4,000-strong migrant caravan splinters in Mexican state
Some migrants are continuing towards the capital, while others are staying at the coastal state of Veracruz.
A 4,000-strong caravan of Central American migrants travelling through Mexico has split up into several groups.
One group spent the night in a town in the coastal state of Veracruz, while other migrants continue towards the country’s capital.
The divisions came during a tense day in which tempers flared and some migrants argued with caravan organisers and criticised Mexican officials.
They were upset that Veracruz governor Miguel Angel Yunes had reneged on an offer to provide buses on Saturday to move the migrants to Mexico City.
The migrants trekked to the town of Isla, about 700 miles south of the US border, where several thousand stopped to rest, eat and receive medical attention. They planned to spend the night there before departing at 5am on Sunday en route to the town of Cordoba.
However, other migrants, mainly men and the younger members of the group, kept on walking or hitching rides toward Puebla and Mexico City.
They hunkered down for the night in Juan Rodriguez Clara or Tierra Blanca farther along the route.
Luis Euseda, a 32-year-old from Tegucigalpa, Honduras who is travelling with his wife Jessica Fugon, said in Isla: “We think that it is better to continue together with the caravan. We are going to stay with it and respect the organisers.
“Others went ahead, maybe they have no goal, but we do have a goal and it is to arrive.”
Caravan organisers have pleaded for buses in recent days after three weeks on the road, hitching rides and walking. With the group scattered, some have raised questions about whether the caravan would stick together.
In a statement, the migrants lambasted Mexican officials for directing them northward through the Gulf Coast state of Veracruz, calling it the “route of death”.
A trek via the sugar fields and fruit groves of Veracruz takes them through a state where hundreds of migrants have disappeared in recent years, falling prey to kidnappers looking for ransom payments.
Authorities in Veracruz said in September they had discovered remains from at least 174 people buried in clandestine graves. Some security experts have questioned whether those bodies belonged to migrants.
Gerardo Perez, a 20-year-old migrant, said he was tired. “They’re playing with our dignity. If you could have only seen the people’s happiness last night when they told us that we were going by bus and today we’re not,” he said.
The caravan’s “strength in numbers” strategy has enabled them to mobilise support as they move through Mexico and has inspired subsequent migrants to try their luck via caravan.
Mexican officials appear conflicted over whether to help or hinder their journeys.
Immigration agents and police have at times detained migrants in the smaller caravans. But several mayors have rolled out the welcome mat for migrants who reached their towns – arranging for food and camp sites.
Mexico’s interior department said nearly 3,000 of the migrants in the first caravan have applied for refuge in Mexico and hundreds more have returned home.
With or without the government’s help, uncertainty awaits.
US president Donald Trump has ordered US troops to the Mexican border in response to the caravans. More than 7,000 active duty troops have been told to deploy to Texas, Arizona and California ahead of next week’s mid-term elections.