Mexico’s National Guard halts advance of latest wave of migrants

UNTV News   •   January 24, 2020   •   375

Hundreds of Central Americans traveling as part of a migrant caravan walk on 23 January 2020 near the southeastern Mexican town of Frontera Hidalgo. EPA-EFE/Juan Manuel Blanco

Frontera Hidalgo, Mexico – Thousands of Central Americans crossed into Mexico illegally Thursday from Guatemala, taking advantage of scant monitoring of a section of the Suchiate River, the natural border between those two countries.

The migrants traveled several kilometers inside Mexico and said they planned to move in orderly fashion and formally apply for asylum, but more than 200 members of Mexico’s National Guard halted their advance on a road in Chiapas state near the Guatemala-Mexico border after an attempt at dialogue between the migrants and Mexican authorities broke down.

National Migration Institute (INM) buses arrived at that spot near the town of Frontera Hidalgo to take hundreds of detained migrants to immigration-processing centers such as the Siglo XXI station in the city of Tapachula.

Carrying the flags of Honduras, El Salvador, Guatemala and Nicaragua and signs with the message “We Want to Talk Directly to the President,” the migrants set out early Thursday and walked more than 10 kilometers (6.2 miles) from Ciudad Hidalgo, Chiapas, to the nearby town of Frontera Hidalgo.

They said they were taking up an offer from Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, who last Friday offered jobs to thousands of migrants but said they would need to apply for asylum in Mexico.

The migrants also said they were looking to obtain safe-conduct passes – at least in Chiapas – and thereby avoid being targets of the National Guard, a recently formed militarized police force.

“Right now what we’re going to do is heed the call of (Lopez Obrador) … He’s promised us that they won’t touch us with an (asylum application) in hand. That’s what we’re going to do. If they touch us, I don’t know who’s lying there. But we’re going to do our part,” Honduran Jose Luis Morales told Efe Thursday.

However, tensions escalated Thursday when the migrants and some activists accompanying them confronted officials with the Mexican Commission for Refugee Assistance (Comar) and the INM and demanded they respond to some 2,000 requests for asylum made in recent days by members of their caravan.

On Monday, between 500 and 1,000 migrants – part of a caravan that originally consisted of as many as 5,000 people – ran across the Suchiate River near the Rodolfo Robles bridge.

The National Guard responded with tear gas and captured more than 400 people; the National Migration Institute said 40 other migrants opted to return to Guatemala of their own accord, while 58 others disappeared into the jungle.

The INM says that a total of 679 Honduran members of the caravan, which left that impoverished Central American country a week ago, have been deported by air or land.

That institute said Wednesday that more than 2,000 migrants had been intercepted in a single day in the southeastern Mexican states of Chiapas and Tabasco.

On Thursday, the migrants crossed the Suchiate River at a different point to avoid being turned away by the National Guard.

Despite having crossed the river by surprise, the Central Americans had pledged on Thursday to migrate in peaceful and orderly fashion.

“We’re traveling because it’s the only way that maybe they’ll show mercy and let us travel to the north. My (preferred) destination is the United States, but if I can stay in Mexico I’ll stay because for me it’s a big advantage, since we’re supported here by all the Mexican people,” Honduran Marco Tulio Polanco told Efe.

Mexico’s equivalent of an ombudsman’s office, the National Human Rights Commission, which has come under fire for its lukewarm response to Monday’s events on the border, on Thursday issued a statement saying that its officials have been gathering up complaints and that it condemns “all acts of violence against the physical integrity of migrants.”

Unemployment, poverty and, above all, high levels of gang violence are the reasons most cited by Central Americans for leaving their native countries.

Mexico’s response to this first migrant caravan of 2020 reflects a sharp change in policy by Lopez Obrador’s administration, which had previously offered fast-track visas to migrants for humanitarian reasons and had sought to enlist the US in a development plan for Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras.

That plan focused on boosting job opportunities in countries that have some of the highest homicide rates in the world and where 60 percent of the population lives below the poverty line.

But under pressure from US President Donald Trump’s administration, which had threatened to impose tariffs on all Mexican imports if that country did not halt the northward movement of Central Americans, Lopez Obrador’s government agreed with the US in June 2019 on a plan to curb migration.

Last month, Mexico announced a 70 percent reduction in the number of people arriving at its border with the US and said that the INM had deported 178,960 foreigners in 2019. EFE-EPA

ppc/mc

Longest-ever U.S.-Mexico border smuggling tunnel discovered

Robie de Guzman   •   January 31, 2020

The longest-ever discovered smuggling tunnel under the U.S.-Mexico border.

U.S. Customs and Border Protection released footage Tuesday (January 28) of what it says is the longest yet discovered cross-border tunnel running between the U.S. and Mexico.

The video, taken when the tunnel was first discovered by border patrol agents and their law enforcement partners in November 2019, was filmed by an official walking through the tunnel while an alarm sounds warning of low oxygen in the subterranean passageway.

Customs and Border Patrol said in a statement the tunnel is 4,309 feet (1,313 meters) long, far exceeding the previous cross-border tunnel length of 2,966 feet (904 meters).

Dozens of drug tunnels have been found traversing Mexico’s border with the United States during its decade-long war on drugs. (Reuters)

(Production: Patrick Alwine)

Mexico’s mighty Popo volcano blows under starry night sky

Marje Pelayo   •   August 14, 2019

Mexico’s majestic Popocatepetl volcano erupted early on Tuesday (August 13) morning, in a dramatic show of ash, water vapour and gas under a canopy of stars.

The dramatic eruption at 5:43 am local time (1143 GMT) spewed ash followed by incandescent rock.

Shortly after sunrise a new plume of ash and gas emerged from the snowcapped crater, reaching some 1,000 metres (3,200 feet) into the blue sky.

Popocatepetl is 5,426 metres (17,802 feet) tall and is the second highest mountain in Mexico and the fifth highest in North America. – REUTERS

(Production: Rodolfo Pena Roja)

Armed robbers in Mexico steal $2.5 million in gold coins

Robie de Guzman   •   August 7, 2019

Courtesy: Reuters

Armed robbers broke into a Mexican government coin manufacturer on Tuesday (August 06) and filled a backpack with more than $2 million worth of gold coins from a vault that had been left open, security officials said.

The daylight robbery was the latest high-profile crime to hit Mexico City, where crime has increased during record lawlessness plaguing the country.

Two people, one wielding a firearm, broke into a “Casa de Moneda” branch in the morning after throwing a security guard to the ground and taking his gun, Mexico City police said.

One of the robbers then went to the vault, which was open, and filled a backpack with 1,567 gold coins, police said.

The coins, known as “centenarios,” have a face value of 50 pesos, but trade for 31,500 pesos ($1,610) apiece, according to Mexican bank Banorte. That makes the total value of the haul at least $2.5 million.

The coin was first minted in 1921 to commemorate the 100th anniversary of Mexico’s independence from Spain, according to the central bank.

Production was suspended in 1931, but the coin was re-minted beginning in 1943 due to demand for gold coins.

One side bears Mexico’s coat of arms, with an eagle perched atop a cactus, and the other features the capital’s iconic Angel of Independence monument backed by the majestic Iztaccihuatl and Popocatepetl volcanoes.

The coins, 37 mm (1.46 inches) in diameter, have a gold fineness of 0.900, or 90% purity.

Mexico is suffering from record murder levels that have made the capital, long regarded as a relatively safe haven, increasingly prone to violent crime. (REUTERS)

(Production: Alberto Fajardo)

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