Sunday, 16 December, 2018

Drug cartel likely behind 100 kidnappings from migrant caravan

Central American migrants line up to borrow a sleeping pad at a temporary shelter in a stadium in Mexico City the latest stop in their trek to the US border Migrant caravan converges on Mexico City after three weeks on the road
Jeannette Daniel | 07 November, 2018, 23:54

More than 2,000 migrants from Central America flooded the Jesus Martinez stadium in Mexico City on Monday, with more streaming in throughout the night.

Migrants searched through piles of donated clothes for fresh garments, grabbed boxes of milk for children and lined up to make quick calls home at a stand set up by the Red Cross. Hundreds of city employees and even more volunteers were on hand to sort donations and direct migrants toward food, water, diapers and other basics.

The presidents of Guatemala and Honduras are calling for an investigation to identify the organizers of a caravan of migrants who are nearing the Mexican capital on a journey they hope will take them to the United States.

"We left fear behind in Honduras", said Lester Alvarado, 28, as he trudged along the highway in Veracruz on Monday.

Migrants searched through piles of donated clothes, grabbed boxes of milk for children and lined up to make quick calls home at a stand set up by the Red Cross as USA voters went to the polls for midterm elections in which President Donald Trump has made the migrant caravan a central issue. They come from Honduras, Guatemala, El Salvador and Nicaragua. Forty portable toilets were scattered across the grass. "Since we got here, we have not stopped", she said.

Four big tents have been set up for women and children to sleep under with thin mattresses and blankets, while men were relegated Monday night to concrete bleachers.

Nashieli Ramirez, ombudsman for the city's human rights commission, said the city was preparing to accommodate as many as 5,000 migrants from the lead caravan and several smaller ones hundreds of miles behind it, for as long as necessary. It explained that "Mexico is now faced with the unprecedented situation of having three caravans stretched out over 300 miles (500 kilometers) of highways in the southern states of Chiapas and Oaxaca, with a total of about 6,000 migrants".

Mexico City's central market supplied 3.5 tons of bananas and guavas to refuel the crowd, plus 600 bottles of water.

Numerous migrants sought treatment for blistered and aching feet, illness and other maladies. City officials administered vaccines for tetanus and influenza.

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Estimates about the number of migrants and troops headed to reach the U.S. -Mexico border in about a month continue to fluctuate, but the impending clash of thousands is anticipated to generate heightened media attention - especially as a considerable proportion of caravan members are reportedly terrorists and militant criminals.

The fiasco prompted numerous migrants to push forward to the capital, leaving behind slower-moving family groups with children.

Immigration experts say it is highly unlikely they are traveling together with the goal of storming the U.S. border - they are more likely to file individual asylum claims or try to sneak across in small groups.

Many of them are fleeing poverty and insecurity in their home countries, where powerful street gangs rule their turf with brutal violence.

But parents say clinging to the back of vehicles is not an option with their small children and babies leaving them waiting for safer transport.

But the migrants reportedly have just one clear motive - to reach the US - not merely to find a safe place to live that can support them.

Cesar Rodas, 24, had pushed a friend's wheelchair for 24 days across three countries. "I want to move on", said Francisco Redondo, 40, a Honduran who said he worked construction for 12 years in California.

He went on to note that the caravans under his surveillance are moving along longer routes with more infrastructure to swiftly arrive at the border areas near McAllen, Texas and Tijuana, Mexico - instead of using the traditional passages used for human trafficking or drug smuggling. That caravan steadily dwindled to only about 200 people by the time it reached the border.

"If they elect a new Congress, maybe that will give us an opportunity to reach the United States", said Carlos Rivera, 25, a Honduran man wearing a cap with an American flag.

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