Mexico National Guard Prevents Caravan Members From Crossing Border

Jan 21, 2020
Originally published on January 21, 2020 5:15 am
Copyright 2020 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

NOEL KING, HOST:

In the last week, at least 4,000 people have left Central America and made their way north toward Mexico. Many of them are hoping to get into the U.S. The Trump administration, of course, is pushing for Mexico to take a hard line, so the Mexican government says it won't let them into Mexico. That means, for the moment, this group is stuck at the Mexico-Guatemala border, which is where reporter James Fredrick found them.

JAMES FREDRICK, BYLINE: This caravan hasn't looked like previous ones. It hasn't been one united group of thousands but rather many smaller groups travelling towards Mexico. A few days ago, the first groups arrived here at the Guatemala-Mexico border. And after hearing that Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador was offering them jobs, more than a thousand migrants handed themselves in. But that promise of jobs turned out to be false, and most of the migrants will be deported. There were still thousands of migrants hoping to cross into Mexico. On Monday morning, they gathered on the bridge connecting Mexico and Guatemala and handed Mexican authorities a letter addressed to President Lopez Obrador.

They asked him to open his heart and open the border gates. The Mexican government, again, said no. So the migrants made their way down to the banks of the Suchiate River, easy to wade across with the low water levels right now. And they walked into Mexico. But waiting for them on the other side were hundreds of Mexican National Guard troops.

(CROSSTALK)

FREDRICK: Chaos broke out. The National Guard chased down migrants, corralling and pushing them back towards the river. They used riot shields and teargas. The migrants threw rocks and sticks back. Eventually, the migrants were held at the riverbank and stayed an hours-long standoff with Mexican troops. After everything had settled, Mexican authorities had detained 400 migrants who would be slaughtered for deportation. Hundreds of migrants turned back to Guatemala while others waited under the watchful eye of the National Guard right on the Mexican riverbank. There's no clear sign what the remaining migrants will do next. But the Mexican government has made one thing very clear - they're making good on their promise to the Trump administration to stop migrants from making it to the U.S.

For NPR News, I'm James Fredrick in Tapachula, Mexico.

(SOUNDBITE OF APPARAT'S "ASH/BLACK VEIL") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.