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After crackdown, Mexico president sees caravans as waning

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Copyright 2019 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.

FILE - In this Nov. 29, 2019 file photo, Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador listens to questions during his daily morning press conference at the National Palace in Mexico City. Shortly before taking office Lopez Obrador decided to create an army of volunteers dubbed the servants of the nation, to canvass people who receive government benefits collecting their personal information in part to see if they might be eligible for yet more help from various programs promised during the campaign for the likes of farmers, the disabled, unemployed youth and the elderly. The effort alarmed opposition political parties who saw it as an attempt to illegally use public funds to promote Lpez Obrador and his leftist Morena party. (AP Photo/Marco Ugarte, File)

MEXICO CITY – President Andrés Manuel López Obrador said Friday that he expects more caravans of Central American migrants and asylum seekers to emerge, but he sees the phenomenon which became a political football in the United States in recent years as waning.

A week after armored National Guard troops and immigration agents broke up what was left of the most recent caravan in southern Mexico, loading men, women and children onto buses for likely deportation, López Obrador suggested that fewer will come in future groups.

“Surely they are organizing other caravans. ... Only each time they have fewer migrants,” he said. “There is more and more information.”

Hours earlier a group numbering in just the low dozens set out before dawn from the bus terminal in San Pedro Sula, Honduras, in response to the latest call for a caravan, a far cry from the kind of numbers seen previously.

Mexico has made clear that it will no longer allow large caravans to pass through its territory, following intense pressure and threatened trade tariffs from Washington last year.

Early caravans beginning in late 2018 were largely permitted passage, at times receiving humanitarian aid and transportation from local communities and governments. But now Mexico has thousands of National Guard troops deployed to support immigration enforcement, and Guatemala, too, returned hundreds from the most recent caravan to Honduras.

When negotiations with a de facto spokesman for the caravan broke down along a highway in the southern state of Chiapas last week, Mexican guardsmen banging batons against riot shields advanced and engaged. There was shoving and pepper spray in the chaos. Many sobbed as they allowed themselves to be escorted to the buses, while others fled or resisted and were cornered or subdued.

López Obrador on Friday praised the troops, saying, “The National Guard behaved very well. It resisted, it held firm, it did not give in to provocations.”