The Latest: Maduro lashes at US over migrant funding claim
HUIXTLA, Mexico (AP) — The latest on the caravan of Central American migrants trying to reach the United States (all times local):
Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro is lashing out at Vice U.S. President Mike Pence over claims that his socialist government is funding thousands of Central American migrants trying to make their way to the U.S.
Maduro on Wednesday said Pence’s comments coming on the heels of an attack on him in August with explosives-laden drones put his life at risk.
Pence said Tuesday that he was told by Honduras’ president that the caravan was being organized by leftists financed by Venezuela. He provided no evidence to back the claim.
Maduro called Pence a “crazy extremist” and said there is a global campaign underway to portray Venezuela as a national security threat to justify an eventual military intervention.
Venezuela is facing its own migrant crisis as thousands abandon the crisis-stricken nation every day.
Central Americans traveling in a caravan through southern Mexico are arriving at their destination for the day.
They’ve reached the town of Mapastepec, stringing up a hodgepodge of plastic sheeting to protect themselves first from the blistering sun and then from a light rain.
The town’s main square is small and the migrants are spread out in several locations. That makes it difficult to get a sense of their numbers, though if the crowd has diminished it appears to be only slightly.
The United Nations has said this week that about 7,000 were in the group; the Mexican government gave its own figure Wednesday of “approximately 3,630.”
Mexican federal police have been stopping some minibuses and removing people from the caravan of Central American migrants, even though they had paid fares.
Associated Press journalists saw about a half dozen of the small buses pulled over at a spot near the town of Escuintla in Chiapas where police blocked the road with their cars on Wednesday. A column of other migrants on foot trekked past.
Such buses are common intercity transport in the region.
Driver Johnny Morales Castellanos said officers told him to remove the migrants because “the insurance doesn’t cover them because they’re foreigners.”
The migrants weren’t detained, but had to continue the day’s planned 45-miles (75-kilometer) trek on foot in 90 degree heat — at least unless they can find another ride.
It’s not immediately clear if the move is part of a broader effort to restrict the caravan’s progress.
Children appear to make up only about 5 to 10 percent of migrants in a caravan traveling through far-southern Mexico. But parents’ hopes for their future and fears of what could happen to them back home are clearly a motivating factor behind many people’s decision to leave.
Ludin Giron is a street vendor from Choloma, Honduras. She was riding in a motorcycle taxi designed for two with her three children, as well as another mother and her daughter.
Giron held son Justin in her lap, helped by daughter Astrid, 5. Behind them sat Nicole, 3. She described the threats and pressure they would be likely to face back home once they’re older.
Giron said children are always in danger from gangs in Honduras: “When they see a pretty girl, they want her for themselves. If they see a boy, they want to get him into drugs.”
Refusing either can be deadly.
Beside her sat Reyna Esperanza Espinosa, a tortilla maker from Cortes, Honduras, who was alongside her 11-year-old daughter Elsa Araceli.
Espinosa said there is no work in Honduras and “that’s why we decided to come here, to give a better future for our children.”
The caravan set out before dawn from the far-southern Mexico city of Huixtla. Migrants hope to trek another 45 miles Wednesday to the town of Mapastepec.