MEXICO CITY – President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador acknowledged on Tuesday that the Mexican government is blocking Central American caravans from leaving the southern part of the country and said he is doing it for the travelers’ own safety.
“We don’t want them to have free passage, not just because of legal matters but also for matters of safety. Unfortunately, in the north we’ve had problems of migrants sometimes being slain,” he said during his daily morning press conference at the National Palace.
“The greatest violence is in the northern states, so we prefer to attend to the migrant population in the south and southeast,” he said.
In that way, Lopez Obrador said, his government is combating migrant trafficking by the so-called coyotes, who “charge for taking migrants to the northern border.”
Mexican media reported that the National Migration Institute stopped some 300 migrants on Monday who were headed north on their way to the United States.
The government thus maintains its containment policy so that migrant caravans, mostly made up of Central Americans, stay in the southeast border state of Chiapas, one of Mexico’s poorest regions.
“First of all, we want the migrants to look after themselves and be given the chance to find jobs in the southern part of the country,” said Lopez Obrador, who regretted that the Central Americans find themselves forced to leave their countries because of “the lack of opportunities and the violence.”
He therefore repeated his request to the United States government to “urgently support our brother countries of Central America” with an economic development plan for the region.
“What is most urgent is to aid Honduras, El Salvador and Guatemala with funding,” he said.
When Lopez Obrador became president last Dec. 1, the Mexican government promoted a plan for awarding visas for humanitarian reasons to Central American migrants crossing the country on their way to the US.
However, that plan expired in January and since then, Mexican authorities have tried to contain the thousands of people who crossed the southern border and deport migrants who failed to legalize their presence in Mexico.
All of this comes within the context of diplomatic tension between Mexico City and Washington, since US President Donald Trump is applying pressure on the Mexican government to stop the caravans from continuing on their way north.
The vulnerable situation suffered by thousands of migrants on Mexico’s southern border has been reported by a number of NGOs.