Migrant Caravan Moving to Western Mexico City of Guadalajara

Several thousand Central American migrants marked a month on the road Monday as they hitched rides to the western Mexico city of Guadalajara and toward the U.S. border.

Most appear intent on taking the Pacific coast route northward to the border city of Tijuana, which is still about 1,550 miles (2,500 kilometers) away. The migrants have come about 1,200 miles (1,900 kilometers) since they started out in Honduras around Oct. 13.

While they previously suffered from the heat on their journey through Honduras, Guatemala and southern Mexico, they now trek along highways wrapped in blankets to fend off the morning chill.

Karen Martinez of Copan, Honduras, and her three children bundled up with jackets, scarves and a blanket.

“Sometimes we go along laughing, sometimes crying, but we keep on going,” she said. 

By late afternoon, the first migrants arrived on the outskirts of Guadalajara, and buses took them to an auditorium where they would sleep for the night.

While the caravan previously averaged only about 30 miles (50 kilometers) a day, the migrants are now covering daily distances of 185 miles (300 kilometers) or more, partly because they are relying on hitchhiking rather than walking.

On Monday morning, migrants gathered on a highway leading out of the central city of Irapuato looking for rides to Guadalajara about 150 miles (242 kilometers) away.

“Now the route is less complicated,” Martinez said.

Indeed, migrants have hopped aboard so many different kinds of trucks that they are no longer surprised by anything. Some have stacked themselves four levels high on a truck intended for pigs. On Monday, a few boarded a truck carrying a shipment of coffins, while yet others squeezed into a truck with narrow cages used for transporting chickens.

Many, especially men, travel on open platform trailers used to transport steel and cars, or get in the freight containers of 18-wheelers and ride with one of the back doors open to provide air flow.

The practice is not without dangers. Earlier, a Honduran man in the caravan died when he fell from a platform truck in the Mexican state of Chiapas.

Jose Alejandro Caray, 17, of Yoro, Honduras, fell a week ago and injured his knee.

“I can’t bend it,” Caray said as he watched other migrants swarm aboard tractor-trailers.

“Now I’m afraid to get on,” he said. “I prefer to wait for a pickup truck.”

After several groups got lost after clambering on semi-trailers, caravan coordinators began encouraging migrants to ask drivers first or have someone ride in the cab so they could tell the driver where to turn off.

Over the weekend, the central state of Queretaro reported 6,531 migrants moving through the state. Another group was farther behind and expected to arrive in Mexico City on Monday.

The caravan became a campaign issue in U.S. midterm elections and U.S. President Donald Trump has ordered the deployment of over 5,000 military troops to the border to fend off the migrants. Trump has insinuated without proof that there are criminals or even terrorists in the group.

Many say they are fleeing rampant poverty, gang violence and political instability primarily in the Central American countries of Honduras, Guatemala, El Salvador and Nicaragua.

Mexico has offered refuge, asylum or work visas, and its government said 2,697 temporary visas had been issued to individuals and families to cover them during the 45-day application process for more permanent status.

But most migrants vow to continue to the United States.

Jose Tulio Rodriguez, 30, of Siguatepeque, Honduras, celebrated his 30th birthday at a migrant shelter in Mexico City last week before setting out with the rest of the caravan.

“The distance between cities is longer” than it was at the start, Rodriguez noted, “but thanks to the people of Mexico, we haven’t suffered.” 

Those distances will get longer the farther they travel into northern Mexico, where towns of any size are often 250 miles (400 kilometers) apart. 

Bolsonaro: Brazil Pension Reform Legislation Unlikely in 2018

Brazil’s Congress is unlikely to pass pension reform legislation this year, far-right President-elect Jair Bolsonaro said on Monday, a blow to investor hopes that caused the country’s currency to weaken in futures markets.

Investors snapped up Brazilian assets in the wake of Bolsonaro’s election victory last month, cheered by his party’s stronger-than-expected showing in congressional races, which raised hopes he could make quick advances on fiscal reforms.

Many economists say cuts to Brazil’s social security system are essential to controlling a huge federal deficit and regaining Brazil’s investment-grade rating.

Last week, Bolsonaro said he would like to see some form of pension reform passed this year to make it easier to deal with the deficit after he takes office on Jan. 1.

On Monday, however, he told reporters in Rio de Janeiro that after speaking with his chief economic advisor Paulo Guedes, passing a 2018 pension reform bill looked increasingly unlikely.

