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Guatemala says it will detain new migrant caravan, return them to Honduras

Guatemala says it will detain new migrant caravan, return them to Honduras
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Guatemala said Friday that it would detain and return the caravan of approximately 2,000 Hondurans who crossed its borders Thursday in their journey to the United States, according to The Associated Press

Guatemalan President Alejandro Giammattei reportedly said in a broadcast address to the country that the migrants posed a health threat due to the coronavirus pandemic. 

“The order has been given to detain all those who entered illegally, and return them to the border of their country,” Giammattei said. “We will not allow any foreigner who has used illegal means to enter the country, to think that they have the right to come and infect us and put us at serious risk.”

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The AP reported that Giammattei had suspended some constitutional rights in the provinces through which the caravan is expected to travel so that authorities could detain them.

News of the caravan first broke Thursday, with the AP reporting that Guatemalan authorities had planned to register the migrants as they crossed the border and offer assistance to bring them back to Honduras. Authorities said they would also ask migrants to provide documentation showing they had tested negative for COVID-19. 

However, the group did not register and, instead, pushed past authorities, with the AP reporting that little effort was made to stop them. 

The AP reported that Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador on Friday questioned the timing of the caravan and suggested it may have been organized to benefit someone in the U.S. presidential election.

“I think it has to do with the election in the United States,” López Obrador said. “I don’t have all the elements, but there are indications that it formed with that purpose. I don’t know to whose benefit, but we’re not naive.”

Representatives for U.S. Customs and Border Protection did not immediately respond when contacted by The Hill on Thursday. 

Shortly before the midterm elections in 2018, reports circulated of migrant caravans traveling toward the U.S., one of which included about 7,000 people. 

Up until now, recent migration flows from Central America had largely slowed amid the pandemic. According to the AP, most shelters along the principal migration routes closed to new arrivals in order to prevent the virus’s spread.