Sickness, fear, harassment in Mexico whittle away at caravan

MAPASTEPEC, Mexico (AP) — Little by little, sickness, fear and police harassment are whittling down the migrant caravan making its way to the U.S. border, with many of the 4,000 to 5,000 migrants who resumed their journey Thursday complaining of exhaustion.

The group, many with children and even pushing toddlers in strollers, departed Mapastepec at dawn with more than 1,000 miles still to go before they reach the U.S. border.

They had advanced about 95 miles (150 kilometers) as the crow flies since thousands burst across Mexico’s southernmost border six days earlier.

The column stretched for more than a mile as the migrants left the town square where many spent the night. The municipality of some 45,000 people, along with churches and volunteers, offered some medicine and donated water, clothing baby formula and baby bottles.

As they reached the highway, families with young children packed sidewalks asking for donations and rides to the next stop, Pijijipiapan, about 25 miles (40 kilometers) further ahead.

Melkin Claros, 34, was traveling with his 7-year old son and a teenage nephew and remained steadfast in his goal. “Everyone’s objective is to arrive (in the United States),” he said, adding that he planned to request asylum because gangs made it impossible to live in Honduras.

“It’s true you risk your life a lot here, but we risk more in our country.”

Still, Mexican officials say nearly 1,700 have dropped out of the caravan to apply for asylum in Mexico, and a few hundred have accepted government offers to bus them back to their home countries.

Carlos Roberto Hernandez, of Yoro province in Honduras, dropped out after developing a rumbling cough during the scorching daytime heat and evening rains.

“We got hit by rain, and ever since then I’ve had a cold,” Hernandez said. Asked Wednesday if he would make another attempt to reach the U.S., he said emphatically: “No. I’m going to make my life in Honduras.”

For Pedro Arturo Torres, it appeared to be homesickness that broke his determination to reach the U.S.

“We didn’t know what lay ahead,” said Torres. “We want to return to our country, where you can get by — even if just with beans, but you can survive, there with our families, at peace.”

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