Hundreds of people in a caravan of migrants and refugees that crossed from Honduras into Guatemala staged a dramatic bid to breach the Mexican border on Friday, as local governments began preparing to disperse the convoy under pressure from Washington.
Tension was palpable in Ciudad Hidalgo, a tiny tropical village in Mexico surrounded by rain forest and banana plantations that borders Tecun Uman in Guatemala, with the two towns separated by a muddy river.
Some migrants used a rope to jump off the bridge and swim across the river or hitch a ride on the many rafts that cross it regularly. Now a minority have turned back, using transport organised by Guatemalan security forces. They included 52 children, nine of them 5 years and younger. Some claimed they had been teargassed during the fracas. As the afternoon drew on, a tropical storm, Vicente, formed nearby off the Pacific coast.
"We better find that shelter today", she said.
A child is carried over the border fence as thousands of Honduran migrants rush across the border towards Mexico, in Tecun Uman, Guatemala, Friday, Oct. 19, 2018. "We will address every case", he said.
"In addition to stopping all payments to these countries, which seem to have nearly no control over their population, I must, in the strongest of terms, ask Mexico to stop this onslaught - and if unable to do so I will call up the U.S. Military and CLOSE OUR SOUTHERN BORDER!" the president noted in follow-up tweet, which was isolated and quoted by many news organizations as a blockbuster headline.
Such a move by Mr. Trump would cause chaos on the border, one of the world's busiest, and badly disrupt trade.
"They are not coming into this country, they might as well turn back", the president said.
The migrants, mostly from Honduras, say they are fleeing violence and poverty, and include women and children. Pence had urged the leaders to discourage their people from entering the United States illegally.
Mexico's southern border is notoriously porous and it was unclear how numerous migrants would attempt to cross legally at the bridge. The pair spoke after a private meeting, and Pompeo also met with Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto.
"It's a challenge that Mexico is facing, and that's how I expressed it to Secretary Pompeo", Videgaray told a joint news conference.
"They promised they will give us a visa but the people are there (on the bridge) since yesterday and they have not given us anything", Benitez said as he waited for friends who were crossing on another raft, made from huge truck tires.
But the message didn't appear to resonate with members of the caravan Thursday who "violently" tore down fenced barriers and injured Mexican police in order to make a path for thousands to pour into Mexico.
This is while the United Nations has called on the USA to take into account its human rights commitments.
Mexico's Videgaray said in an interview with the Televisa network that those who want to apply for refuge in Mexico are welcome to do so "if they have a vulnerable situation in their country of origin".
Hundreds of Central American migrants remain stuck on the border between Guatemala and Mexico.
Contrary to the federal government, the government of Chiapas affirmed earlier this week that they would not stop the caravan.