Hundreds of Central American migrants were stranded in a sort of no-man's land on the river border between Guatemala and Mexico after running up against lines of Mexican National Guard troops deployed to keep them from moving en masse into the country and on north toward the U.S.
Naked children played amid the sand and trash Monday evening as clothing and shoes hung from the trees to dry along the Suchiate River, normally a porous waterway plied all day by rafts ferrying people and goods across. Men grilled a fish over a small fire below the border bridge, and migrants bedded down under blankets on the banks or dry sections of the riverbed without knowing what might come next.
The path forward was blocked Monday by Mexican troops with riot shields, and about 100 National Guard agents continued to form a barrier with anti-riot gear into the night. But a return home to impoverished and gang-plagued Honduras, where most of the migrants are from, was unthinkable.
"We are in no-man's land," said Alan Mejía, whose 2-year-old son was cradled in his arms clad only in a diaper as his wife, Ingrid Vanesa Portillo, and their other son, 12, gazed at the riverbanks. Mejía joined in five previous migrant caravans but never made it farther than the Mexican border city of Tijuana.
"They are planning how to clear us out, and here we are without water or food," said a desperate Portillo. "There is no more hope for going forward."
Unlike was often the case with previous caravans, there was no sign of humanitarian aid arriving for those stuck at the river.
Throngs waded across the Suchiate into southern Mexico on Monday hoping to test U.S. President Donald Trump's strategy to keep Central American migrants away from the U.S. border. The push also challenged Mexico's ramped-up immigration policing that began last year in response to threats of economic tariffs from Trump, a change that effectively snuffed out the last caravan in April.
Some scuffled with National Guard troops on the riverbank while others slipped through the lines and trudged off on a rural highway, with most taken into custody later in the day. Still others were taken into custody on the spot or chased into the brush. Some migrants hurled rocks at the police, who huddled behind their plastic shields and threw some of the rocks back.
Most of the migrants, however, stayed at the river's edge or stood in its waters trying to decide their next move after being blocked earlier in the day from crossing the bridge linking Tecun Uman, Guatemala, with Ciudad Hidalgo, Mexico.
"We never thought they would receive us like that," said Melisa Ávila, who traveled from the Honduran capital of Tegucigalpa with her 12-year-old son and was resigning herself to the prospect of spending the night outdoors. "They treated us like dogs."
In an approach that developed after the first migrant caravan in late 2018, Mexican officials seem to be succeeding in their effort to blunt large-scale incursions by breaking up the mass of people repeatedly and into increasingly smaller groups. Over the weekend, government officials convinced about 1,000 people they should enter legally via the bridge.
The National Immigration Institute issued a statement saying it would detain any migrants in the country illegally, hold them in detention centers and deport those who did not legalize their status. Any who made it through and continued north could expect a gauntlet of highway checkpoints.
As feared, children suffered in the chaos. On the Mexican bank an unconscious 14-year-old girl was carried away for medical attention Monday.
Later along the highway, a mother sobbed after realizing her youngest daughter had been separated when migrants tried to escape authorities. Another migrant who had been helping her by carrying the 5-year-old ran in another direction when the migrants scattered and she hadn't been able to locate them.
Back at the river, Ávila, who had befriended the woman at a shelter in Tecun Uman, walked along the bank showing everyone a picture of the daughter.
"Have you seen this little girl?" Ávila asked other migrants. "Blue pants, beige shirt and little pink shoes."
The Guatemalan government issued new data saying that 4,000 migrants had entered that country through the two primary crossings used by the migrants last week, and over the weekend nearly 1,700 entered Mexico at two crossings. It said 400 had been deported from Guatemala.
The Immigration Institute said late Monday in a statement that about 500 migrants had entered irregularly and announced the "rescue" of 402 of them — using the term it frequently employs to describe migration detentions; It said the latter were taken to holding centers and offered medical care.
The institute said five National Guard troops were hurt but did not give details.
While Mexico says the migrants are free to enter if they do so through official channels — and could compete for jobs if they want to stay and work — in practice, it has restricted such migrants to the impoverished southernmost states while their cases are processed by a sluggish bureaucracy.
