Guatemala says it will detain and return a migrant caravan of around 2,000 that entered the country illegally from Honduras on Thursday, according to an Associated Press report.
Guatemalan President Alejandro Giammettei vowed that the caravan, which was likely bound for the U.S, would be sent back to Honduras amid coronavirus concerns.
“The order has been given to detain all those who entered illegally, and return them to the border of their country,” Giammattei said in an address to the nation. “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.”
Giammattei issued an order that would suspend some constitutional rights in the provinces they were expected to pass through in order to facilitate the detainment process, according to the AP. A regional agreement between Guatemala and Honduras normally allows citizens of Honduras to transit through Guatemala.
Though no violence was reported, the caravan overpowered Guatemalan border guards who supposedly made little attempt to control the situation. Authorities planned to register the migrants as they crossed the border and offer assistance to those willing to turn back, but the group crossed the official border without registration and pushed past the guards.
Most of the caravan appeared to be young men.
According to the AP report, Guatemalan officials asked the migrants attempting to cross the Honduras border to provide documentation showing a negative COVID-19 test, but the migrants pushed their way through without providing the requested documents.
In the midst of the global pandemic, migrant traffic from Central America towards the U.S has slowed dramatically as countries throughout the region closed their borders.
But, the coronavirus didn’t seem to matter to this caravan.
In a translated Tweet Wednesday night, The U.S Embassy in Honduras warned that illegally crossing the border into the U.S. is “now more difficult than ever,” and more dangerous because of the global pandemic.
With the election just 31 days away, Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador said Friday that the timing was strange and suggested it was organized to benefit someone in the U.S. presidential election, according to the AP.