Hundreds of migrants leave Mexico City headed for border

Migrants children, part of a caravan traveling from Central America en route to the United States, look from a truck after resting with others in a makeshift camp in Matias Romero, Mexico, November 9, 2018. (REUTERS)
Updated 10 November 2018
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Hundreds of migrants leave Mexico City headed for border

  • Mexico has offered refuge, asylum or work visas to the migrants, and its government said 2,697 temporary visas had been issued to individuals and families
  • The migrants made a big point of sticking together, their only form of self-protection

MEXICO CITY: About 900 Central American migrants headed out of Mexico City on Friday to embark on the longest and most dangerous leg of their journey to the US border, while thousands more were waiting one more day at a massive improvised shelter.
The group that got a head start bundled their few possessions and started off, taking a subway to the north part of the city and then hiking down an expressway with a police escort.
For many, it was the first time they had ever been in a metro system, and they had little knowledge of the city or the 1,740 mile (2,800 kilometer) route to Tijuana that lay ahead of them.
Carlos Castanaza, a 29-year-old plumber from Guatemala City, wrapped himself from head to toe in a blanket against the cold and asked bystanders where the first toll booth was. When told it was in a town about 20 miles (30 kilometers) away, he carefully wrote the name of the town on his hand with a pen to remember where he was going.
Deported for driving without a license after a decade working in Connecticut, Castanaza was desperate to get back to his two US-born children. “I’ve been wanting to get back for more than a year, but I couldn’t until the caravan came through,” said Castanaza. “That’s why I joined the caravan.”
The advanced group hoped to reach the north-central city of Queretaro, about 105 miles (170 kilometers) to the northwest, by nightfall.
Meanwhile, at least 4,000 migrants milled around the massive shelter improvised at a Mexico City sports complex, impatient to leave.
Ninety percent of the remaining migrants will depart the stadium early Saturday on their long trek to Tijuana, first taking the subway to the northern exit from Mexico’s capital, according to Nashieli Ramirez, director of Mexico’s Human Rights Commission.
From there, they will pass through the Mexican cities of Queretaro, Guadalajara, Culiacan and Hermosillo on their way to the US border, Ramirez said, adding that 400 Mexicans had chosen to stay in Mexico City.
The governor of Queretaro state, Francisco Dominguez, said the migrants would stay at Corregidora stadium in the state’s capital and that authorities were ready to host 4,000 people.
Meanwhile, migrants in the stadium in southern Mexico City were getting impatient.
“Let’s go, let’s go!” shouted Eddy Rivera, 37, a rail-thin migrant from Honduras who said he couldn’t take staying in the camp any longer. “We are all sick, from the humidity and the cold,” said Rivera, who left behind four children and a wife in Honduras. “We have to get going, we have to get to Tijuana.”
Though he was unsure how an unskilled farmworker like himself would be allowed in the United States, he had a simple dream: earn enough money to build a little house for his family back in Puerto Cortes, Honduras.
Thousands of migrants have spent the past few days resting, receiving medical attention and debating how to proceed with their arduous trek through Central America and Mexico which began in mid-October. On Thursday, caravan representatives met with officials from the local United Nations office and demanded buses to take them to the border, saying the trek would be too hard and dangerous for walking and hitchhiking.
Caravan coordinator Milton Benitez said officials had offered them buses for women and children but organizers demanded that they be for everyone. By Friday, the migrants said they were so angry at the UN’s lack of help that they no longer wanted UN observers with the caravan.
The United Nations on Friday denied the offer, releasing a statement saying its agencies “are unable to provide the transportation demanded by some members of the caravan.”
The migrants made a big point of sticking together, their only form of self-protection.
Felix Rodriguez, 35, of Choluteca, Honduras had been at the Mexico City sports complex for more than a week.
“We all want to get moving,” he said. But he was waiting for the main group to leave Saturday, noting “it is better to leave in a group, because leaving in small bunches is dangerous.”
Mexico City is more than 600 miles from the nearest US border crossing at McAllen, Texas, but the area around the Mexican border cities of Reynosa, Matamoros and Nuevo Laredo is so rife with drug gangs that the migrants consider it too dangerous to risk.
A previous caravan in the spring opted for the longer route to Tijuana in the far northwest, across from San Diego. That caravan steadily dwindled to only about 200 people by the time it reached the border.
“California is the longest route but is the best border, while Texas is the closest but the worst” border, said Jose Luis Fuentes of the National Lawyers Guild.
Mexico has offered refuge, asylum or work visas to the migrants, and its government said 2,697 temporary visas had been issued to individuals and families to cover them while they wait for the 45-day application process for a more permanent status. On Wednesday, a bus left from Mexico City to return 37 people to their countries of origin.
But many want to continue on toward the United States.
Authorities say most have refused offers to stay in Mexico, and only a small number have agreed to return to their home countries. About 85 percent of the migrants are from Honduras, while others are from the Central American countries of Guatemala, El Salvador and Nicaragua.


