Garduno, the head of the Mexican migration authority, said to media members. He added that the migrants must “respect the immigration law.”
Obrador believes that the timing of the caravan’s movement is tied to the contentious U.S. presidential election in which immigration is one of the key issues.
“It is very weird, very strange,” Lopez Obrador said at a news conference. “It’s a matter that I believe is linked to the U.S. election.”
“It has to do with the election in the United States. I don’t have all the elements but I think there are indications that it was put together for this purpose,” he added.
The timing of the caravan, as President Lopez Obrador suggested, is indeed intriguing. A similar large caravan of migrants became a hot-button mid-term election issue in 2018. President Trump had used that incident to push for much tighter border control and immigration reform.
Some political analysts believe that members of the Honduran government may be behind the caravan’s organizing. It would be one way of alleviating the Honduran people’s suffering: The country is plagued by extreme poverty exacerbated by the pandemic, hunger, rampant violence, and government corruption.
The migrants, most of whom were not wearing masks to help against the spread of coronavirus, are mostly young men. They surged past the Guatemalan border guards on Thursday despite the restrictions in place.
Many of the migrants are already short on food. Reports from Guatemala said that many were worn out.
President Lopez Obrador has said that Mexico doesn’t want to get caught up in the upcoming American election. “However, they don’t stop trying to inject the issue into the debate,” he went on to add. Obrador is aware of the comments the Trump administration made against the Mexican government and of the American threats to increase trade tariffs.
Lopez Obrador is seeking to avoid a confrontation with the caravan. He is hoping that this proactive stance by deploying the military will convince more of the migrants to return to Honduras. The left-wing populist president is striving to maintain good relations with Washington but has been stung by many of President Trump’s anti-Mexican comments.
But the migrants were organized. As soon as the news reached them that Mexico was deploying troops to the border, they quickly split into three groups: One small group of 108 migrants returned to their country, knowing that their prospects of getting into Mexico had diminished. Guatemalan government authorities ordered them to be detained and deported. The second group headed for Guatemala’s Peten region, the northernmost region of the country that is bordered by Belize to the east and Mexico’s Chiapas region to the west. Finally, the third group is en route to the Mexican border city of Tapachula, in eastern Chiapas along the coast.
Much of Central America is reeling from the pandemic lockdowns that have decimated the region’s already shaky economies. Therefore, migrants are hoping to reach the U.S. border and what they see as an opportunity to get aid in the United States.
However, on Thursday, the Trump administration announced that the U.S. will admit a record low of 15,000 migrants in the coming year, mainly because of the coronavirus.
Meanwhile, Joe Biden, the Democratic candidate in the presidential election, has pledged to raise the refugee cap to 125,000. He said that welcoming migrants is in line with U.S. values.
Guatemalan President Alejandro Giammattei vowed to return the migrants to Honduras, citing the need to contain the coronavirus pandemic.
“The order has been given to detain all those who entered illegally, and return them to the border of their country,” Giammattei said in a national broadcast. “We will not allow any foreigner who has used illegal means to enter the country, to think that they have the right to come and infect us and put us at serious risk.”
However, the migrant caravans, for the time being, continue to move northward.