Central Americans flee crime, poverty for better life in US

Agents of the Office of Customs and Border Protection allow access to the United States to a group of 33 migrants who are to request political asylum in the US, at the Paso del Norte International Bridge in Ciudad Juarez, Chihuahua State, Mexico, on January 9, 2019. (AFP)
Updated 10 January 2019
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Central Americans flee crime, poverty for better life in US

  • Lopez said he hopes to eventually bring his wife and other children to the United States — or at least to provide them with enough money to move to somewhere safer in Guatemala

MESILLA, United States: Ovidio Lopez Tum sold tortillas in his hometown of Chicaman in Guatemala to support his wife and eight children.
But after being wounded in machete and grenade attacks by extortionists, the 53-year-old Lopez said he decided to flee to the United States.
To bolster his request for asylum, he brought along documentation of his injuries — cuts to his head and fingers from the 2014 machete attack and shrapnel wounds from the 2017 grenade blast.
He also brought along his 12-year-old daughter, Ingrid Maribel, hoping to provide her with an education she could not receive at home.
Lopez and his daughter are among the thousands of migrants from Central America turning up at the US southern border with Mexico.
President Donald Trump has described the situation there as a humanitarian and security crisis and is engaged in a standoff with Congress over his demand for $5 billion to build a border wall.
AFP spoke with a few families who have arrived in the United States — where they await an uncertain future.
Lopez and his daughter said they left Chicaman, where they lived in a crude home with dirt floors, on December 20. They arrived at the US border 10 days later, after walking and taking buses through Mexico.
They were released after two nights in detention during which they said they were well treated by the US immigration authorities.
Upon their release, they were housed in the Basilica of San Albino, a church in the New Mexico town of Mesilla, before leaving by bus the next day for Alabama, where Lopez has family.
Lopez said he hopes to eventually bring his wife and other children to the United States — or at least to provide them with enough money to move to somewhere safer in Guatemala.

Ricardo Chub-Bo, a 40-year-old corn farmer, also made the perilous voyage from Guatemala to the United States with his 14-year-old daughter, Rosa Maria.
He said he decided to come to the United States because he could no longer support his wife and three children growing corn.
They were released into the care of the Basilica of San Albino after eight days in detention and will head to Philadelphia by Greyhound bus.
Since neither one speaks English, the church provided them with written instructions to help them on their three-day bus trip along with a phone number to call if they need help.
Most of the refugees arriving at the US-Mexico border are from three violence- and poverty-wracked nations in Central America — El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras.

Gerbin Asmar Hernandez, 26, is from Santa Barbara, a town in Honduras near the border with Guatemala.
Fed up with high crime back home, Hernandez made the journey to the United States through Mexico with his 10-year-old daughter, Annarut, leaving his wife and a son behind.
Hernandez said that a few years ago, about a week before Christmas, he was robbed of the $300 he had made while working for a month on a coffee plantation.
“I was just one hour away from my town and I got robbed,” he said.
“You can’t carry around money because you will get robbed.”
Hernandez and his daughter flew to Washington state, where they will await a court date — and for a judge to decide whether they can remain in the United States.
In the meantime, he is wearing an ankle bracelet to track his movements.

Also from Honduras is Fanny Mencia, 26, who made the voyage from her hometown of Siguatepeque to the border with her son Anderson Rodriguez, age seven.
“We suffered along the way, sleeping in the street,” Mencia said of the trip through Mexico.
Mencia, who is six months pregnant, said she left behind the father of her unborn child, whose meager wages did not cover the food bill for everyone.
She and her son are heading for Tennessee, where her sister lives.


At least 11 wounded in Somalia Al-Shabab claimed attack

Updated 15 min 47 sec ago
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At least 11 wounded in Somalia Al-Shabab claimed attack

  • Authorities have not said if there are any deaths in the attack
  • The extremist group is fighting against foreign influences which they see as heretic

MOGADISHU: At least 11 people were wounded when gunmen set off explosions and stormed government ministries in Somalia’s capital Saturday in an attack claimed by the Al-Shabab extremist group, police said.
“There can be others inside but we have so far collected eleven people wounded in the attack,” said Abdukadir Abdirahman Adan, director of the Aamin ambulance service in the capital Mogadishu.
Police say the assault began when two explosions were set off near the ministries of public works and labor.
Gunmen entered the buildings following the blasts.
“The security forces rescued many of the staff from the buildings and they are still engaging some gunmen who managed to enter the building after the blast,” said security commander Ahmed Adan.
It remained unclear if there were any deaths in the attack.
The attack was claimed by the Al-Shabab extremist group, which is fighting an armed insurrection in Somalia against what it sees as heretic and foreign influence.
Attacks that use a combination of bombs and gunmen have become a hallmark of the insurgents.
Earlier this month, at least 20 people died in an attack in Mogadishu which saw Al-Shabab extremists battling security forces for nearly 24 hours.
The group also claimed responsibility for a March 7 car bombing near a restaurant in the capital that killed four people.