Trump threatens to stop aid to Honduras unless caravan is stopped

American leader also says he could upend Nafta over caravan of migrants heading to US border

WASHINGTON : United States President Donald Trump said yesterday that US foreign aid to Honduras and other countries was at risk unless they stop a so-called caravan of more than 1,200 Central American migrants headed for the US border with Mexico.

Mr Trump's latest salvo against the migrants' journey comes as he has stepped up his immigration rhetoric in recent days, and his administration has moved to further crack down on people who are in the US illegally.

The migrants' 3,200km journey from the Mexico-Guatemala border is expected to end at the US border.

Mexico has said such caravans of mostly Central Americans, including many escaping violence in Honduras, have occurred since 2010.

Mr Trump has already blasted Mexico and threatened to upend the North American Free Trade Agreement (Nafta) over the caravan and yesterday also raised the prospect of withholding US assistance.

The current trip has also put pressure on Mexican authorities ahead of the July 1 presidential election there.

"The big Caravan of People from Honduras, now coming across Mexico and heading to our 'Weak Laws' Border, had better be stopped before it gets there. Cash cow Nafta is in play, as is foreign aid to Honduras and the countries that allow this to happen. Congress must act now!" Mr Trump tweeted yesterday morning .

On Monday, the Republican President railed against Democrats over immigration and again pressed US lawmakers to pass legislation to build his long-promised border wall between the US and Mexico.

Despite months of efforts, no immigration deal has emerged in the Republican-led Congress, where lawmakers are not expected to pass much major legislation ahead of November's mid-term elections.

Meanwhile, in some of the Mexican towns playing host to the caravan, the welcome mat has been rolled out despite Mr Trump's outburst.

Local officials have offered lodging in town squares and empty warehouses or arranged transport for the migrants, participants in a journey organised by the immigrant advocacy group Pueblo Sin Fronteras.

The officials have conscripted buses, cars, ambulances and police trucks. But the help may not be altruistic.

"The authorities want us to leave their cities," said Mr Rodrigo Abeja, an organiser from Pueblo Sin Fronteras.

"They've been helping us, in part to speed the massive group out of their jurisdictions."

At some point this spring, the caravan's journey that began at Tapachula near the Guatemalan border on March 25 will end at the US border, where some of its members will apply for asylum, while others will attempt to sneak into the US.

So far, the Mexican federal government has provided little guidance on how to handle the migrants but Mr Abeja worries that local reactions will change.

Mexican Senator Angelica de la Pena, who presides over the Senate's Human Rights Commission, told Reuters that Mexico should protect migrants' rights despite the pressure from Mr Trump. - REUTERS