When the rocks began flying at the river Monday, Elena Vásquez, , fearful for the safety of her two wailing sons, bolted back to the Guatemalan side where she would later spend the night. Exhausted after a week on the road, the 28-year-old from Olancho, Honduras, vowed to endure and hoped Mexican authorities would have a change of heart.
"I am going to wait as long as necessary. God will open the gates for us," Vásquez said.
"Necessity forces one day more on us," she continued. "We will have to wait and see what happens."
A fourth person has died in an outbreak of a new coronavirus in China, authorities said Tuesday, as more places stepped up medical screening of travelers from the country as it enters its busiest travel period.
The increased control measures followed a sharp rise in the number of infections to more than 200 people since last month, with epidemiologists still uncertain of its nature and mode of transmission.
Chinese health authorities confirmed late Monday that some cases had been transmitted person-to-person, a development that means the illness could spread faster and more widely, particularly at the start of the Lunar New Year travel rush.
Concerned about a global outbreak similar to SARS, which spread from China to more than a dozen countries in 2002-2003, numerous nations have adopted screening measures for travelers arriving from China, especially those from the central city of Wuhan, where the outbreak is thought to have originated and which has accounted for the vast majority of the cases.
Australia's chief medical officer Brendan Murphy said his country will be increasing airport screening. Australia receives a significant number of travelers from China, including three direct flights a week from Wuhan into Sydney, and these flights will be met by border security and biosecurity staff for assessments, Murphy told reporters.
Japan, South Korea, Hong Kong and other countries and regions with extensive travel links to China are also enacting stricter screening measures. At least three U.S. airports have started screening incoming airline passengers from central China.
Chinese authorities have confirmed cases in Wuhan, Beijing and Guangdong, with suspected cases in Shanghai and other parts of the country. Additionally, Thailand detected two cases among Chinese travelers and South Korean and Japan have reported one each.
The outbreak is believed to have started late last month among people connected to a seafood market in Wuhan, which had a total of 198 cases as of Monday. All four fatalities have been in Wuhan, although it wasn't clear if the latest death was a new case or one already diagnosed.
The head of the China's expert team on the illness, respiratory expert Zhong Nanshan, said two people in Guangdong province in southern China caught the virus from family members, state media said.
Some medical workers have also tested positive for the virus, the English-language China Daily newspaper reported.
Chinese President Xi Jinping instructed government departments Monday to promptly release information on the virus and deepen international cooperation.
China has notified and maintained close communication with the World Health Organization and other relevant countries and regions, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang said at a regular news briefing.
Wuhan has also adopted measures to control the flow of people leaving the city, Geng said.
Initial symptoms of the novel coronavirus include fever, cough, tightness of the chest and shortness of breath, and some developed pneumonia.
On the Weibo social media platform, which is widely used in China, people posted prevention advice such as wearing masks and washing hands. Some people said they had canceled their travel plans and were staying home for Lunar New Year.
Everyone entering Beijing United Family Hospital on Tuesday was required to have their temperature checked as soon as they entered the door. The hospital provided surgical masks to all patients, who were told they had to wear them. All nurses, doctors and cleaning staff were also wearing masks.
The initial cases were connected to a seafood market in Wuhan, which has been closed for an investigation.
The family of coronaviruses cause diseases ranging from the common cold to SARS, or severe acute respiratory syndrome.
SARS first infected people in southern China in late 2002 and spread to more than two dozen countries, killing nearly 800. The Chinese government initially tried to conceal the severity of the SARS epidemic, but its cover-up was exposed by a high-ranking physician.
An independent commission established by Myanmar's government has concluded there are reasons to believe that security forces committed war crimes in counterinsurgency operations that led more than 700,000 Rohingya Muslims to flee to neighboring Bangladesh.
However, the commission, headed by a Philippine diplomat, said in a report given Monday to President Win Myint that there is no evidence supporting charges that genocide was planned or carried out against the Rohingya.
The Independent Commission of Enquiry announced its findings in a statement posted on its Facebook page and the full report does not appear to have been publicly released. Nevertheless, it went further than any public statements issued by Myanmar's government in suggesting government forces were guilty of major abuses.
"Although these serious crimes and violations were committed by multiple actors, there are reasonable grounds to believe that members of Myanmar's security forces were involved" in war crimes, serious human rights violations, and violations of domestic law in 2017, it said.
