Thousands of Honduran migrants bound for the US surged into Guatemala on Thursday, just weeks before the US 2020 Presidential election.
Carrying backpacks and plastic bags, the migrants pushed past two lines of Guatemalan soldiers at the Entre Rios border crossing and continued north -- defying the risks and restrictions linked to the coronavirus pandemic.
However late Thursday Guatemalan President Alejandro Giammattei, in an address to the nation, ordered the Hondurans detained and sent back to their home country.
Guatemalan Migration Institute officials said some 3,000 people had crossed the border without submitting to a Covid-19 test, required for foreigners entering the country.
Many were not wearing masks to protect against the spread of infection.
Giammattei said that "a massive group of Hondurans violently broke in" at the border town of Corinto, in Izabal province.
"Amid the current health emergency, not only did they fail to respect measures to enter the country but also health measures established to protect our citizens," he said.
"We're not thinking about the pandemic, it's the last thing on our minds," 20-year-old Jeffrey Amaya told AFP, part of a group of young people from El Negrito, in Honduras' Yoro department.
Amaya said he had joined the caravan after seeing a message on social media.
Soldiers handed out water to passing migrants, some of whom applauded the troops for allowing them to pass.
Dozens of migrants hitched a ride on the back of a large flatbed truck as they headed toward Mexico.
Just a few miles into Guatemala a Honduran migrant died when he fell from a moving truck.