Mexico is the wall: president faces pressure over migration clampdown

MEXICO CITY (Reuters) - Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador is facing a barrage of criticism at home that he is doing U.S. President Donald Trump's bidding after erecting a "wall" of security forces near the Guatemala border to keep out Central Americans.

Mexico has bowed to demands from Trump, under the threat of punitive tariffs, to contain mass movements of migrants, most of them from Central America, who have been crossing through Mexico on their way to the U.S. border.

Lopez Obrador was questioned at his daily morning news conference for a second day in a row about how the migrants are being treated by the National Guard military police and the National Migration Institute (INM).

Lopez Obrador defended how the National Guard and INM have acted and said the caravan of Central American migrants was not spontaneous, signaling that Honduran activists were driving the movement for political ends.

Television images have shown the National Guard corralling entire families and then loading them onto buses for detention and then deportation. Migrants crossing into Mexico this week faced tear gas from security forces, in a firmer response than seen in previous mass crossings.

"We sold our soul and have turned into the wall," Carlos Heredia, a Mexican economist and academic, said in a Friday newspaper column in El Financiero.

Trump has made immigration a keystone issue in his bid for re-election in November and is pushing for the construction of a wall along the U.S-Mexico border.

As of Thursday, the INM said it had transferred 800 migrants, some of them unaccompanied minors, to immigration centers where they would be given food, medical attention and shelter.

According to Guatemala, at least 4,000 people entered from Honduras since last week, making for one of the biggest surges since three Central American governments signed agreements with the Trump administration obliging them to assume more of the responsibility for dealing with migrants.

(Reporting by Anthony Esposito and Raul Cortes; Editing by Frank Jack Daniel and Jonathan Oatis)

01/24/2020 15:24

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