"The killing of innocent villagers and destruction of their homes were committed by some members of the Myanmar's security forces through disproportionate use of force during the internal armed conflict," it said.
The statement came ahead of a decision by the United Nations' top court, scheduled for Thursday, on a request that Myanmar be ordered to halt what has been cast as a genocidal campaign against the Rohingya. Gambia brought legal action last year to the International Court of Justice in the Netherlands, alleging on behalf of the 57-country Organization of Islamic Cooperation that genocide occurred and continues.
State Counselor Aung San Suu Kyi, Myanmar's top leader, strongly denied wrongdoing by government forces at the initial hearing on the case in December .
Buddhist-majority Myanmar has long considered the Rohingya to be "Bengalis" from Bangladesh even though their families have lived in the country for generations. Nearly all have been denied citizenship since 1982, effectively rendering them stateless, and they are also denied freedom of movement and other basic rights.
The long-simmering crisis exploded in August 2017 when Myanmar's military launched what it called a clearance campaign in northern Rakhine State in response to an attack by a Rohingya insurgent group. The campaign forced more than 700,000 Rohingya to flee to neighboring Bangladesh and led to accusations that security forces committed mass rapes, killings and burned thousands of homes.
Thoughs she has no control over the country's military, Suu Kyi's response to the crisis has led to global condemnation of the Nobel peace laureate.
The Independent Commission of Enquiry statement Monday said its members also met with Suu Kyi when submitting the report.
In addition to finding a basis for wrongdoing by security forces, the statement said the report also points out that the security forces acted in response to deadly attacks organized by Rohingya guerrillas belonging to the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army — ARSA.
The commission's announcement said it would hand over its 461-page report to be used for investigations and possible prosecutions by Myanmar civil and military authorities.
The commission is led by senior Philippine diplomat Rosario Manalo, and included retired Japanese diplomat Kenzo Oshima, Myanmar presidential adviser Aung Tun Thet and legal expert Mya Theinn.
The inclusion of the Myanmar members close to the government raised doubts about its ability to deliver a credible report, especially because separate earlier investigations by the government and military did not yield much trustworthy information.
The panel's investigation, "including its methodology and operations, has been far from transparent," said Phil Robertson, deputy Asia director of New York-based Human Rights Watch.
Pending release of the full report, Robertson said the panel's findings "are what would have been expected from a non-transparent investigation by a politically skewed set of commissioners working closely with the Myanmar government. There is mention of 'serious human rights violations' but no attempt to address allegations of crimes against humanity."
He said there would be no truth or accountability "u nless all those in the security forces, regardless of position or rank, involved in the mass crimes against the Rohingya are fully investigated and fairly prosecuted."
A U.N. team also conducted a major investigation and found grounds for bringing charges of genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes. Its members last year expressed skepticism that Manalo's mission could lead to accountability for the alleged abuses.
The U.N. team's members were not allowed to enter Myanmar. They did much of their work interviewing Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh. The Independent Commission of Enquiry said its investigators were dispatched to Rakhine State, where the violence occurred, Yangon and the Myanmar capital Naypyitaw "for evidence collection." But it makes no mention of visiting refugee camps in Bangladesh.
Tens of thousands of gun-rights activists from around the country rallied peacefully at the Virginia Capitol on Monday to protest plans by the state's Democratic leadership to pass gun-control legislation — a move that has become a key flash point in the national debate over gun violence.
The size of the crowd and the expected participation of white supremacists and fringe militia groups raised fears that the state could see a repeat of the violence that exploded in 2017 in Charlottesville. But the rally concluded uneventfully around noon, and the mood was largely festive, with rally-goers chanting "USA!" and waving signs denouncing Democratic Gov. Ralph Northam.
Many protesters chose not to enter the designated rally zone, where Northam had imposed a temporary weapons ban, and instead packed surrounding streets, many dressed in tactical gear and camouflage and carrying military-style rifles as they cheered on the speakers.
"I love this. This is like the Super Bowl for the Second Amendment right here," said P.J. Hudson, a truck driver from Richmond who carried an AR-15 rifle just outside Capitol Square. He was one of the few African American rally-goers in a crowd that was overwhelmingly white and male, and was frequently stopped and asked to pose for pictures wearing his "Black Guns Matter" sweatshirt.
