The Latest: UN counts 7,200 in migrant caravan, offers help
TAPACHULA, Mexico — The Latest on the caravan of Central Americans trying to reach the United States (all times local):
A spokesman for El Salvador’s president says the government hopes that tensions over a migrant caravan advancing through Mexico with a goal of reaching the U.S. border decrease after the U.S. midterm elections Nov. 6.
U.S. President Donald Trump said Monday via Twitter that El Salvador, Honduras and Guatemala had failed to stop people from leaving their countries. He added: “We will now begin cutting off, or substantially reducing, the massive foreign aid routinely given to them.”
Roberto Lorenzana said that El Salvador did what it could, but the caravan did not cross through its territory.
Lorenzana expressed “confidence in the maturity of United States authorities to continue strengthening a positive relationship with our country.”
He said El Salvador has significantly reduced violence, which was driving migrants, and that the flow of Salvadoran migrants has dropped 60 percent in two years.
The United Nations is estimating that the caravan of Central American migrants making their way through southern Mexico currently comprises more than 7,200 people.
U.N. deputy spokesman Farhan Haq gave the estimate to reporters at U.N. headquarters in New York Monday. He said the International Organization for Migration reported that large numbers of people were still arriving in Mexico and “are likely to remain in the country for an extended period.”
Haq said U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres stressed to leaders in the region over the weekend that they need to work with IOM and the U.N. refugee agency, which are both assisting different countries right now.
Haq said UNHCR dispatched an emergency team and now has 32 people in the Mexican towns of Ciudad Hidalgo and Tapachula near the Guatemala border.
He said that number will increase to ensure that members of the caravan have information on Mexico’s asylum system, as well as legal advice and humanitarian assistance for those who seek asylum.
Thousands of Central American migrants have resumed their march north through Mexico toward the United States, though they’re still a long way away.
The migrants began to leave the southern city of Tapachula under a burning sun Monday afternoon, bound for Huixtla about 25 miles (40 kilometers) away.
Twenty-eight-year-old Carlos Leonidas Garcia Urbina from Tocoa, Honduras, says he was cutting the grass in his father’s yard when he heard about the caravan.
He says he dropped the shears right there and ran to join it with just 500 lempiras ($20) in his pocket.
Motioning to his fellow travelers in the caravan, he said: “We are going to the promised land.”
An immigrant rights activist traveling with the caravan of Central American migrants is accusing U.S. President Donald Trump of using the group of thousands to stir up his base before the U.S. midterm elections.
Irineo Mujica of the group Pueblo Sin Fronteras says “It is a shame that a president so powerful uses this caravan for political ends.”
He says there are two things responsible for the migration: “hunger and death.”
He says “no one is capable of organizing this many people. Nobody. It’s an exodus.”
Pueblo Sin Fronteras is a group that tries to provide humanitarian aid to migrants.
A Honduran-born leader of the migrant caravan trying to make its way through Mexico says U.S. President Donald Trump should stop accusing the caravan of harboring terrorists.
Denis Omar Contreras says, “There isn’t a single terrorist here.”
He said Monday all of those involved are from Honduras, El Salvador, Guatemala and Nicaragua. And he adds, “As far as I know there are no terrorists in these four countries, at least beyond the corrupt governments.”
U.S. President Donald Trump says the U.S. will begin “cutting off, or substantially reducing” aid to three Central American nations over a migrant caravan heading to the U.S. southern border.
Trump tweets: “Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador were not able to do the job of stopping people from leaving their country and coming illegally to the U.S.”
The three countries combined received more than $500 million in funding from the U.S. in fiscal year 2017.
Trump has raised alarm over a group of thousands of migrants traveling through Mexico to the U.S., saying, “Sadly, it looks like Mexico’s Police and Military are unable to stop the Caravan.”
He adds: “I have alerted Border Patrol and Military that this is a National Emergy.” White House officials could not immediately provide details.
Thousands of Honduran migrants hoping to reach the U.S. have stretched out on rain-soaked sidewalks, benches and public plazas in the southern Mexico city of Tapachula, worn down by another day’s march under a blazing sun.
They’ve been keeping together for strength and safety in numbers.
Some huddled under a metal roof in the city’s main plaza Sunday night. Others lay exhausted in the open air, with only thin sheets of plastic to protect them from ground soggy from an intense evening shower. Some didn’t even have a bit of plastic yet.
The group’s advance has drawn strong criticism from U.S. President Donald Trump, who lashed out again Sunday at the Democratic Party over what he apparently sees as a winning issue for Republicans a little over two weeks ahead of midterm elections.