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Migrant Caravan Sought to Promote Awareness of Suffering in Northern Triangle.

The migrant caravan that raised the ire of US President Donald Trump as it made its way from Central America to Mexico in March is an eight-year-old Central American tradition known as the Viacrucis Migrante (Migrant Way of the Cross).

During the caravan, which has been held since 2010 to coincide with Holy Week, hundreds of undocumented migrants contribute to create awareness about the plight of people living in the violence--and poverty-ridden region known as the Triangulo Norte de Centroamerica (Northern Triangle of Central America) (NotiCen, Jan. 7, 2016, Sept. 1, 2016,Jan. 26, 2017), made up of El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras. About 80% of this year's participants, approximately 1200 people, were mainly Hondurans, the majority women, children, and young men.

Participants in the Viacrucis--most of the time on foot, at times riding buses--follow the perilous route from Mexico's southern border with Guatemala to its northern border with the United States, in the hope that traveling in a large group will keep them from abuse by corrupt police or by ruthless organized crime networks.

But this year, they faced yet an additional threat: President Trump.

A week after the group began the journey into Mexico from the border town of Tapachula on March 25, Trump tweeted messages wrongly depicting the peaceful caravan's participants as a threat to US security. "Our country is being stolen" by undocumented migrants, he wrote.

Trump then moved 4,000 National Guard troops to reinforce the US Border Patrol on the Mexican border, while he criticized previous administrations' policies regarding border security (SourceMex, April 18, 2018).

On April 1, with the Viacrucis thousands of kilometers away from the US, Trump wrote, "Border Patrol Agents are not allowed to properly do their job at the Border because of ridiculous liberal (Democrat) laws like Catch & Release. Getting more dangerous. 'Caravans' coming. Republicans must go to Nuclear Option to pass tough laws NOW. NO MORE DACA DEAL!"

Trump said that one of the migrants' aims in seeking to enter US territory was to "take advantage" of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) immigration policy, which Trump has in the crosshairs. DACA allows undocumented adults who were brought to the US as children by their parents to avoid deportation and apply for work permits.

The following day, Trump tweeted again, now referring directly to Mexico.,

"Mexico has the absolute power not to let these large "Caravans" of people enter their country. They must stop them at their Northern Border, which they can do because their border laws work, not allow them to pass through into our country, which has no effective border laws," he wrote.

'We are not terrorists'

But caravan organizers--members of the Chicago-based human rights advocacy group Pueblo sin Fronteras (PSF), put things in perspective.

"We are not terrorists," Irineo Mujica, PSF Mexico director, told The New York Times.

"We are not anarchists. We try to help people to know their rights, things that we as human beings should be doing, try to advocate for human, sensible solutions."

PSF project coordinator Alex Mensing added that the marchers were not looking for any kind of "showdown" with the US. And in statements to reporters along the way, caravan participants reiterated that their trip was one of survival, to seek opportunities, not to pose any threat to US security.

Quoted by the Spanish news agency EFE, a Salvadoran woman identified as Janci Guadalupe said that she was traveling with her 2-year-old son, and explained that she left El Salvador because her husband had been murdered, and the killers had tried to take her son away.

"My dream is to arrive in the United States, God willing ... things are quite terrible now over there [in El Salvador]."

Caravan ends in Mexico City

Upon arrival in Mexico City on April 9, and after a visit the group made to the Catholic shrine of the Virgin of Guadalupe, some in the caravan decided to end their journey there instead of trying to reach the border.

Mujica told EFE that the Viacrucis was over, "but the defense of human rights, the fight for human rights at the border, continues."

Other members of the group continued on, eventually reaching Tijuana.

In Mexico City, caravan promoters met with members of the Mexican Senate to request an end to the violence against undocumented migrants en route to the US.

Immediately following the meeting, PSF member Rodrigo Abeja said in a press conference, "Our voice is for those who walk in helplessness" and against "the rape being suffered right now by women and children, the kidnappings, the murders, the abuse ... the violence immigration officials, criminals, and gangs are committing at this very moment against hundreds of people traveling alone."

Abeja said that it was necessary to go to "the root of the problem" and apply international pressure on the governments of Northern Triangle countries. He went on to suggest that Trump should visit the Northern Triangle and stop funding its governments.

"The solution is not repression against migrants," Mujica said. "The solution lies in [Trump] going to the Triangle of Death and, instead of giving them money, for the first time he should reprimand them."
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Author:Rodriguez, George
Publication:NotiCen: Central American & Caribbean Affairs
Geographic Code:1MEX
Date:Apr 26, 2018
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