He added that the reform would not just be based on crunching the numbers, but would also have to take into account the social impact of the overhaul.

Brazil’s currency, the real, weakened against the U.S. dollar in futures markets after his comments.

Bolsonaro also said that no decision had yet been taken on the next head of state-controlled oil company Petroleo Brasileiro SA, with more names for the chief executive position set to come out on Tuesday.

Separately, Guedes said on Monday that World Bank chief financial officer and former Brazilian finance minister Joaquim Levy had accepted Bolsonaro’s offer to lead state development bank BNDES.

Colombia’s Ex-rebels Turn Rafting Guides

The nine former rebel fighters, who traded their guns, battle fatigues and heavy rucksacks for paddles, helmets and life jackets, launch four rafts laden with visitors into the turbulent Pato River, deep in Colombia’s dense Amazon jungle.

The former guerrillas from the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) have chosen rafting as their path to reintegration, as the government pushes to make tourism a top engine of the Andean nation’s economy.

“During the conflict, this region was rough, there were bullets and bombs all the time. Today, so much has changed — many people come to see the waterfalls, the mountain, the river,” guide Duberney Moreno, 34, a 13-year veteran of the FARC, said on Friday.

Nearly 13,000 former combatants and their unarmed sympathizers are participating in a reintegration process agreed as part of a 2016 peace deal to end more than 52 years of war with the government.

Reincorporation is considered fundamental to ensuring former FARC members do not return to the battlefield with smaller rebel group the National Liberation Army (ELN), numerous crime gangs and dissident groups that refused to demobilize.

The conflict in Colombia has killed more than 260,000 people and millions more have been displaced, suffered sexual violence or been maimed by land mines or bombs.

Implementation of the polarizing deal has advanced slowly, but the FARC is now a political party with 10 guaranteed seats in Congress through 2026.

Many former fighters have returned home to reunite with their families, but some 5,000 have remained in 24 demobilization zones like the one on the Pato, turning them into makeshift towns built on Marxist principles.

Certified rafters 

The government has budgeted some $1.6 million to help those in the zones, which are protected by government forces, start some 300 farming, ranching, shoemaking, fishery, woodworking and now tourism projects.

Many ex-combatants, most of whom come from poor, rural backgrounds, have also contributed the money they were given upon demobilization to the projects.

Moreno and eight other former fighters got 200 hours of guide training and are now certified by the International Rafting Federation.

The site in Caqueta province cost $20,000 to construct and features hiking trails and lodging. Former fighters cook meals and drive visitors two hours by rutted road from the nearest large town.

“We have to keep supporting these initiatives — they create confidence in the peace process,” said Jessica Faieta, deputy chief of the United Nations’ mission in Colombia, which helps manage reintegration.

President Ivan Duque, who took office in August, has said tourism could be the country’s new economic driver. Travel to Colombia has spiked in recent years, as stereotypes about violence are offset by positive media coverage of the country’s diverse destinations.

“I want tourism to be Colombia’s new oil and for it to be the great invigorator of economic activity,” Duque said at a recent event.

More than 3.3 million tourists visited Colombia in 2017, a 23.9 percent jump from 2016. Figures from the past two years were more than double rates in 2010 and before, when just 1.4 million people visited.

The government estimates tourism has the potential to generate $6 billion annually and some 300,000 jobs.

Colombia has coastline on both the Caribbean and the Pacific Ocean, Amazonian jungle, Andean glaciers and cosmopolitan urban areas, as well as a plethora of adventure sports and wildlife.

Moreno and his colleagues are optimistic about their future on the river.

“We want peace,” Moreno said, standing on a beach along the Pato in the suffocating heat. “We believe a different Colombia is possible.”

Human Rights Commission Expresses ‘Concern’ Over Brazil

The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights has expressed “deep concern” over human rights in Brazil and says it will monitor what happens when the government of President-elect Jair Bolsonaro assumes office on Jan. 1.

The commission released a report Monday after a one-week visit to eight states in the country.

It highlighted violence suffered by indigenous people, the growing exclusion of those on the streets, a culture of impunity among police and threats against freedom of expression.

“The focus must be on the protection of life,” said commission president Margarette May Macaulay at a press conference.

Brazil is one of the countries with the highest homicide rates in the world, with 30.8 violent deaths per 100,000 inhabitants.

