Hundreds of Central Americans gather for caravan aiming to reach United States


FILE PHOTO: Hondurans take part in a new caravan of migrants, set to head to the United States, in San Pedro Sula, Honduras January 14, 2021. REUTERS/Yoseph Amaya

TEGUCIGALPA (Reuters) - Hundreds of Central Americans camped overnight outside the bus terminal in the city of San Pedro Sula, Honduras, anxiously awaiting the departure early Friday morning of a migrant caravan hoping to reach the United States.

Local television footage showed an increasing number of families, many carrying young children, gathering throughout the evening on Thursday, despite Central American authorities deploying soldiers to regional borders to deter migrants from crossing.

This week's caravan will be the first of the year and comes less than a week before U.S. President-elect Joe Biden takes office. Biden has promised a more humane approach to migration, in a departure from outgoing President Donald Trump's anti-immigrant policies.

As well as dealing with the coronavirus pandemic, Central America is reeling from a growing hunger crisis, high rates of violence, and the devastating fallout of two major hurricanes that battered the region in November.

Authorities in Central America and Mexico have stepped up efforts to stop the caravan well before the U.S. border, using anti-coronavirus measures as the latest tool to curtail migration.

That will likely be a relief for Biden, whose aides have privately expressed concerns about the prospect of growing numbers of migrants seeking to enter the United States in the early days of his administration.

On Thursday, Guatemala cited the pandemic in order to declare emergency powers in seven border provinces migrants frequently transit through en route to Mexico. The measures limit public demonstrations and allow authorities to disperse any public meeting, group or demonstration by force.

Honduras and Guatemala have announced they will deploy thousands of soldiers to preemptively stop caravan members, while Mexico also deployed agents to its southern border on Thursday.

(Reporting by Gustavo Palencia in Honduras, Sofia Menchu in Guatemala, Lizbeth Diaz in Mexico City and Laura Gottesdiener in Monterrey; Editing by Kenneth Maxwell)

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