The massive chain of migrants slowly making its way towards the U.S. southern border, which is still some 1,000 miles north, is now demanding that the Mexican government provide transportation for its estimated 4,000 participants — demands issued amid reports of outbreaks of violence as more groups have forced their way through Mexico's southern border.
"Worn down from long miles of walking and frustrated by the caravan’s slow progress, some migrants have been dropping out and returning home or applying for protected status in Mexico," AP reports. "Conscious of that frustration, its representatives demanded 'safe and dignified' transportation to the capital Monday after the group arrived in the Oaxaca state town of Niltepec."
The group promoting the caravan, Pueblo Sin Fronteras, wants a meeting with Mexican authorities in the capital city to discuss migrants' rights and how to handle the caravan moving forward.
But, as AP underscores, the Mexican government has given no indication that it plans to comply with the group's demands for "safe and dignified" transportation to the capital, though the government's migrant protection agency did provide some rides to some of the "stragglers" to the next city over the weekend.
The new demands come amid troubling reports about violence carried out by members of the caravan and the Mexican government's increasingly aggressive response to the groups. AP reported on the scene as the migrants attempted to illegally cross into Mexico via the Suchiate River on Monday (formatting adjusted):
A low-flying police helicopter hovered overhead as the migrants waded in large groups across the murky river, apparently trying to use the downdraft from its rotors to discourage them. Guatemala’s Noti7 channel reported that one man drowned and aired video of a man dragging a seemingly lifeless body from the river, but Honduran Vice Foreign Minister Nelly Jerez later told TV station Televicentro that the man was alive and being treated at a hospital in Tapachula, Mexico. Once on the Mexican side, the migrants were surrounded and escorted by dark-uniformed officers as sirens wailed.
That incident follows an outbreak of violence on Sunday when a new wave of hundreds of migrants broke through the barriers at Mexico's southern border near Tecun Uman. One of the migrants died from the confrontation. Migrants say he was struck in the head by a rubber bullet fired by police, but Mexican authorities deny the allegation.
"At a news conference late Sunday, Mexican Interior Secretary Alfonso Navarrete Prida denied that his country’s forces were responsible," the Associated Press reported. "He said that Mexican federal police and immigration agents were attacked with rocks, glass bottles and fireworks when migrants broke through a gate on the Mexican side of the border, but that none of the officers were armed with firearms or anything that could fire rubber bullets. Navarrete said some of the attackers carried guns and firebombs."
The migrant group's attempt to pick up the pace via government-provided transportation has been prompted by "waning enthusiasm" for their mission, as illustrated by the 3,000 or so migrants who have turned back home, "disheartened by the many miles yet to go and misbehavior by some fellow travelers," AP notes.
Meanwhile, the Trump administration is making preparations for the arrival of the migrants and making sure the world knows about it. Around 2,000 National Guard troops have already been deployed to the border, with as many as 5,200 more active-duty troops poised to head that way if needed.