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Honduran killed in Mexican border crackdown on migrant caravan

Honduran killed in Mexican border crackdown on migrant caravan

by Jeff Abbott & Sandra Cuffe published on

Tecun Uman, Guatemala and Tapachula, Mexico  - A Honduran man was killed late on Sunday as the crackdown on migrants and refugees walking from Central America to the United Statesintensified.

Henry Diaz, a 26-year-old Honduran, was shot in the head with a rubber bullet, causing a deep head wound. He died on the way to a local hospital.

Diaz was among more than 1,000 migrants and refugees, most of them from Honduras, who attempted to force their way through the Tecun Uman crossing on Sunday. Police also used tear gas; more than 100 people were wounded.

The group at the Mexican border on Sunday are attempting to catch up to the initial wave of now more than 7,000 migrants and refugees who began their journey north more than two weeks ago. The group has been dubbed a migrant caravan.

Santo Avila, a 29-year-old labourer from Palestina, a rural community in eastern Honduras, told Al Jazeera the confrontation was a setback for the group.

"We advanced maybe 10 percent, but we have been set back 100 percent," said Avila, while sitting on the bridge over the Suchiate River between Guatemala and Mexico.

"If the Mexican government does not let us through then we will have to return to Honduras where we will continue to suffer from extreme poverty and be threatened by the government," he said. "We want to maintain the peace and find the support of the [Mexican] government in order to find opportunity."

Central Americans, part of a caravan trying to reach the US, stand near the Mexican border gate on the bridge between Guatemala and Mexico as they try to cross into Mexico [Carlos Garcia Rawlins/Reuters] 

The Tecun Uman border crossing, the principal crossing between Guatemala and Mexico, has been closed for more than a week. Blocked from crossing, groups of Hondurans travelling up through Guatemala gathered until they had a sizable group to attempt to enter Mexico together.

After migrants and refugees broke through a border gate and tried to force their way past Guatemalan police, officers deployed tear gas, batons and flash-bang grenades. People in the crowd responded by hurling tear gas canisters back at police, along with any items they could find, including tree branches, water bottles, and even personal backpacks.

Among those injured were children, according to local news reports. Several police officers were also wounded, the Guatemalan national police force said.

The Mexican government rejected that "violent protests" took place at the border, Mexican Minister of the Interior Alfonso Navarrete said on Sunday in a press conference. 

Navarrete denied Diaz was killed by Mexican forces. Mexican federal police were not carrying any weapons, "not even plastic bullets," he said at the press conference. But migrants and refugees as well as observers and media, including Al Jazeera, witnessed federal police firing rubber bullets.

The only way to enter Mexico is by following immigration laws, Navarrete said. He added that Mexico does not criminalise undocumented migration and mentioned that Mexico is recognised internationally for its absolute respect for migrants' human rights.