VADO HONDO, (Guatemala): Thousands of Honduran migrants trying to reach the United States on a journey of thousands of kilometers through Central America on foot remained stuck in Guatemala on Monday, their advance stymied by security forces.

On the third day of their journey on Sunday, the group was met in the southeastern town of Vado Hondo, near the border with Honduras, with tear gas and batons wielded by police and soldiers with strict orders to stop anyone without travel documents or a negative coronavirus test.

An estimated 4,000 people remained in the north-bound caravan Monday, according to Guatemala migration authorities, of about 9,000 who had set out from Honduras since last Friday.

Hundreds dispersed in different directions after Sunday’s confrontation with security forces, and more than 1,500 have returned to Honduras.

Those staying the course, including families with young children, spent a second night Sunday out of doors in Vado Hondo, less than 50 kilometers (31 miles) inside the Guatemala border.

Among them, 50-year-old Melvin Cabrera told AFP he had no intention of turning back. “I am a welder, a carpenter, a bricklayer and more, but I cannot find work to take care of the family” in Honduras, he said.

Saying they are desperate to escape poverty, unemployment, gang and drug violence and the aftermath of two devastating hurricanes, the migrants aim to cross Guatemala and Mexico to the United States.

They are hoping for a warmer welcome, and a better life, in the America of President-elect Joe Biden after years of anti-immigrant rhetoric by Donald Trump. But the quest is likely to end in heartbreak for many, with Guatemala having deployed 5,000 soldiers along the arduous route, and Washington already having warned off the would-be asylum seekers.—AFP