A caravan of Central American migrants was stopped in its tracks last week by the Mexican National Guard, which arrested migrants as they crossed the river at the border town of Tecun Uman and hauled them off to a detention center in the nearby city of Tapachula.
"I can see that these caravans are no longer going to pass," said 56-year-old Mexican street merchant Miguel Ángel Vázquez, who has seen throngs of migrants stream past his front door while making the northbound journey to the United States southern border.
On Thursday, migrants and Mexican national guard troops faced off on a rural highway in the far-southern Mexican city of Frontera Hidalgo - across from the river border between Mexico and Guatemala that hundreds of mostly-Honduran migrants crossed before dawn.
After walking for hours before stopping at the crossroads where Vázquez's food stand lies, hundreds of national guard troops advanced their lines to within 100 yards of the migrants. Following a brief negotiation, members of the caravan knelt to the ground, chanting "we want to pass."
The national guardsmen instead advanced on the group, banging their plastic shields with batons as they shoved and pepper sprayed the migrants in a massive round-up. In total, around 800 migrants were detained.
This morning when Mexican officials closed the Tecun Uman entry so that caravanerxs could not enter Mexico. pic.twitter.com/jWuJYrjC05— Tapachula Migrant Solidarity (@SolXxtap) January 18, 2020
On Friday, just six or so national guard troops stood watch as things returned to normal. Locals reported that the disruption made crossing the river as part of their daily routine "tough." The international bridge between the countries reopened at 5 a.m. on Friday, allowing cars and motorcycles to cross freely.
Across the river in Tecun Uman, Guatemala, a field where migrants had stationed for several days before crossing into Mexico Thursday at dawn, was empty and cordoned off with yellow tape.
Neighbor Luis Cáceres, 60, said some of the migrants had been camping in his yard.
He said he too is struggling to get enough work as a laborer, and he empathizes with their decisions to flee poverty and violence.
Cáceres too tried once to emigrate to the United States but only made it as far as Arriaga before turning back, frightened after spending nights sleeping outdoors among snakes and scorpions.
“How you suffer on those trips,” he said. -AP
While Mexico had long-ignored migrant caravans heading towards the United States, pressure from President Trump - which included threats of tariffs, resulted in President Andrés Manuel López Obrador cracking down on the migrant groups.
"I have information that the National Guard has acted well," said Obrador on Friday following a briefing by Foreign Affairs Secretary Marcelo Ebrard. "He told us there had not been injured, had not been wounded, that the problem has been resolved well."