Mexican Forces Clash With Migrants at Border With Guatemala

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MEXICO CITY—Mexican security forces used plastic shields to push back hundreds of Central American migrants who tried to force their way across a border bridge from Guatemala into Mexico on Saturday.

Lines of National Guard officers jostled with migrants, some of whom threw bottles and wielded sticks as they tried to push their way into Mexico. President

Andrés Manuel López Obrador

has vowed to stop migrants from entering the country illegally as they try to reach the U.S.

The migrants are part of a group of some 1,500 people, mostly from Honduras, who gathered on the Guatemalan side of the Mexican border Friday. Most arrived at the Guatemalan city of Tecún Umán in a caravan that left last week from San Pedro Sula, Honduras’s most violent city.

While a few migrants were able to force their way through the National Guard line, Mexican security forces were eventually able to shut the border gate across the bridge. The few migrants that entered into Mexico were later detained by Mexican immigration officials.

Mexico is determined to stop a replay of similar incidents in 2018 and 2019, when thousands of migrants entered the country in caravans and headed for the U.S. border. The regional migration crisis drew the ire of President Trump. At the time, many migrants, initially blocked at the bridge, entered Mexico from Guatemala by crossing the shallow waters of the Suchiate river, which marks the border between the two countries.

Migrants crowded onto the bridge spanning the Suchiate river, which separates Guatemala and Mexico.


Photo:

Marco Ugarte/Associated Press

On Friday, Mr. López Obrador offered work papers to the Honduran migrants. A senior Mexican official said migrants would be required to stay in southern Mexico while their cases are adjudicated. Migrants can request asylum in Mexico, a process that lasts months, or receive visas allowing them to stay in four southern Mexican states. Those who travel north of the four states would be arrested, the official said.

“Many say they are willing to ford the river,” said Leo Galván, a taxi driver in Tecún Umán. “They say Mexico is not giving them any other option.”

Mexican security forces also deployed along the banks of the Suchiate. The government dispatched some 500 National Guard members and 100 immigration officers to the area, a senior Mexican immigration official said.

This week’s caravan was organized through WhatsApp and Facebook groups, a similar process to the earlier caravans, said Bartolo Fuentes, a leftist Honduran activist who helped organize past caravans.

The new caravan threatened to upend the relationship Mr. López Obrador has tried to cultivate with President Trump. The Mexican leader yielded last year to Mr. Trump’s demands that Mexico adopt a tougher stance against illegal immigration. Mr. Trump had threatened to impose tariffs on Mexican imports if Mexico didn’t act. Since then, apprehensions of Central American migrants at the U.S. border have plummeted, while the number of detentions and deportations of Central Americans by Mexico have risen sharply.

Migrants’ chances of entering the U.S. are the lowest in years. The U.S. government has sent nearly 60,000 migrants to Mexico while they wait for the U.S. to process their asylum requests. The Trump administration has signed asylum agreements with Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador to send migrants to seek protection in those countries instead of in the U.S.

Even so, the migrant tide will continue, analysts say. In Honduras, widespread government corruption feeds the poverty and violence that drives the exodus of migrants striving for a better life in the U.S. Analysts say the corruption in Honduras will likely to worsen with the cancellation of an international anticorruption mission.

Mexican security forces guard the gate at the border bridge.


Photo:

jose cabezas/Reuters

Late Friday, the Organization of American States, the hemisphere’s leading regional body, said it had been unable to reach agreement with the government of Honduran President

Juan Orlando Hernández

about extending the OAS’s anticorruption mission.

The OAS said the end of MACCIH, as the mission is known, “is a negative step in the fight against corruption and impunity in the country.” During the four years it spent in Honduras, the international mission helped Honduran prosecutors bring 14 corruption cases against 133 people to trial, it said.

Negotiations to renew MACCIH’s mandate broke down over the Honduran government’s opposition to the mission’s support of a specialized group of anticorruption prosecutors, the OAS said.

Honduras, one of the poorest, most corrupt and violent countries in the hemisphere, is also a close ally of Mr. Trump, especially on the issue of immigration. Last year, the Hernández administration signed an immigration treaty with the Trump administration that allows the U.S. to send asylum seekers from third countries to Honduras, even though the country lacks the structure to receive them.

U.S. Sen. Patrick Leahy (D., Vt.,), ranking member of a Senate subcommittee that oversees international programs and agencies, called the failed talks “the latest evidence that [Mr. Hernandez] is not serious about stopping the corruption that permeates his government from top to bottom.”

The Honduran government said it regrets that it hadn’t been able to bridge its differences with the OAS. The government said some Hondurans had complained that MACCIH officials had exceeded their mandate and that the country would continue to fight corruption.

Write to Juan Montes at juan.montes@wsj.com and José de Córdoba at jose.decordoba@wsj.com

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