Guatemalan security forces used batons and tear gas to beat back a large migrant caravan bound for the United States.
A large section of the caravan clashed early on Sunday with Guatemalan security officials, some 3,000 of whom had mustered by the village of Vado Hondo, 55km (34 miles) from the borders of Honduras and El Salvador.
“We want the Guatemalans to let us past,” said Joaquin Ortiz, a Honduran in the caravan. “Because we’re not leaving here. We’re going to carry on. I want to get through because it’s horrible in our country. There’s nothing in Honduras.”
Between 7,000 and 8,000 migrants, including families with young children, have entered Guatemala since Friday, authorities say, fleeing poverty and violence in a region hammered by the coronavirus pandemic and back-to-back hurricanes last November.
The large contingent of Guatemalan security officers managed to stop the caravan from advancing beyond Vado Hondo, with the people in the caravan dispersing into the nearby hills or heading back the way they came.
“Guatemala’s message is loud and clear: These types of illegal mass movements [of people] will not be accepted, that’s why we are working together with the neighbouring nations to address this as a regional issue,” the Guatemalan president’s office said.
Even if the caravan does get past, Mexico is preparing hundreds of security forces to stop them at its southern border, arguing it must contain the spread of coronavirus.
The pandemic has battered Honduras’ economy, which last year suffered its worst contraction on record.