Protesters threaten road blockades on their way across Mexico

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HUEHUETAN, CHIAPAS.- 3,000 migrants walking through southern Mexico in a mass protest procession threatened Monday to block roads or harm themselves unless the government agrees to talks or provides them with buses.

The migrants set out walking from the city of Tapachula, near the Guatemalan border, on Sunday, and by Monday they reached the town of Huehuetán, about 15 miles (25 kilometers) away.

The migrants want the closure of detention centers like the one that caught fire last month, killing 40 migrants.

Protest organizer Irineo Mújica said the migrants would begin flagellating themselves or blocking highways to force the government to agree to talks. The migrants also want exit visas or other papers that would allow them to make it to the U.S. border.

The migrant caravan phenomenon began years ago when activists organized processions — often with a religious theme – during Holy Week to dramatize the hardships and needs of migrants. In 2018 a minority of those involved wound up traveling all the way to the U.S. border.

This year’s mass walk began well after Holy Week had ended, but Mújica, a leader of the Pueblos Sin Fronteras activist group, called it a “Viacrucis,” or stations of the cross procession, and some migrants carried wooden crosses. Flagellation, or beating one’s self with branches or other objects, is sometimes practiced in Holy Week processions.

Given the heat, the difficulty of walking 750 miles (1,200 kilometers) to Mexico City, and the fact that many of the migrants are carrying infants or babies in strollers, they also want buses to take them to the capital.

The migrants are heading to Mexico City, but in the past many participants in such processions have continued on to the U.S. border, which is almost always their goal. The migrants are mainly from Central America, Cuba, Venezuela, Ecuador, and Colombia.

“We are asking the government to give us a hand, if only for the children, even if it’s just water and food,” Honduran migrant Raúl Gómez Rodriguez said. “They should provide us with buses so that we can continue on.”

To date, Mexican authorities have used paperwork restrictions and highway checkpoints to bottle up tens of thousands of frustrated migrants in Tapachula, making it hard for them to travel to the U.S. border.

Cuban migrant Ariel Arias Milán cited conditions in Tapachula, and in government detention centers like the one in Ciudad Juárez, across the border from El Paso, Texas, that caught fire on March 27, as reasons for the protest.

The fire killed 40 migrants. It began after a migrant allegedly set fire to foam mattresses to protest a supposed transfer. The fire quickly filled the facility with smoke. No one let the migrants out.

“We are protesting because of that, and because they don’t allow us out” of Tapachula, Arias Milán said. “We just want to be allowed to work, to live peacefully, we want a chance at a better future.”

Migrants, especially impoverished ones who cannot afford to pay smugglers, have often seen such mass walks, or caravans, as a way to reach the U.S. border. Successive caravans grew to massive size in 2018 and 2019 before authorities in Mexico and Central America began stopping them off highways.

Protesters particularly complained about harassment from Mexico’s National Immigration Institute.

Source: OEM

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