Venezuela’s rival factions take power struggle to UN after talks fail

Updated 19 September 2019

Venezuela’s rival factions take power struggle to UN after talks fail

  • Guaido is seeking to get more countries, especially the European Union, to implement sanctions on Venezuela
  • Maduro calls Guaido a US puppet seeking to oust him in a coup

CARACAS/WASHINGTON: Venezuela’s rival political factions will take their power struggle to New York next week, where representatives of President Nicolas Maduro and opposition chief Juan Guaido will each try to convince a gathering of world leaders at the United Nations that their boss is the country’s legitimate head of state.
The United States and more than 50 other countries recognize Guaido, the leader of the opposition-controlled National Assembly, as the rightful president. Guaido in January invoked the constitution to assume a rival presidency to Maduro, arguing the socialist president’s May 2018 re-election was a sham.
But the 193-member UN General Assembly still recognizes Maduro, who retains the support of the UN Security Council’s veto-wielding permanent members Russia and China, setting the stage for the two sides to air their public grievances as they battle for international backing.
A round of negotiations brokered by Norway in recent months, aimed at peacefully resolving the crisis, has failed.
Guaido is seeking to get more countries, especially the European Union, to implement sanctions on Venezuela, as the United States has done.
Maduro, who has overseen a collapse of the OPEC nation’s once-prosperous economy and has been accused by the UN’s High Commissioner for Human Rights of rights violations, wants to heap pressure on the United States to lift sanctions on state oil company PDVSA and members of his inner circle.
Critics say his government’s decisions this week to free a jailed opposition lawmaker and reform Venezuela’s electoral body, long accused of bias, were aimed at improving Maduro’s image before the UN gathering.
“They want to use the UN meeting to wash their face, because they are not reaching any real solutions for the Venezuelan people,” Carlos Valero, an opposition lawmaker who sits on the National Assembly’s foreign affairs committee, said in an interview on Wednesday.
Maduro calls Guaido a US puppet seeking to oust him in a coup, and blames Washington’s sanctions for Venezuela’s economic woes. Maduro himself said he will not attend the UN gathering, but he tasked two cabinet members with presenting a petition condemning the sanctions to Secretary General Antonio Guterres.
“The UN Secretary General and all the UN agencies should raise their voice to condemn the aggression Venezuela is being subjected to, to condemn the illegal blockade,” Foreign Minister Jorge Arreaza told reporters in Geneva last Friday. “We believe that a lot more can be done from the United Nations.”
’Until Maduro is gone’
Guaido has not yet decided whether he will attend, according to his US envoy Carlos Vecchio. Julio Borges, an exiled opposition lawmaker recently named Guaido’s chief diplomat, will be in New York for side events aimed at spotlighting Venezuela’s humanitarian crisis and Maduro’s alleged support for armed rebels in Colombia.
The events include a likely meeting of the signatories of the Rio Treaty, invoked earlier this month by a dozen members of the Organization of American States (OAS), including the United States. The treaty is a Cold War-era mutual defense pact that the countries said they had invoked in response to what they called Maduro’s threat to regional stability. The OAS, unlike the UN, recognizes Guaido as Venezuela’s rightful leader.
Maduro’s government denies supporting the Colombian rebels and says the Rio Treaty is a precursor to military intervention.
In April, US Vice President Mike Pence called on the UN to revoke the credentials of Maduro’s government and recognize Guaido, but Washington has taken no action to push the measure at the General Assembly. Diplomats said it was unlikely Washington would get the support needed.
Both Washington and Venezuela’s opposition are seeking to counter perceptions that their efforts to oust Maduro have stalled.
Though differences over Iran and Afghanistan policy were the main reasons for US President Donald Trump’s firing of his hawkish national security adviser John Bolton last week, Trump had also grown increasingly impatient with the failure of sanctions and diplomatic pressure to push Maduro from power.
Despite Trump’s vows that all options were on the table, he had resisted Bolton’s push for more military planning, according to a person familiar with the matter. Trump’s aides have made clear that he is likely to impose further sanctions but the economic weapons at Washington’s disposal appear to be dwindling.
US State Department spokeswoman Morgan Ortagus said in a statement on Tuesday that the United States continued to stand with Guaido and that sanctions “will not be lifted until Maduro is gone.”
“We look forward to coming together with regional partners to discuss the multilateral economic and political options we can employ to the threat to the security of the region that Maduro represents,” she said.