By Jorge Antonio Rocha
MEXICO (AA) - Guatemalan authorities employed tear gas against a caravan of Honduran migrants and reportedly beat some of them in an effort to stop them from passing through the country to reach the US.
The caravan, which departed from the city of San Pedro Sula in northern Honduras, was met with excessive force when Guatemalan authorities cornered the migrants in the border city of Chiquimula using tear gas to push them back to the Honduran border.
Between Friday night and Saturday morning, the caravan was able to enter Guatemalan territory through a border checkpoint in Chiquimula, located 200 kilometers (124 miles) west of Guatemala city. By Saturday, local authorities had set up a barrier to contain the caravan.
Things escalated when the police barrier was breached, triggering a violent clash between the migrants and the armed forces.
According to official estimates, the caravan comprised around 9,000 migrants. Some of them were able to cross into Guatemala before the intervention took place.
"You are not getting through, and you are not going to," said Guillermo Diaz, director of the Guatemalan Institute of Migration, adding more than 20 checkpoints had been set up between Guatemala city and the Mexican border.
"It's impossible that they can continue their route. They already tried to, and it was impossible. The people that were able to cross have already been detained. We invite you to return to your homeland. We invite you to comprehend, to understand and think. It is not possible for you to continue," said Diaz.
In the last three days, migration authorities in Guatemala disclosed that over 1,383 Honduran migrants were returned to their home country while trying to cross Guatemala.