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  • Honduran migrants, part of a caravan trying to reach the U.S., rest at the border checkpoint between Honduras and Guatemala, in Agua Caliente, in the municipality of Ocotepeque, Honduras, October 16, 2018

    Honduran migrants, part of a caravan trying to reach the U.S., rest at the border checkpoint between Honduras and Guatemala, in Agua Caliente, in the municipality of Ocotepeque, Honduras, October 16, 2018 | Photo: Reuters

Published 17 October 2018
Opinion

Thousands of impoverished Hondurans travel by foot in the Migrant Walk now in southern Guatemala, despite Honduran president's plea for them to return.   

U.S. Vice President Mike Pence is giving a stern warning to Honduran President to stop the thousands of migrants who left from the Central American country on their way to the U.S. 

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Honduran migrants who left their country en route to the United States last Saturday are telling their President Juan Orlando Hernandez (JOH): “we won’t go back.”

After overwhelming Guatemalan security forces at the border migrants find themselves on Wednesday in Zacapa, where they tell teleSUR’s Mario Rosales that they’ll “die” before going back to Honduras, a country that registered 3,791 homicides last year.

Caravaner, Juan Carlos told Rosales, “we just want a chance to work and get ahead. We’re not criminals.” Juan Carlos added that the only reason JOH wants migrants to turn around is that of fear that he won’t get “help” from the United States.

Both U.S. President Donald Trump and Vice President Mike Pence have threatened to take away aid from the Honduran government if the caravaners try to enter the United States at its southern border. Last year the U.S. government sent Honduras more than US$19 million in aid, US$13,768,000 of which went to ‘counter-drug assistance’ and another US$4.5 million went directly to fund the small country’s military operations.

President Hernandez pleaded with participants in this second so-called "Migrant Walk" of 2018 to come home, tweeting several times on Wednesday about supposed job opportunities that the government is creating. According to the Northern Triangle Mobility Initiative (NTMI), about 70 percent of the Honduran population lives in poverty, suffers from a seven percent unemployment rate, and the country depends on remittances - over 18 percent of its gross domestic product is earned abroad.

JOH called the caravan “inhuman and condemnable.” He added: “There are lives in danger, including children." Hernandez, who’s in charge of national security forces, has long been accused of approving their use of excessive force against demonstrators who protested his re-election last November after the European Union and Organization of American States called the ballot results “highly irregular.”

Still over 400km from the Mexican border, officials from the state of Chiapas say they are welcoming the migrants, despite the national government’s warning that they will be turned away without the proper migratory paperwork.

On Tuesday the governor of Mexico’s southernmost state of Chiapas, Manuel Velasco Coello, tweeted: "We will have the doors open to migrants who cross into Mexican territory.

The official added: "In #Chiapas we respect the human rights of our Central American migrants and I instructed the specialized migrant prosecutor's (office) and the 7 migrant shelters to provide the care and assistance necessary to the migrant caravan.”

The Central American march is attracting concern from international human rights organizations and the United Nations. EFE reports that World Vision called on the Hernandez to communicate with countries in the region to ensure that the rights of the migrants are met, especially those of the 250 or so children and adolescents traveling in the caravan.

"World Vision asks the Honduran government to guarantee the right to migrate … that all human beings have, as well as their protection, especially of children, during the migratory transit," the organization said in a statement.

World Vision urged Honduras to "strengthen its social programs" and "invest more to prevent violence" affecting the country.

Between 2014 and 2016 approximately 2,300 people under the age of 23 were killed violently in Honduras, according to the non-governmental organization Casa Alianza. That figure has increased by 53 percent since Juan Orlando Hernandez became president and launched the 2014 Alliance for Prosperity for the Northern Triangle countries (Honduras, Guatemala, El Salvador) in the intent to reduce migratory flow to the north.

The United Nations added, there is "concern about the situation of insecurity and the need for protection of the people" in the caravan. UN officials asked Honduras, Guatemala, and Mexico to guarantee the safety of these people and others subject to international protection.

Caravan organizer and former leftist politician Bartolo Fuentes was targeted and arrested while walking with caravaners because "he did not comply with Guatemalan immigration rules." He was ordered arrested by the Honduran officials.  

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