The government of Honduras asked the approximately 2,000 of its citizens who have crossed into Guatemalan territory to “desist” their trek north towards the United States. This came after President Donald Trump threatened to cut $65 million in foreign aid to the country if its government cannot stem the tide of its citizens heading north. Local media published a statement by the foreign ministry of Honduras that dubbed as “irregular” the so-called caravan of migrants, and called on them to heed the laws of transit countries Guatemala and Mexico while they are headed to the southern border of the United States. 

The Honduran foreign minister accused the leaders of the caravan of making a political statement at almost the same time that Honduran leaders were in Washington last week, where they met with Vice President Mike Pence in an effort to establish cooperation on migration and regional security. For its part, the government of Guatemala allowed the caravan to enter its territory and is providing humanitarian assistance. 

Trump declared on Twitter earlier on Tuesday to say that he would withhold all U.S. foreign aid to Honduras, unless the country can stop the caravan. Pence reiterated Trump’s threat on Twitter, having already urged the presidents of Honduras, El Salvador and Guatemala to keep their people at home rather than see them take the risky journey to the United States. Pence also visited the region in June to deliver the same message.

The head of Mexico’s national police, Commissioner Manelich Castilla Craviotto, went to Tapachula, a town in the state of Chiapas which borders the neighboring Republic of Guatemala, to prepare for the arrival of the more than 2000 Honduran migrants who are expected to arrive within days. On October 13, a group of approximately 160 departed Honduras and head towards the Guatemalan border. Their number increased steadily within days as people joined the growing caravan that is headed north with the intention of illegally entering the United States along its southern border. 

According to Mexico’s National Migration Institute and federal police, the group will not be allowed to enter Mexico. Official sources in Mexico claim that only those persons who have proper identification will be allowed to enter the country. Also, Mexico has pledged to help stem the flow of Central American migrants heading towards the United States. In June, the Trump administration sent notice to Congress that it intends to spend $20 million in foreign assistance funds in order to pay the Mexican government to defray the cost of deporting some 17,000  Central American migrants to their home countries. Any known or suspected terrorists would be deported under the program, which the Department of Homeland Security sees as an opportunity to relieve the flow of immigrants into the U.S.

"Build the American Dream in Honduras" rally in capital city, Tegucigalpa. 

The growing caravan of Honduran migrants includes as many as 500 children. Some children have been seen being pushed in strollers, while others are being carried in the arms of their parents. There are also men and women, as well as elderly and handicapped persons who are seeking admission to the U.S. On Monday, the group was met at the Guatemalan border by police dressed in riot gear who at first impeded their entry. However, the police eventually relented and allowed the group to pass. Many spent the night on Monday at a refugee hostel in Esquipulas, a traditional pilgrimage site. 

The stream of migrants is made up of people from Cortez, Choluteca, Santa Barbara, San Pedro Sula, and other regions of Honduras. The caravan started in San Pedro Sula, which has the highest murder rate in the country, which in turn has the second highest murder rate in the world. Many migrants say they fleeing their native country because of gang violence. Honduras is home to violent criminal organizations such as MS-13, and has a notoriously corrupt government and police force. 

Some migrants have tried to enter the U.S. in the past, only to be sent home. Others are expecting to work or study in the U.S. upon arrival. They are carrying small backpacks with whatever they can carry. Some are begging along the way. Others are receiving help in the form of food and water from kind-hearted Guatemalans they are meeting on the road. Some are ambling towards their destination on crutches or even wheelchairs. 

Honduran migrants were received by charitable organizations in Chiquimula, Guatemala.

Prensa Libre, a Guatemalan daily, noted that a group of women who called themselves Generous Hearts is handing out food to the migrants passing through Esquipulas. The paper quoted Norma Lemus -- a member of the group -- who said she was indignant over the need for the migrants to be obliged to leave their homeland in order to find work. “This dismays us, it is outrageous what our rulers do to steal and impoverish their people and how these people have to leave and leave everything and travel with their children. This is what leaves us speechless," said Lemus. Lemus said she is angry when she thinks that people have to leave behind their beautiful homeland and risk the lives of their children and of themselves to find what their country does not provide. 

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Spero News writer Martin Barillas is a former US diplomat, who also worked as a democracy advocate and election observer in Latin America. His first novel 'Shaken Earth', is available at Amazon.

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