A caravan of migrants from Honduras bound for the US has been turned back as they made their way north through Guatemala without permission.
Guatemalan authorities said on Saturday they had intercepted and disbanded the caravan, and nearly everyone had “opted to return home”. More than 3,000 have been sent back to Honduras on buses over the past few days.
The would-be migrants were desperate to escape grinding poverty aggravated by job losses due to the pandemic raging across Latin America.
Guatemalan Vice Minister of Foreign Relations Eduardo Sanchez called on Honduras to stop such large groups of migrants setting off, calling them a health risk amid the pandemic, according to VOA.
Central American governments are getting increasingly tough on migrants illegally transiting their countries as they trek towards the US and the hope of a new life.
Mexico used to support migrants passing through from south to north but no longer.
The government has started to deploy National Guard troops to turn back groups of migrants after US President Donald Trump, threatened to impose tariffs on Mexican imports if the country did not stem the flow of migrants to the US border.
The Trump administration said on Thursday it would admit only 15,000 refugees during 2021, which would be a record low.
Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden has promised to allow in 125,000, saying accepting persecuted people is a core American value.
Mexican President Lopez Obrador, in cryptic remarks to reporters, suggested the disbanded Honduran migrant caravan was associated with the upcoming US presidential election.
“It has to do with the election in the US,” Obrador said. “I don’t have all the elements, but I think there are indications that it was put together for this purpose. I don’t know to whose benefit, but we’re not naïve.”