On foot, by ferry and with a dog, a journey through eight countries to reach the USA


(May 17) Venezuelan immigrant Gilberto Rodriguez (c) crosses the Suchiate River with his dog on a makeshift ferry in Tecún Umán, Guatemala afp_tickers

This content was published on 20. May 2022 – 15:54

(AFP)

Nearly 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 through 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.

A US federal judge ruled, Friday (20), to retain Section 42, the decree approved by the administration of former President Donald Trump in 2020, that allows the immediate expulsion of immigrants entering the United States through the southern border, Biden said. The administration intends to comment on May 23. The White House said the administration would appeal the decision.

But like Gilberto, the vast majority of those who cross the Suchiate River do not know what Address 42 is.

– 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 Mendez, mayor of Ayutla, the municipality where Ticun Uman is located, says the operations are a barrier for migrants not trying to form new caravans, like the ones that have been leaving 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, a mass exodus of about 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 don’t allow animals in.

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. No longer just a dog, but also an “immigrant,” comments Gilberto with a smile.

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