Last year, an estimated 5,012 people were killed by police.

Trudeau: Canada has Heard Turkish Recordings on Khashoggi’s Killing

Canadian intelligence officers have listened to Turkish recordings of what happened to Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said on Monday, adding that he was discussing with allies what next steps should be taken.

Khashoggi, a critic of Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, was killed at the kingdom’s Istanbul consulate by a team sent from Riyadh. Saudi authorities have acknowledged that the killing was premeditated, but his body has not been found.

Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan said over the weekend that audio recordings of the killing had been given to the U.S., French, German and British governments.

When asked on a visit to Paris whether Canadian intelligence had heard the Turkish recordings, Trudeau said: “Yes”, although he added that had not heard them personally.

 

 

“Canada’s intelligence agencies have been working very closely on this issue with Turkish intelligence and Canada has been fully briefed on what Turkey had to share,” Trudeau told a news conference.

He added that he had also spoken to Erdogan about the issue in Paris over the weekend.

Canada is part of the so-called five eyes intelligence network which shares information along with the United States, Britain, Australia and New Zealand.

Trudeau faces a dilemma as an election approaches over how to clamp down credibly on Riyadh over its human rights record while sparing a $13 billion arms deal with the kingdom.

He is under pressure to freeze the contract for armored vehicles built in Canada by U.S.-based General Dynamics, although the deal underpins 3,000 jobs in the small city of London, Ontario.

Sidestepping a question on whether the recordings could change Ottawa’s relationship with Riyadh and have consequences, Trudeau said he was continuing to talk with allies about the investigation and accountability for those behind the murder.

“We are in discussions with our like-minded allies as to the next steps with regard to Saudi Arabia,” Trudeau said.

Earlier on Monday, French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said Paris was not in possession of recordings related to Khashoggi’s killings, apparently contradicting Erdogan’s remarks.

“The truth isn’t out yet. We want to know the truth, the circumstances of his death and the identity of the culprits.

Then we will take the necessary actions,” Le Drian told France 2 television. “If the Turkish president has information to give us, he must give it to us. For now, I don’t know about it.”

US-bound Migrants Reach Central Mexican City of Irapuato 

Migrants from Central American countries are moving on toward the United States, sometimes with the help of drivers traveling north. 

A caravan arrived Sunday in Irapuato, an agricultural city about 100 kilometers (62 miles) north of Queretaro, where the group had spent Saturday night. 

Although Mexican law enforcement is not providing transportation for the caravan, police are helping them find vehicles for rides. 

The government of Queretaro said in a tweet that 6,531 migrants had moved through the state between Friday and Saturday and 5,771 of them departed Sunday morning from the shelters they were using. 

Although the caravan is over 2,500 kilometers (1,550 miles) from the U.S. border, the route taken indicates that migrants are eyeing the Mexican city of Tijuana across the border from the U.S. city of San Diego. 

Many of the migrants, who have been on the road for weeks, say they were forced to leave their countries of origin because of poverty, gang violence and political instability. They are primarily from the Central American countries of Honduras, Guatemala, El Salvador and Nicaragua. 

The migrants became a campaign issue in U.S. midterm elections, and President Donald Trump has ordered the deployment of over 5,000 military troops to the border to prevent them from entering the United States illegally. 

Brazil Landslide Kills at Least 10, Injures 11

Heavy rains caused an early morning mudslide Saturday near Rio de Janeiro, killing 10 people, injuring 11 and leaving at least four missing, Brazilian authorities said.

The mudslide in Niteroi, an area outside Rio’s downtown, was caused by heavy downpours, Roberto Robadey, Rio’s civil defense department head, told Globo TV network.

Robadey said that after two days of heavy rain “a state of alert was declared for Niteroi.” He added that people were urged “to move to safer locations.”

Rescuers said the rain loosened a large boulder, which struck several homes and businesses. Rescuers continued to look for survivors and victims buried in the debris and mud.

Pastor Pedro Paulo dos Santos, who arrived to help, told the Associated Press, “(I found) a scene of desperation, of crying. … In my case, this is the first time that I experience a thing like this… (I saw) many people trying to retrieve a person who was alive in the rubble.”

Landslides and floods are common in Brazil, often affecting poor communities where shacks are built on steep, unstable hillsides.

