Grow­ing frus­tra­tion

Ex­hausted mi­grants los­ing their faith in group’s lead­er­ship

Albany Times Union - Sunday - - FRONT PAGE - By Soo­nia Perez D. Associated Press

Mi­grant car­a­van shows signs of splin­ter­ing.

Isla, Mex­ico Pa­tience among 4,000 Cen­tral Amer­i­can mi­grants ap­peared to be wear­ing thin on Satur­day, as ex­hausted mem­bers of the car­a­van jour­ney­ing to­ward the United States openly dis­agreed with or­ga­niz­ers who are shep­herd­ing the group through south­ern Mex­ico.

Sev­eral thou­sand mi­grants opted to rest in the towns of Juan Ro­driguez Clara, Ver­acruz and Isla, Ver­acruz, which are about 40 miles from their pre­vi­ous rest stop in Sayula. An­other con­tin­gent splin­tered off by hitch­hik­ing rides and walk­ing to Tierra Blanca, Ver­acruz, which lies about 80 ex­tra miles to the north.

Many said they no longer had faith in those or­ga­niz­ing the large group after con­fu­sion broke out re­gard­ing buses that would have taken mi­grants on a route to Mex­ico City.

On Fri­day, Ver­acruz

Gov. Miguel An­gel Yunes re­neged on a brief of­fer to pro­vide trans­porta­tion, say­ing that it would not be cor­rect to send the mi­grants be­cause Mex­ico City’s wa­ter sys­tem was un­der­go­ing main­te­nance and 7 mil­lion of its peo­ple would be with­out wa­ter over the week­end.

In the lapse be­tween his de­ci­sions, or­ga­niz­ers told mem­bers of the car­a­van that buses would in­deed be avail­able, caus­ing some mi­grants to go to sleep with the im­pres­sion that they should wake up early to stake out a place in line.

Hu­man rights ac­tivist Ernesto Cas­taneda said there’s still a pos­si­bil­ity that bulk trans­porta­tion will be ar­ranged Satur­day.

But as mi­grants strug­gle with ex­haus­tion, blis­ters, sick­ness, and swollen feet hun­dreds of miles from the clos­est U.S. bor­der, tem­pers flared within their ranks.

“Peo­ple are mad and con­fused,” said Saira Cabr­era, a 36-year-old trav­el­ing with her hus­band and two chil­dren aged 7 and 13.

Ger­ardo Perez, a 20-year-old mi­grant, said he was tired.

“They’re play­ing with our dig­nity. If you could have only seen the peo­ple’s hap­pi­ness last night when they told us that we were go­ing by bus and to­day we’re not,” he said.

It re­mained to be seen if the group would stick to­gether and con­tinue em­ploy­ing the ‘strength in num­bers’ strat­egy which has en­abled them to mo­bi­lize through Mex­ico and in­spire sub­se­quent mi­grant car­a­vans to try their luck.

On Fri­day, an­other car­a­van — this time from El Sal­vador — waded over the Suchi­ate River into Mex­ico, bring­ing 1,000 to 1,500 peo­ple who want to reach the U.S. bor­der.

That car­a­van ini­tially tried to cross the bridge be­tween Gu­atemala and Mex­ico, but Mex­i­can au­thor­i­ties told them they would have to show pass­ports and visas and en­ter in groups of 50 for pro­cess­ing.

The Sal­vado­rans opted in­stead to wade across a shal­low stretch of the river to en­ter Mex­ico. Po­lice in the vicin­ity did not try to stop the mi­grants, who later walked along a high­way to­ward the near­est large city, Ta­pachula.

Mex­ico is now faced with the un­prece­dented sit­u­a­tion of hav­ing three car­a­vans stretched out over 300 miles of high­ways in the states of Chi­a­pas, Oax­aca and Ver­acruz, with a to­tal of more than 6,000 mi­grants.

The first, largest group of mainly Hon­duran mi­grants en­tered Mex­ico on Oct. 19. The car­a­van has shrunk to less than 4,000 mi­grants, al­though it has be­come dif­fi­cult to give ex­act num­bers as mi­grants ad­vance to­ward small towns any way they can.

An­other car­a­van, also of about 1,000 to 1,500 peo­ple, en­tered Mex­ico ear­lier this week and is now in Ma­paste­pec, Chi­a­pas. That group in­cludes Hon­durans, Sal­vado­rans and some Gu­atemalans. Mex­i­can of­fi­cials ap­peared con­flicted over whether to help or hin­der their jour­neys.

Rodrigo Abd / Associated Press

Cen­tral Amer­i­can mi­grants, part of the car­a­van hop­ing to reach the U.S. bor­der, jump in a truck for a ride in Isla, Ver­acruz state, Mex­ico, on Satur­day.

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