Two Arrested Amid Allegations of Migrant Caravan Origins
How did the migrant caravan approaching the U.S. snowball in size from several hundred to more than 7,000?
More than 7,000 migrants from Honduras, El Salvador and Guatemala grouped together this week to travel toward the United States’ southern border in a massive migrant caravan.
Vice President Mike Pence and Honduran President Juan Orlando Hernandez met to discuss those responsible for organizing the migration, which Hernandez blamed on local political leftist groups with financial support from Venezuela.
VP Mike Pence says the Honduran president told him the caravan was organized “by leftist organizations and financed by Venezuela,” an unsubstantiated allegation.
“And the Democrats, maybe?” Pres. Trump suggests. Asked for proof, the president says, “You’re going to find out.” pic.twitter.com/YIxAQeTPBd
— Evan McMurry (@evanmcmurry) October 23, 2018
This caravan snowballed in size from the several hundred who rallied at the initial planning from San Pedro Sula, Honduras. By the time the caravan crossed into Guatemala on October 15, an estimated 3,000 individuals were among them.
Bartolo Fuentes, Founder of the Migrant Caravan?
The gravitational attraction to a mass migration occurred with the assistance of Honduran journalist and former member of Congress, Bartolo Fuentes, and the reach of a local news channel.
As editor and director of the website Honduras Laboral and the magazine Vida Laboral, Fuentes has shared his leftist politics and migrant and labor force activism for years.
Fuentes has been vocal in his opposition to President Hernandez, who was inaugurated earlier this year in an election that much of the population deemed fraudulent. The United States chose to honor the results and supported Hernandez, but the unrest following the election resulted in more than 30 deaths.
About two-thirds of the Honduran population already lived in poverty in 2017, but that has since increased by six percent, according to local think tank FOSDEH. Frustrated with the political climate, unsolved violence and lack of resources exacerbated by drought, many are choosing to leave.
This month, Fuentes became aware of several groups throughout Honduras who were preparing to leave, and decided to act as a point person to coordinate their efforts. At the time, there were no more than 200 individuals involved, according to Fuentes.
However, an interview with a popular Honduran cable news channel, HCH, publicized the caravan highlighting the increased safety of traveling in a group and the affordability of not having to pay a smuggler to guide the way. They cast Fuentes as the lead spokesperson and described the caravan as a way that would deliver the migrants safely north, and he started receiving calls to join.
“No one expected this human avalanche,” Fuentes said to the Daily Beast.
After crossing into Guatemala, the caravan doubled in size once again, attracting El Salvadoran and Guatemalan individuals also struggling with limited resources and financial opportunity.
As the caravan attracted more press and more people, Guatemalan police detained Fuentes and deported him to Honduras.
“I’m worried about my security,” Fuentes told the Daily Beast following his deportation. “There’s an image of Honduras that the government wants to put forward for political reasons. But that’s just not reality…”
President Hernandez has pointed the finger at Fuentes in turn and says he organized the caravan to promote opposition to the Honduran government.
Second Arrest Related to Migrant Caravan, Irineo Mujica
Irineo Mujica, a migrant spokesperson and organizer of a major caravan that traveled the same route last spring, was also arrested in conjunction with a demonstration in Ciudad Hidalgo on October 18.
A video shows Irineo Mujica being shoved into a van by Mexican immigration agents and federal police https://t.co/wX8pBIOkjV.
— BuzzFeed News (@BuzzFeedNews) October 19, 2018
Some reports described Mujica slashing vehicle tires and inciting unrest, while others called it a peaceful demonstration.
He was released on Saturday but had to temporarily forfeit his papers, which show Mujica’s dual citizenship in Mexico and the US.