TAPANATEPEC, Mexico -- A caravan of thousands of migrants in southern Mexico took a break from its journey Sunday, but its members gave no indication that they would halt their attempt to reach the U.S. border.
Separately, more than 100 migrants forced their way through a customs gate in west Guatemala to request passage into neighboring Mexico, and one was reported killed.
The group of migrants at the Guatemala-Mexico border, who called themselves a second caravan, clashed with Guatemalan police while forcing their way through a gate on the border bridge in Tecun Uman, a town near the Pacific Ocean.
The migrants then fought with Mexican officers. Volunteer firefighters said one man died from a head injury apparently caused by a rubber bullet. Dozens more were injured, and several people received medical treatment for exposure to tear gas fired by police.
The migrants say they are fleeing violence, corruption and unemployment.
Farther east, a group of 200-300 migrants left San Salvador, the capital of El Salvador, on their way to the United States.
When the Salvadoran Ministry of Justice and Security heard about the new caravan leaving its country, it dispatched police to patrol the perimeter of the plaza where migrants gathered, many with small backpacks and some with no belongings at all.
The measures were to ensure the safe passage of the migrants rather than to hinder their journey, according to a ministry spokesman.
In a statement, Minister of Justice and Public Security Mauricio Landaverde emphasized that "mobility is a reality and a right." A second Salvadoran caravan is expected to leave Wednesday, with an estimated 500 participants.
Meanwhile, the migrant caravan already in southern Mexico, now estimated at 4,000 people, took a break from its journey Sunday in the southern Mexico town of Tapanatepec, population 7,500. Some migrants rested in the shade of tarps strung across the town plaza, or picked up trash. Others went to soak themselves in the nearby Novillero river.
The tensions of a long trek, through searing heat and with tenuous supplies of food and other goods, spilled over Saturday night, when a dispute over a food line ended in a man's beating.
Raul Medina Melendez, security chief of Tapanatepec in Oaxaca state, said the town was distributing sandwiches and water to migrants camped in the central square Saturday night. When a man with a megaphone asked people to wait their turn, some men hurled insults at him.
"Finally people got really angry, and those below began to attack the guy," Medina said.
As the man ran, a false rumor spread that he had grabbed a child for protection, and he was caught and beaten. Police rescued him and took him to a hospital for treatment, though his condition wasn't immediately known.
On Sunday, several in the caravan took to microphones to denounce the attack.
"Is that the way we're going to always behave?" a woman from Honduras asked. "Anytime there's a rumor, everyone is going to run to beat up someone?"
Others complained of a few migrants smoking marijuana or worried that images of litter and uneaten food made them appear disrespectful.
Many members of the caravan have been traveling for more than two weeks since the group first formed in San Pedro Sula, Honduras. The group planned to set out early today for Niltepec, 43 miles to the northwest in Oaxaca state.
Most of the migrants in the caravan appeared determined to reach the United States, despite an offer of refuge in Mexico.
As the caravan tries to reach the U.S., the American military has begun delivering modular barriers, used to separate traffic lanes, to the U.S.-Mexico border in conjunction with plans to deploy active-duty troops there, Defense Secretary James Mattis said Sunday.
Mattis told reporters traveling with him that details of the deployment are still being worked out, but he expected them late Sunday night. Those details will include exactly how many troops are needed. It was unclear when the details will be made public.
The additional troops will bolster the efforts of the approximately 2,000 National Guard forces already there. The new forces are expected to provide logistical assistance such as air support and equipment, including vehicles and tents, to the Border Patrol.
National Guard troops routinely perform those same functions, so it was not clear Sunday why active-duty forces are to be used.
President Donald Trump has also threatened to cut off or substantially reduce U.S. aid to countries that do not stop the migrants. He and other Republicans have questioned the timing of the main caravan's departure, just weeks before U.S. midterm elections on Nov. 6.
Republicans have argued that the Venezuelan government, billionaire George Soros and House Democrats have organized and supported the caravans.
But Central Americans have been migrating to the United States in large numbers since at least the 1980s, when countries experienced civil wars and when U.S. intervention in the region fueled human-rights abuses.
Some of the Salvadoran migrants said they were unaware of the midterm elections and the political implications of the timing of their journey.
"Donald Trump doesn't like us Latinos, but we are still going to go," said Luis Antonio Lopez, 32, who plans to go to the United States to look for work.
STRENGTH IN NUMBERS
Many Salvadorans see the caravan that left Sunday as their best chance of migrating safely to the United States given the dangers of crossing Mexico.
"Life isn't good here," said 13-year-old Anderson Medina Abrego. "They are killing a lot of people. I live in Barrio 18 gang territory, so I can't even go to another area because they say they will kill me."
His mother, Edita Abrego Lira, 54, echoed his concerns.
"If I send them to the store, I'm going to worry if they don't come back soon," she said.
Salvadoran migrants see strength and protection in numbers.
"We've thought about going before, but now we finally have the opportunity," said 18-year-old Dalila Abigail Landaverde, who is traveling with her partner and their 3-year-old daughter, Tatiana. Landaverde said the family has received threats since her mother was killed in 2014.
"In a caravan, you are united. If something happens to you, someone will help you," said Jessica Yamileth Zabaleta Guzman, 24, who is traveling with her partner and their 1-year-old son.
Although the recent caravans of Central Americans have drawn U.S. officials' attention, migrating is a daily reality for many Salvadorans.
"El Salvador experiences a migration dynamic where 200 to 300 people migrate each day," said Cesar Rios, director of the Salvadoran Institute for Migration, a nongovernmental organization based in San Salvador, the Salvadoran capital. "A caravan is the visibility of this hidden reality."
More than 50,000 migrants from the country were apprehended trying to cross into the U.S. in 2017, according to U.S. Customs and Border Patrol.
In recent years, Salvadorans have migrated north fleeing violence, extreme poverty and corruption. Despite decreasing rates of violence, the country, with a population of about 6.4 million, still has one of the highest rates of homicides in the world. Nearly 4,000 murders were reported in 2017 in a country smaller than Arkansas' 3rd Congressional District.
Information for this article was contributed by Christopher Sherman, Lolita C. Baldor and staff members of The Associated Press; and by Anna-Catherine Brigida of The Washington Post.
A Section on 10/29/2018
Print Headline: Caravan rests; others on move