SAN SALVADOR – A caravan of about 200 migrants left San Salvador Sunday to travel to the United States. This similar caravan from Honduras is crossing Mexico.
Migrants say they are fleeing violence, corruption and unemployment. Many see the caravan as their best chance to safely migrate to the United States, given the dangers of crossing Mexico.
"Life is not good here," said 13-year-old Anderson Medina Abrego. "They kill a lot of people. I live in the Barrio gang territory and I can not even go to another area because they say they are going to kill me. "
His mother, Edita Abrego Lira, 54, echoed her concerns.
"If I send them to the store, I will worry about them not coming back soon," said Abrego Lira., who travels with his son and four other members of his family.
The caravan was organized through Facebook and WhatsApp groups, where migrants were advised to pack their bags with change of clothes and shoes, passports and regional identity cards and prescription drugs.
Although recent caravans from Central America have attracted the attention of American politicians, immigration is a daily reality for many Salvadorans. More than 50,000 Salvadoran migrants were apprehended while they were trying to break into the United States in 2017, according to US Customs and Border Patrol Services.
"El Salvador is experiencing a migration dynamic where 200 to 300 people migrate each day," said Cesar Rios, director of the Salvadoran Institute for Migration, a non-governmental organization based in San Salvador. "A caravan is the visibility of this hidden reality."
Salvadoran migrants see strength and protection in the caravan.
"We had already planned to leave, but we finally have the opportunity," said 18-year-old Dalila Abigail Landaverde, who is traveling with her partner and their 3-year-old daughter Tatiana. Landaverde said the family had received threats since the murder of his mother in 2014.
"In a caravan, you are united. If something happens, someone will help, "said Jessica Yamileth Zabaleta Guzman, 24, who travels with her partner and their one year old son.
After hearing rumors about the caravan, the Salvadoran Ministry of Justice and Security dispatched police patrolling the perimeter of the square where the migrants gathered Sunday morning, many with small backpacks and bags. others without any object.
The measures were aimed at ensuring the safe passage of migrants rather than hindering their journey, according to a spokesman for the ministry.
In a statement, the Minister of Justice and Public Security, Mauricio Landaverde, stressed that "mobility is a reality and a right".
In Washington, President Trump has threatened to cut or substantially reduce US aid to countries that do not stop migrants. Last week, The Washington Post announced that Trump was considering using emergency powers to close the US border to Central American migrants.
Salvadoran President Salvador Sánchez Cerén rejected Trump's demands to prevent migrants from leaving.
"For us, emigrating is a right, and therefore the rights of migrants must be respected," Sánchez Cerén said at a press conference in Cuba on October 24.
Another Honduran caravan of about 1,000 migrants struck Sunday with Mexican authorities on the border between Guatemala and Mexico. A second Salvadoran caravan is expected to leave on Wednesday, with around 500 participants.
A migrant caravan that left the Honduran city of San Pedro Sula on October 13 drew the attention of Trump and other Republican politicians who questioned the caravan's timing just weeks before the mid-election elections. – 6th of November.
The Trump administration has accused the Venezuelan government, billionaire George Soros and house democrats of organizing the caravan. There is no evidence to support these claims.
Some of the Salvadoran migrants stated that they were unaware of the mid-term elections and the political implications of the timing of their trip.
"Donald Trump does not like us Latinos, but we will still leave," said Luis Antonio Lopez, 32, who travels to the United States to look for work.
Central Americans migrate to the United States in large numbers since at least the 1980s, when countries experienced deadly civil wars, and US intervention in the region has resulted in serious human rights violations.
In recent years, Salvadorans have migrated north, fleeing violence, extreme poverty and corruption.
Despite falling rates of violence, the country still has one of the highest homicide rates in the world, with nearly 4,000 murders in 2017 in the country, about the size of Massachusetts.