Migrant Caravan Continues Trek Toward US Border Despite Trump’s Suspension of Asylum Rights

U.S. President Donald Trump’s suspension of asylum rights for immigrants illegally trying to enter the U.S. took effect Saturday, but some 4,000 Central American migrants remain undeterred as they continue their trek toward the U.S.

Trump signed a proclamation Friday tightening the U.S.-Mexico border, maintaining the illegal entry of immigrants across the southern border is harmful to the national interests of the U.S.

Still, a caravan of nearly 4,000 Central American migrants left a stadium in southern Mexico City early Saturday to embark on the most dangerous and longest leg of its journey. The caravan followed about 900 migrants who left Mexico City on Friday.

The migrants planned to head toward the northwest, passing through the Mexican cities of Queretaro, Guadalajara, Culiacan and Hermosillo, until they arrive in Tijuana just south of the U.S. California border, Mexico’s Human Rights Commission said.

Mexico City is about 965 kilometers from the closest U.S. border crossing at McAllen, Texas, but the most direct route to McAllen is teeming with drug gang activity. While the route to California is more circuitous and still dangerous, the migrants consider it safer.

Three civil rights groups immediately challenged Trump’s plan to limit asylum requests in court. The American Civil Liberties Union, the Southern Poverty Law Center and the Center for Constitutional Rights filed lawsuits Friday in San Francisco federal court seeking an injunction against the order.

“President Trump’s new asylum ban is illegal,” said the ACLU’s Omar Jadwat. “Neither the president nor his cabinet secretaries can override their clear commands of U.S. law, but that’s exactly what they’re trying to do.”

The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees criticized the Trump administration for not fulfilling obligations to help refugees.

“UNHCR expects all countries, including the United States, to make sure any person in need of refugee protection and humanitarian assistance is able to receive both promptly and without obstruction,” it said in a statement.

The Geneva-based agency said that the U.S. was forcing migrants to seek help from human smugglers to cross borders illegally.

Although migrant caravans from Central America are fairly routine, Trump made this caravan a campaign issue in the midterm elections in an attempt to energize his supporters. Trump ordered the deployment of more than 5,000 troops to the border to prevent the migrants from entering the U.S. In addition to making asylum more difficult to obtain, Trump has threatened to detain applicants in tent cities.

Most of the migrants are from Honduras, while others are from Guatemala, El Salvador and Nicaragua. They say violence and poverty forced them to leave their home countries and seek refuge in the U.S.

 

Migrant Caravan Begins Next Stage of Its Journey

Hundreds of members of the migrant caravan making its way north to the United States left early Friday from the Jesus Martinez Stadium in Mexico City, eager to get back on the road.

Around 5,000 migrants are camped at the improvised refugee shelter set up about a week ago in Mexico City, where they are getting rest and medical care after several weeks of rugged travel conditions.

The migrants are from Honduras, Guatemala, El Salvador and Nicaragua and say they are fleeing violence and poverty in their home countries.

While many of those remaining at the stadium are hoping the United Nations or another organization will provide them with buses north, those who left Friday said they couldn’t wait any longer.

Mexico City authorities provided those leaving with a free subway ride to the northernmost stop on the line. From there, they are headed for the city of Queretaro to the northwest.

The caravan members are ultimately expected to end up in Tijuana, the Mexican city just over the border from the U.S. state of California.

U.S. President Donald Trump has said they will not be allowed to cross the border into the United States. He has said the caravan contains criminals, terrorists, and “unknown Middle Easterners.”

He has said his move to deploy U.S. troops to the border shows the United States is “not playing games.”

Mexican human rights officials say nearly all of the migrants are women, children, and the elderly. They say the men they have seen were traveling with their families.

The caravan left San Pedro Sula, Honduras, on October 13. Two other, smaller, caravans are also making their way north.

Ahead of the U.S. midterm elections on November 6, Trump made immigration a major campaign issue, accusing Democrats of being in favor of open borders while saying Republicans want to secure U.S. borders and tighten immigration laws.

More Migrants From Far-Flung Lands Crossing US-Mexico Border

The young man traversed Andean mountains, plains and cities in buses, took a harrowing boat ride in which five fellow migrants drowned, walked through thick jungle for days, and finally reached the U.S.-Mexico border.

Then Abdoulaye Camara, from the poor West African country of Mauritania, asked U.S. officials for asylum.