An estimated 22,000 people attended, according to authorities, who said one woman was arrested on felony charge of wearing a mask in public.
The protesters came out despite the frigid temperature to send a message to legislators, they said.
"The government doesn't run us, we run the government," said Kem Regik, a 20-year-old private security officer from northern Virginia who brought a white flag with a picture of a rifle captioned, "Come and take it."
Northam was a particular focus of the protesters' wrath. One poster showed his face superimposed on Adolf Hitler's body.
The governor said in a statement he was "thankful" the day passed peacefully and that "he will continue to listen to the voices" of Virginians while doing everything in his power "to keep our commonwealth safe."
"The issues before us evoke strong emotions, and progress is often difficult," Northam said.
Democratic lawmakers said the rally wouldn't impact their plans to pass gun-control measures, including universal background checks and a one-handgun-purchase-a-month limit. Democrats say tightening Virginia's gun laws will make communities safer and help prevent mass shootings like the one last year in Virginia Beach, where a dozen people were killed in a municipal building.
"I was prepared to see a whole lot more people show up than actually did and I think it's an indication that a lot of this rhetoric is bluster, quite frankly," said Del. Chris Hurst, a gun-control advocate whose TV journalist girlfriend was killed in an on-air shooting in 2015.
Some of the protesters waved flags with messages of support for President Donald Trump. Trump, in turn, tweeted support for their goals.
"The Democrat Party in the Great Commonwealth of Virginia are working hard to take away your 2nd Amendment rights," he tweeted. "This is just the beginning. Don't let it happen, VOTE REPUBLICAN in 2020!
The Virginia State Police, the Virginia Capitol Police and the Richmond Police had a heavy presence, with officers deploying on rooftops, patrolling in cars and on bicycles.
Authorities were looking to avoid a repeat of the violence that erupted in Charlottesville during one of the largest gatherings of white supremacists and other far-right groups in a decade. Attendees brawled with counterprotesters, and an avowed white supremacist drove his car into a crowd, killing a woman and injuring dozens more. Law enforcement officials faced scathing criticism for what both the white supremacist groups and anti-racism protesters said was a passive response.
On Monday, Southern Poverty Law Center staff identified members of what it calls extremist militia groups, including the Oath Keepers and Three Percenters, as well as the League of the South and the Proud Boys, which the center classifies as hate groups, according to outreach director Lecia Brooks.
In contrast to Charlottesville, there was little sign of counterprotesters challenging the gun-rights activists.
Police limited access to Capitol Square to only one entrance, and a long line formed to get into the rally zone.
Gun-rights advocates also filled the hallways of the building that houses lawmakers' offices. One couple, Jared and Marie March, traveled from Floyd County, over three hours west of Richmond, to meet with legislators.
"Guns are a way of life where we live," said Marie March, who was concerned about a proposed red-flag law she said would allow citizens to be stripped of their guns due to "subjective criteria." A proposal to establish universal background checks amounted to "more Big Brother," she said. "We just feel like we need to push government back into their rightful spot."
Monday's rally was organized by an influential grassroots gun-rights group, the Virginia Citizens Defense League. The group holds a yearly rally at the Capitol, typically a low-key event with a few hundred gun enthusiasts listening to speeches from a handful of Republican lawmakers. But this year's event was unprecedented. Second Amendment groups have identified the state as a rallying point for the fight against what they see as a national erosion of gun rights.
The pushback against proposed new gun restrictions began immediately after Democrats won majorities in both the state Senate and House of Delegates in November, with much of the opposition focused on a proposed assault weapons ban. More than 100 localities have since passed measures declaring support for the Second Amendment.
Erich Pratt, senior vice president of Gun Owners of America, said voters need to replace the Democrats in control of the government in Virginia.
"We need to throw the bums out. We need to clean house in the next election," he told the crowd.
House Republican Leader Todd Gilbert complimented the behavior of the rally-goers and said Democrats should take a lesson from them.
"The law-abiding gun owners in attendance today are the ones who would bear the brunt of their anti-gun proposals, which would have little to no impact on crime or criminals," he said in a statement.
The rally coincided with the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday, which is typically a chance for everyday citizens to use a day off work to lobby their legislators. However, the threat of violence largely kept other groups away from the Capitol, including gun control groups that hold an annual vigil for victims of gun violence.
