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Monday, 18 February 2019

Migrant caravan moving to western Mexico city of Guadalajara

AP , Monday 12 Nov 2018
Central American migrants
Central American migrants, part of the caravan hoping to reach the US border, look from an overpass as others attempt to get a ride on trucks, in Irapuato, Mexico, Monday, November 12, 2018 (Photo: Reuters)
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Several thousand Central American migrants marked a month on the road Monday as they hitched rides to the western Mexico city of Guadalajara and toward the US border.

Most appear intent on taking the Pacific coast route northward to the border city of Tijuana, which is still about 1,550 miles (2,500 kilometers) away. The migrants have come about 1,200 miles (1,900 kilometers) since they started out in Honduras around Oct. 13.

But whereas they previously suffered from the heat on their journey through Honduras, Guatemala and southern Mexico, they now trek to highways wrapped in blankets to fend off the morning chill.

Karen Martinez of Copan, Honduras and her three children were bundled up with jackets, scarves and a blanket.

"Sometimes we go along laughing, sometimes crying, but we keep on going,'' she said.

While the caravan previously averaged only about 30 miles (50 kilometers) per day, they are also now covering daily distances of 185 miles (300 kilometers) or more, partly because they are relying on hitchhiking rather than walking.

On Monday morning, migrants gathered on a highway leading out of the central city of Irapuato looking for rides to Guadalajara about 150 miles (242 kilometers) away.

"Now the route is less complicated,'' Martinez said.

Indeed, migrants have hopped aboard so many different kinds of trucks that they are no longer surprised by anything. Some have stacked themselves four levels high on a truck intended for pigs. Others have boarded a truck carrying a shipment of coffins.

Many, especially men, travel on open platform trailers used to transport steel and cars, or get in the freight containers of 18-wheelers and ride with one of the back doors open to provide air flow.

But the practice is not without dangers.

Earlier, a Honduran man in the caravan died when he fell from a platform truck in the Mexican state of Chiapas.

Jose Alejandro Caray, 17, of Yoro, Honduras, fell a week ago and injured his knee.

"I can't bend it,'' Caray said, as he watched other migrants swarm aboard tractor-trailers.

"Now I'm afraid to get on,'' he said. ``I prefer to wait for a pickup truck.''

After several groups got lost after clambering on semitrailers, caravan coordinators began encouraging migrants to ask drivers first or have someone ride in the cab so they could tell the driver where to turn off.

Over the weekend, the central state of Queretaro reported 6,531 migrants moving through the state, although another caravan was further behind and expected to arrive in Mexico City on Monday.

The caravan became a campaign issue in US midterm elections and US President Donald Trump has ordered the deployment of over 5,000 military troops to the border to fend off the migrants. Trump has insinuated without proof that there are criminals or even terrorists in the group.

Many say they are fleeing rampant poverty, gang violence and political instability primarily in the Central American countries of Honduras, Guatemala, El Salvador and Nicaragua.

Mexico has offered refuge, asylum or work visas, and its government said 2,697 temporary visas had been issued to individuals and families to cover them during the 45-day application process for more permanent status.

But most migrants vow to continue to the United States.

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