Migrants complain of smells, snakes in southern Mexico town

Published 11-02-2018

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MATIAS ROMERO, Mexico (AP) - Migrants from Central America complained of foul smells, snakes and dim lighting in the lot where organizers recommended they camp overnight in southern Mexico, and some occupied a nearby abandoned hotel that had been damaged by an earthquake.

Thousands of migrants arrived in the town of Matias Romero after an exhausting 40-mile (65-kilometer) trek from Juchitan, Oaxaca, where they failed to get the bus transportation they had hoped for. After nightfall, the group decided they would leave at 5 a.m. local time Friday toward the coastal state of Veracruz, with their destination either the town of Donaji or Sayula de Aleman.

Cesar Caraca, a 26-year-old migrant from Honduras, said he killed a poisonous coral snake in the brush near the site at the entrance to Matias Romero where they had set up camp.

"This bites a child and kills him," Caraca said. The meter-long snake coupled with complaints of bad smells and poor lighting led some migrants to move to an empty hotel that had been damaged by a 2017 earthquake.

The migrants have not said what route they intend to take northward or where on the U.S. border they plan to reach, but Veracruz would take them toward the Texas border. Another large caravan early this year passed through Veracruz but then veered back toward Mexico City and eventually tried to head to Tijuana in the far northwest. Few made it.

Immigration agents and police in Mexico are nibbling at the edges of two caravans currently making their way through southern Mexico.

While authorities haven't directly targeted the main caravan of about 4,000 migrants, a second, smaller caravan about 200 miles behind the first group appeared to be more leaderless, get less press attention and be more vulnerable.

A federal official who was not authorized to be quoted by name said 153 migrants in the second caravan were detained Wednesday during highway inspections in the southern state of Chiapas, a short distance from the Guatemalan border. While the precise size of the second caravan is unclear, that could be equivalent to about 10 percent of those participating.

And there was also pressure on the first caravan. Not only did the hoped-for buses not arrive, but federal police began pulling freight trucks over and forcing migrants off, saying their habit of clinging to the tops or sides of the trucks was dangerous.

"Get off! Get off!" police officer Benjamin Grajeda shouted to a group of migrants clinging to the side of a truck outside Juchitan. "You can ride inside, but not on the outside."

At other points along

While authorities haven't directly targeted the main caravan of about 4,000 migrants, a second, smaller caravan about 200 miles behind the first group appeared to be more leaderless, get less press attention and be more vulnerable.

A federal official who was not authorized to be quoted by name said 153 migrants in the second caravan were detained Wednesday during highway inspections in the southern state of Chiapas, a short distance from the Guatemalan border. While the precise size of the second caravan is unclear, that could be equivalent to about 10 percent of those participating.

And there was also pressure on the first caravan. Not only did the hoped-for buses not arrive, but federal police began pulling freight trucks over and forcing migrants off, saying their habit of clinging to the tops or sides of the trucks was dangerous.

"Get off! Get off!" police officer Benjamin Grajeda shouted to a group of migrants clinging to the side of a truck outside Juchitan. "You can ride inside, but not on the outside."

At other points along the route, police have forced overloaded pickups to disgorge migrants. On previous days, they have ordered passenger vans to stop transporting migrants.

White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders earlier praised Mexico for stopping the migrants from getting rides.

"Mexico has stepped up in an unprecedented way," Sanders told Fox News. "They have helped stop a lot of the transportation means of these individuals in these caravans, forcing them walking. They have helped us in new ways to slow this down, to break this up and keep it from moving as aggressively toward the United States."

But U.S. President Donald Trump ramped up his pre-election focus on the caravan and others behind it, talking of creating a U.S. military force on the border that would outnumber the migrants, many of them women and children.

"As far as the caravan is concerned, our military is out," Trump said. "We have about 5,800. We'll go up to anywhere between 10,000 and 15,000 military personnel on top of Border Patrol, ICE and everybody else at the border."

A third band of

And there was also pressure on the first caravan. Not only did the hoped-for buses not arrive, but federal police began pulling freight trucks over and forcing migrants off, saying their habit of clinging to the tops or sides of the trucks was dangerous.

"Get off! Get off!" police officer Benjamin Grajeda shouted to a group of migrants clinging to the side of a truck outside Juchitan. "You can ride inside, but not on the outside."

At other points along the route, police have forced overloaded pickups to disgorge migrants. On previous days, they have ordered passenger vans to stop transporting migrants.

White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders earlier praised Mexico for stopping the migrants from getting rides.

"Mexico has stepped up in an unprecedented way," Sanders told Fox News. "They have helped stop a lot of the transportation means of these individuals in these caravans, forcing them walking. They have helped us in new ways to slow this down, to break this up and keep it from moving as aggressively toward the United States."

But U.S. President Donald Trump ramped up his pre-election focus on the caravan and others behind it, talking of creating a U.S. military force on the border that would outnumber the migrants, many of them women and children.

"As far as the caravan is concerned, our military is out," Trump said. "We have about 5,800. We'll go up to anywhere between 10,000 and 15,000 military personnel on top of Border Patrol, ICE and everybody else at the border."

A third band of about 500 from El Salvador made it to Guatemala, and a fourth group of about 700 set out from the Salvadoran capital Wednesday.

Similar caravans have occurred regularly over the years and passed largely unnoticed, but Trump has focused on the latest marchers seeking to make border security a hot-button issue in next week's midterm elections.

Worn down by days of long walks, many migrants have dropped out and returned home or applied for protected status in Mexico. The Interior Department said Thursday that the number of migrants who have applied for refuge was now nearly 3,000.

