North America

Migrant caravan pauses to rest in Mexico City as US goes to the polls

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Around 4,500 Central American migrants, who are winding their way to the US, have gathered at a Mexico City stadium after their arduous trek.

Thousands of mostly Honduran migrants travelling through Mexico have gathered in the capital after a 1600-km journey, with a handful saying US President Donald Trump's hostility has deterred them from continuing to the United States.

Officials estimated 4,500 migrants were camped in a Mexico City sports stadium, dirty and exhausted after a journey through the violence-plagued state of Veracruz this week.

 People of the migrant caravan rest in the sports center Jesus Martinez Palillo, in Mexico City.
People of the migrant caravan rest in the sports center Jesus Martinez Palillo, in Mexico City.
AP

While most in the caravan are still planning to reach the US, several in the crowd said they were now considering alternative destinations.

The caravan has incurred Trump's wrath ahead of this week's US congressional elections. As they try to hang on to control of Congress, Republican candidates have been following Trump's lead and using rhetoric about immigrants as a tactic to motivate voters.

Trump has ordered 7,000 troops to the border, while a commercial approved by his campaign that linked the caravan to crime was pulled by US networks on Monday.

"Mexico," said Franklin Martinez, 46, a maintenance man from Intibuca, Honduras, when asked about his final destination.

"I'll stay here if they let me work."

Members of the migrants caravan rest at the sports center Jesus Martinez Palillo, in Mexico City, Mexico.
Members of the migrants caravan rest at the sports center Jesus Martinez Palillo, in Mexico City, Mexico.
AAP

Like Martinez, five others at the stadium said they were now less sure about trying their luck in the US.

"Canada," said two Hondurans, Marel Santos, 18, and Alexander Chavez, 19, of their intended destination, citing Trump's angry response to the caravan.

The pair, who met in the caravan, stood waiting for food in a line that snaked around the stadium. Bedraggled men, women and children had bedded down in the sports arena on Monday night, bundled in blankets or donated sweaters to face the mountain capital's chill.

Their arrival in the Mexican capital was a measure of the migrants' tenacity despite attempts by four governments - Honduras, Guatemala, Mexico and the United States - to break them up.

Mexico City's human rights ombudsman said some 4,500 migrants had arrived at the stadium by Tuesday morning, although around 6,500 have left the caravan and returned home to Honduras, according to Honduran President Juan Orlando Hernandez.

A migrant child sits outside a tent, taking shelter at the Jesus Martinez stadium in Mexico City.
A migrant child sits outside a tent, taking shelter at the Jesus Martinez stadium in Mexico City.
AP

Since it set off from one of the world's most violent cities, San Pedro Sula, Honduras, on October 13, the caravan has met intermittent police resistance at the Honduran border with Guatemala, on a bridge connecting Guatemala to Mexico, and at the crossing point between the southern Mexican states of Chiapas and Oaxaca.

Over the weekend, an offer of transport from local authorities in the town of Sayula, Veracruz, was revoked at the last minute, leaving migrants forced to hitch-hike onward through drug-cartel territory.

Some former members of the caravan said they were deported back to Honduras after it fragmented into smaller groups in southern Mexico.

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