December 10, 2020

By Jose Cabezas

SAN PEDRO SULA, Honduras (Reuters) – A few hundred Hondurans formed a caravan bound for the United States on Wednesday after hurricanes battered the country, posing a fresh challenge to efforts to stem illegal immigration from Central America on the cusp of a new U.S. administration.

Mostly younger migrants with backpacks and some women carrying children left the northern city of San Pedro Sula on foot for the Guatemalan border after calls went out on social media to organize a caravan to the United States.

If the exodus grows, it could become the first major caravan to hit the road since Joe Biden defeated U.S. President Donald Trump in a presidential election last month.

Striking just two weeks apart in November, Hurricanes Eta and Iota hammered infrastructure, homes and crops, killing about 100 people in Honduras. The neighboring countries of Guatemala and Nicaragua also suffered widespread damage.

“We lost everything, we have no choice but to go to the United States,” an unidentified middle-aged man in the caravan with his wife and cousin told Honduran television.

The man said he was from La Lima, a municipality on the southeastern edge of San Pedro Sula that was hard hit by flooding caused by Eta and Iota.

Guatemala’s migration authorities warned the approaching migrants that to enter the country, they would need negative coronavirus tests and passports.

Central Americans had already begun leaving their homes following the devastating hurricanes.

Trump, who is due to leave office on Jan. 20, has made curbing illegal immigration a top priority, and has put pressure on Mexico to help him. A caravan of thousands moving through Central America was broken up in October.

Biden has vowed to pursue a “humane” migration policy and offer help to Central America to ease migratory pressures.

(Additional reporting by Gustavo Palencia in Tegucigalpa and Enrique Garcia in Guatemala City; Writing by Dave Graham; Editing by Robert Birsel)

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