On foot, by ferry and with a dog, a journey through eight countries to reach the USA – 05/20/2022

Ciudad Tecón Uman, Guatemala, May 20, 2022 (AFP) – About two months ago, Gilberto Rodriguez left his wife and two young children in Caracas and embarked on a perilous journey north with his dog Negro across eight countries.

Gilberto slept on the streets, ran away from criminals and had to donate money to the Guatemalan police, but nothing took away his hope of making it to the United States. Before you get to Rio Bravo, if you can get to the last border without being stopped and deported by the Mexican police, you will have to cross another river on the border between Guatemala and Mexico, the Sochiat River.

With his stray dog ​​in his arms, Gilberto pays just over $1 to ride a raft made of tubes and boards. Within 10 minutes, you reach Mexico.

“We have a very critical situation with the economy in Venezuela and we have to escape. Salaries are useless, you buy everything in dollars and what they pay you in bolivars produces nothing,” the boy, 27, explains in Ciudad Tecón Uman, southwest Guatemala, before crossing the river.

Gilberto and his dog crossed Darien’s Dangerous Forest on foot, between Colombia and Panama. Then Costa Rica, Nicaragua, Honduras, Guatemala and even Mexico. The United States, Gilberto’s final destination, is about to lift Title 42, an ordinance approved in 2020 during the administration of Donald Trump, that allows immigrants detained upon entry to the country with immediate expulsion due to the pandemic.

The Joe Biden administration’s decision to lift Title 42 is expected to lead to a large influx of immigrants looking for work and fleeing poverty and violence. However, like Gilberto, the vast majority of those crossing the Suchiate River do not know what Address 42 is, nor that they are about to be scrapped.

– low flow –

Unlike in previous months, when crowds of migrants flocked to this border, the flow is now small. On the highways, Guatemalan police constantly board buses to verify the identity of travelers.

The migration flow arrives through Guatemala in “small groups,” which don’t take long to cross into Mexico, says Alejandra Godínez, of Ciudad Tecón Uman’s Migrant Assistance Office. “They scatter in several groups and then huddle together on the Mexican side.”

Rubén Mendes, mayor of Ayutla, the municipality where Tecón Uman is located, says the operations are an obstacle for migrants not to try to form new caravans, like those that used to leave Honduras, especially since 2018.

Between January and May, Guatemala expelled 303 people from Honduras, El Salvador and Nicaragua who did not meet the immigration and health requirements demanded by the pandemic. It also expelled 69 Venezuelans and 165 Cubans, as well as 86 people of different nationalities.

The last caravan of about 500 migrants disbanded in January, once it entered Guatemalan territory. A year ago, the displacement of some 7,000 people was contained with batons and tear gas.

With a backpack slung over his shoulder, Gilberto says that in some parts of Guatemala, police demanded money to allow him to continue his journey.

– dangers –

Gilberto overcame several threats. “In Darien Forest, we came with some women and they raped them, in addition to stealing our phones,” he says of this part of the road, where criminal groups abound.

Along the way, Gilberto escaped the charity and shared the dish with his dog. I also slept on the street, because some shelters do not allow animals.

The day before embarking on the river, Gilberto, his dog, and nine other hikers stopped at Casa do Migrante, a border humanitarian organization, where they ate. “We came between mountains, rivers, and streams, and the police robbed us,” Moises Airde, a 25-year-old Nicaraguan, says fleeing poverty and oppression in his country, leaving his wife and three years behind. old daughter.

They all want to get a job in the United States, with the goal of sending money to their families and financing the relatives’ trip so they can be reunited.

The country boat on the Suchiate River is led by a man with a tall pole. As soon as they touch the coast on the Mexican side, the negro jumps out of his owner’s arms and heads out onto the road. Gilberto comments, smiling, that he is no longer just a dog, but also an “immigrant.”

hma / mav / lbc / lb

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