When that event was canceled, students from March for Our Lives, the movement launched after 17 were killed at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Florida in 2018, decided they had to do something. A group of about 15 college students and one high schooler slept overnight in the offices of two Democratic lawmakers to ensure they could make it into the Capitol area safely. The lawmakers, Hurst and Del. Dan Helmer — who's sponsoring a bill that would block the National Rifle Association from operating an indoor gun range at its headquarters — camped out as well.
Michael McCabe, a 17-year-old high school senior from northern Virginia, said he was there to underscore the "moral urgency" felt by a generation "unduly affected" by gun violence.
"Our main goal is not to engage with gun extremists today," McCabe said. "We are really here to be present in the legislature to make our voices heard."
The White House on Monday released Justice Department legal opinions meant to bolster its case for defying subpoenas from Congress in the impeachment inquiry of President Donald Trump.
One opinion, dated Sunday, says Trump administration officials were free to disregard subpoenas sent last fall before the House of Representatives had formally authorized an impeachment inquiry. That approval, the memo says, is necessary before congressional committees can begin their own investigations and issue subpoenas for documents and testimony.
The opinion says lawmakers acted in "unprecedented" fashion by investigating the president without a formal vote from the House and by making "express threats of obstruction charges and unconstitutional demands" that officials appear for closed-door testimony about sensitive matters.
"Absent any effort by the House committees to accommodate the Executive Branch's legitimate concerns with the unprecedented nature of the committees' actions, it was reasonable for executive branch officials to decline to comply with the subpoenas addressed to them," says the opinion from Assistant Attorney General Steven Engel, who heads the legal counsel office.
The opinion is significant because one of the two articles of impeachment being taken up this week by the Senate accuses Trump of obstructing the congressional investigation into his efforts to get Ukraine to investigate political rival Joe Biden. Republican allies of the president are likely to seize on the Justice Department conclusion to argue that the White House was on solid legal ground when it directed aides and officials to flout congressional demands for testimony and documents.
Democrats, meanwhile, are unlikely to be persuaded that the administration's defiance of subpoenas and refusal to participate in the impeachment inquiry has any legal basis.
"In completely obstructing an investigation into his own misconduct, President Trump asserted the prerogative to nullify Congress's impeachment power itself," House managers wrote Monday.
"He placed himself above the law and eviscerated the separation of powers. This claim evokes monarchy and despotism. It has no place in our democracy, where even the highest official must answer to Congress and the Constitution," they added.
At issue are subpoenas issued last fall after news broke of Trump's July 25 phone call with Ukraine's leader, Volodymyr Zelenskiy, in which Trump asked for an investigation into Biden and his son, Hunter.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi announced an impeachment inquiry on Sept. 24. Three days later, Democratic-led committees subpoenaed Secretary of State Mike Pompeo. Additional subpoenas were issued over the next several weeks to multiple other government officials and diplomats.
Since it wasn't until Oct. 31 that the House adopted procedures governing the impeachment inquiry, subpoenas issued before then — such as to Pompeo — are not valid, according to the Justice Department opinion. Even when it passed the resolution, the opinion says, the House did not change the legal status of subpoenas issued before Oct. 31 "because the resolution did not ratify them or otherwise address their terms."
"At the opening of this Congress, the House had not chosen to confer investigative authority over impeachment upon any committee, and therefore, no House committee had authority to compel the production of documents or testimony in furtherance of an impeachment inquiry that it was not authorized to conduct," the opinion states.
The opinion was requested by White House counsel Pat Cipollone, who is leading the president's legal team in the impeachment trial.
It is one of several the office — which provides legal advice for the executive branch — has recently issued that the Trump administration has pointed to in support of its positions.
Trump's lawyers released two other opinions Monday issued by the same office.
They concluded that Charles Kupperman, a former White House deputy national security adviser, and John Eisenberg, a White House national security lawyer, were senior aides to the president and therefore immune from being forced to testify before Congress.
Kupperman last fall sued in federal court over his subpoena, seeking a court ruling on whether he had to cooperate with Congress or with a White House directive that he not testify. A judge last month dismissed the case as moot since the House subsequently withdrew the subpoena for him.
All three opinions were included as part of a legal brief the White House filed Monday ahead of opening arguments in the president's impeachment trial.