Camara’s arduous journey highlights how immigration to the United States through its southern border is evolving. Instead of being almost exclusively people from Latin America, the stream of migrants crossing the Mexican border these days includes many who come from the other side of the world.

Almost 3,000 citizens of India were apprehended entering the U.S. from Mexico last year. In 2007, only 76 were. The number of Nepalese rose from just four in 2007 to 647 last year. More people from Africa are also seeking to get into the United States, with hundreds having reached Mexican towns across the border from Texas in recent weeks, according to local news reports from both sides of the border.

Camara’s journey began more than a year ago in the small town of Toulel, in southern Mauritania. He left Mauritania, where slavery is illegal but still practiced, “because it’s a country that doesn’t know human rights,” he said.

Camara was one of 124 migrants who ended up in a federal prison in Oregon after being detained in the U.S. near the border with Mexico in May, the result of the Trump administration’s zero tolerance policy.

He was released October 3, after he had passed his “credible fear” exam, the first step on obtaining asylum, and members of the community near the prison donated money for his bond. He was assisted by lawyers working pro bono.

 

 “My heart is so gracious, and I am so happy. I really thank my lawyers who got me out of that detention,” Camara said in French as he rode in a car away from the prison.

Camara’s journey was epic, yet more people are making similar treks to reach the United States. It took him from his village on the edge of the Sahara desert to Morocco by plane and then a flight to Brazil. He stayed there 15 months, picking apples in orchards and saving his earnings as best he could. Finally he felt he had enough to make it to the United States.

All that lay between him and the U.S. border was 6,000 miles (9,700 kilometers).

“It was very, very difficult,” said Camara, 30. “I climbed mountains, I crossed rivers. I crossed many rivers, the sea.”

Camara learned Portuguese in Brazil and could understand a lot of Spanish, which is similar, but not speak it very well. He rode buses through Brazil, Peru and Colombia. Then he and others on the migrant trail faced the most serious obstacle: the Darien Gap, a 60-mile (97-kilometer) stretch of roadless jungle straddling the border of Colombia and Panama.

But first, he and other travelers who gathered in the town of Turbo, Colombia, had to cross the Gulf of Uraba, a long and wide inlet from the Caribbean Sea. Turbo, on its southeast shore, has become a major point on the migrant trail, where travelers can resupply and where human smugglers offer boat rides.

Camara and about 75 other people boarded a launch for Capurgana, a village next to the Panamanian border on the other end of the gulf.

While the slow-moving boat was far from shore, the seas got very rough.

“There was a wave that came and tipped over the canoe,” Camara said. “Five people fell into the water, and they couldn’t swim.”

They all drowned, he said. The survivors pushed on.

Finally arriving in Capurgana after spending two nights on the boat, the migrants split into smaller groups to cross the infamous Darien Gap, a wild place that has tested the most seasoned of travelers. The thick jungle hides swamps that can swallow a man. Lost travelers have died, and been devoured, boots and all, by packs of wild boars, or have been found, half out of their minds.

Camara’s group consisted of 37 people, including women — two of them pregnant, one from Cameroon and one from Congo — and children.

“We walked seven days and climbed up into the mountains, into the forest,” Camara said. “When it was night, we slept on the ground. We just kept walking and sleeping, walking and sleeping. It was hard.”

One man, who was around 26 and from the African nation of Guinea, died, perhaps from exhaustion combined with thirst, Camara said.

By the sixth day, all the drinks the group had brought with them were gone. They drank water from a river. They came across a Panamanian man and his wife, who sold them some bananas for $5, Camara said.

Once he got out of the jungle, Camara went to Panamanian immigration officials who gave him travel documents enabling him to go on to Costa Rica, which he reached by bus. In Costa Rica, he repeated that process in hopes of going on to Nicaragua. But he heard authorities there were not so accommodating, so he and about 100 other migrants took a boat around Nicaragua, traveling at night along its Pacific coast.

“All we could see were the lights of Nicaragua,” he said. Then it was over land again, in cars, buses and sometimes on foot, across Honduras, Guatemala and Mexico, all the way to the U.S. border at Tijuana. He was just about out of money and spent the night in a migrant shelter.

On May 20, he crossed into San Ysidro, south of San Diego.

“I said, `I came, I came. I’m from Africa. I want help,”‘ he said.

He is going to stay with a brother in Philadelphia while he pursues his asylum request.