The initial caravan has shrunk significantly from its estimated peak of more than 7,000 migrants. A caravan last spring ultimately fizzled to just about 200 people who reached the U.S. border at San Diego.

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Associated Press writer Peter Orsi in Mexico City contributed to this report.

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Maria Gomez, 22, carries her son David Moises, 1, as the thousands-strong caravan of Central Americans migrants hoping to reach the U.S. border moves onward from Juchitan, Oaxaca state, Mexico, Thursday, Nov. 1, 2018. Thousands of migrants resumed their slow trek through southern Mexico on Thursday, after attempts to obtain bus transport to Mexico City failed. (AP Photo/Rodrigo Abd) - The Associated Press


Honduran migrants travel on trucks as the thousands-strong caravan of Central Americans migrants hoping to reach the U.S. border moves onward from Juchitan, Oaxaca state, Mexico, Thursday, Nov. 1, 2018. Thousands of migrants resumed their slow trek through southern Mexico on Thursday, after attempts to obtain bus transportation to Mexico City failed. (AP Photo/Rodrigo Abd) - The Associated Press


Honduran migrant Jose Macy carries his four-year-old nephew Yair Perez as the thousands-strong caravan of Central Americans migrants hoping to reach the U.S. border moves onward from Juchitan, Oaxaca state, Mexico, Thursday, Nov. 1, 2018. Thousands of migrants resumed their slow trek through southern Mexico on Thursday, after attempts to obtain bus transport to Mexico City failed. (AP Photo/Rodrigo Abd) - The Associated Press


Children beg their father to let them have some of a donated jar of baby food, in Pijijiapan, Chiapas state, Mexico, where the migrant caravan stops for the night, Thursday, Oct. 25, 2018. In the migrant caravan currently in southern Mexico, it's particularly tough for children and families who are trying to keep things together after more than two weeks on the road. (AP Photo/Rebecca Blackwell) - The Associated Press


A man lifts his son off the back of a flatbed trailer after the driver refused to carry migrants from the caravan in Pijijiapan, Chiapas state, Mexico, before dawn Friday, Oct. 26, 2018. In the migrant caravan currently in southern Mexico, it's particularly tough for children and families who are trying to keep things together after more than two weeks on the road. (AP Photo/Rebecca Blackwell) - The Associated Press


Fany Lizeth Cruz uses chords on her wrists to keep close her daughter, right, and another little girl, as her son walks with them as part of the Central American migrant caravan on the outskirts of Tapanatepec, Oaxaca state, Mexico, Monday, Oct. 29, 2018. In the migrant caravan currently in southern Mexico, it's particularly tough for children and families who are trying to keep things together after more than two weeks on the road. (AP Photo/Rebecca Blackwell) - The Associated Press


A girl carries a stuffed teddy bear as she walks with her mother with a migrant caravan near Arriaga, Chiapas state, Mexico, Saturday, Oct. 27, 2018. In the migrant caravan currently in southern Mexico, it's particularly tough for children and families who are trying to keep things together after more than two weeks on the road. (AP Photo/Rebecca Blackwell) - The Associated Press


A baby sleeps in a stroller as the Central American migrant caravan avances between Pijijiapan and Arriaga, Mexico, Friday, Oct. 26, 2018. In the migrant caravan currently in southern Mexico, it's particularly tough for children and families who are trying to keep things together after more than two weeks on the road. (AP Photo/Rodrigo Abd) - The Associated Press


A mother with a baby in a stroller waits in hopes of boarding a tractor trailer, as the migrant caravan makes its way between Pijijiapan and Tonala, Chiapas state, Mexico, Friday, Oct. 26, 2018. In the migrant caravan currently in southern Mexico, it's particularly tough for children and families who are trying to keep things together after more than two weeks on the road. (AP Photo/Rebecca Blackwell) - The Associated Press


A girl gets bathed by her mother as the migrant caravan set up camp for the night in Arriaga, Chiapas state, Mexico, Friday, Oct. 26, 2018. In the migrant caravan currently in southern Mexico, it's particularly tough for children and families who are trying to keep things together after more than two weeks on the road. (AP Photo/Rebecca Blackwell) - The Associated Press


Sleeping on the asphalt, a migrant mother and her daughters wait for a free ride on the shoulder of the highway, between Pijijiapan and Arriaga, Mexico, Friday, Oct. 26, 2018. In the migrant caravan currently in southern Mexico, it's particularly tough for children and families who are trying to keep things together after more than two weeks on the road. (AP Photo/Rodrigo Abd) - The Associated Press


A Honduran migrant clutches his infant while trying to hitch a ride on a passing truck as the caravan moves near Mapastepec Chiapas state, Mexico, Thursday, Oct. 25, 2018. In the migrant caravan currently in southern Mexico, it's particularly tough for children and families who are trying to keep things together after more than two weeks on the road. (AP Photo/Rebecca Blackwell) - The Associated Press


A baby stroller sits abandoned next to the highway as the migrant caravan moves away from Juchitan, Oaxaca state, Mexico, Thursday, Nov. 1, 2018. In the migrant caravan currently in southern Mexico, it's particularly tough for children and families who are trying to keep things together after more than two weeks on the road. (AP Photo/Rodrigo Abd) - The Associated Press


A girl shields herself from the sun with cardboard while looking for a ride with her mother, as the migrant caravan moves near Tapanatepec, Oaxaca state, Mexico, before dawn Monday, Oct. 29, 2018. In the migrant caravan currently in southern Mexico, it's particularly tough for children and families who are trying to keep things together after more than two weeks on the road. (AP Photo/Rebecca Blackwell) - The Associated Press