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Guatemala troops and police break up caravan of weary migrants trying to reach US

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Honduran migrants, top, confront Guatemalan soldiers and police manning a roadblock on the highway in Vado Hondo, Guatemala, Monday, Jan. 18, 2021.
Honduran migrants, top, confront Guatemalan soldiers and police manning a roadblock on the highway in Vado Hondo, Guatemala, Monday, Jan. 18, 2021.   -   Copyright  AP Photo/Sandra Sebastian
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Guatemalan police and soldiers broke up a group of hundreds of migrants Monday who had spent two nights stuck at a roadblock on a rural highway.

Some migrants threw rocks while authorities pushed the caravan back down the road with their riot shields.

Migrants with children were more gently prodded back the way they had come.

A steep mountain and tall wall flanking the rural highway have allowed Guatemalan authorities to bottle up the group that had numbered about 2,000 when it pushed into Guatemala Friday night.

The primary objective of the authorities' midday push was to reopen the road.

Guatemala's immigration authorities said Monday that another group of about 800 migrants had been located about 40 kilometres farther north.

They are also blocked from advancing there, but authorities said they successfully negotiated opening one lane of traffic so vehicles could pass.

Pedro Brolo Vila, Guatemala's Foreign Affairs Secretary, criticised Honduras' government Monday for not doing more to dissuade the caravan and said all people should comply with immigration rules to enter the country, including COVID-19 tests.

In total, some 8,000 to 9,000 Honduran migrants were believed to have entered Guatemala in the year's first caravan after departing from San Pedro Sula, Honduras early Friday.

They prefer to create large groups in order to protect themselves on their way north, aiming to reach the United States.

Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador said he hoped to hear US President-elect Joe Biden address immigration in his inauguration speech Wednesday.

Honduras has been battered by the COVID-19 pandemic and two major hurricanes that struck in November, leaving thousands homeless.

That's on top of the existing lack of economic opportunity and persistent gang violence.