Hundreds of Salvadorans form new US-bound caravan

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San Salvador (AFP)

A group of around 300 migrants left the El Salvador capital on foot on Sunday heading for the border with Guatemala in the hope of eventually realizing the "American dream" and reaching the United States.

The group, made up mostly of men, has been inspired by the much larger Honduran caravan already in Mexico and striving to reach the US.

"We're a little more than 300 people, but as we walk we hope more compatriots will join us," Hernan Quinteros, a 48-year-old retired army sergeant, told AFP.

The new caravan ignored warnings from El Salvador's government on Friday not to put their lives in danger.

It's more than two weeks since a caravan of Honduran migrants set off in search of a better life, passing through Guatemala and now into Mexico, with its numbers swelling up to 7,000 according to UN estimates.

US President Donald Trump has threatened to deploy the military to halt them at the border with Mexico.

But while Quinteros, who took part in El Salvador's 1980-92 civil war, said it was "painful" to leave his three children behind, he said the United States is "the country of opportunities."

"A young person spends a year hoping to find work that never arrives and that's why I'm going after the American dream," said 24-year-old Pablo Figueroa.

Figueroa lives off the tips he earns singing in restaurants but says he wants to find permanent employment that would allow him to "build a project for life."

Among the few women in the group is 38-year-old single mother Lorena Cruz, who left behind children aged 16, 12 and 10.

"The caravan is presenting an opportunity for me (to emigrate)," said Cruz, who confessed that it would cost a lot to pay people smugglers to get her into the US.

As it left San Salvador, the group was accompanied by police who would "guarantee safety" all the way to the Guatemala border, one officer told AFP.

Around 2.5 million Salvadorans live in the US and last year sent home more than $5 billion in remittances, making up almost 16 percent of the Central American country's gross domestic product.