Cardinal Álvaro Ramazzini has condemned the violent treatment of Central American migrants by Guatemalan security forces.
In January, 7,000 migrants, principally from neighbouring Honduras, were blocked from passing through Guatemala by security forces. Fleeing poverty, gang violence and an economic downturn brought on by two hurricanes and exacerbated by Covid-19, they are heading for the US-Mexico border.
Thousand of Central American migrants make this journey every year, in groups known as “caravans”, bound for the US border.
As the group entered Guatemala, soldiers and police blockaded a road, preventing them from passing. Some tried to force their way through resulting in clashes with security forces, leaving several injured.
On Tuesday, Guatemalan authorities rolled out plans to clear the caravan. While some migrants have continued on to Mexico, over 2,000 were returned to Honduras.
Citing immigration and health concerns, Guatemala’s President Alejandro Giammattei demanded Honduras “contain the mass exit of its inhabitants”.
Speaking to Guatemalan newspaper Prensa Libre, Cardinal Ramazzini noted that issues of migration could not be resolved with “strict suppression or more border controls”.
“Joint proposals and measures should come from the Central American Integration System that needs to address the lack of structural solutions that cause poverty and violence”, Ramazzini said.
He went on to describe the poverty that migrants are fleeing as “a form of structural violence”.
Calling for an understanding of the “life-threatening threats” of poverty and persecution, the Cardinal Bishop of Huehuetenango noted that “many people cannot lead decent lives in the poverty in which they live.”
The “safe third country” agreement, introduced by the Trump Administration, stipulates that migrants apprehended in the US and found to have passed through Guatemala can be returned to the country to apply for asylum there.
As part of the Biden administrations roll-back of Trump-era policies, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken has “suspended” the agreement, with the intent of terminating it all together.