(Adds migrants reaching Guatemala, fresh quotes)
By Gustavo Palencia
TEGUCIGALPA, Jan 15 (Reuters) - Hundreds of Hondurans and Nicaraguans on Saturday left the Honduran city of San Pedro Sula to march toward the United States, the first such migrant caravan to be formed this year in Central America.
The caravan set off days before leftist President-elect Xiomara Castro takes office in Honduras on Jan. 27. She has vowed to revive the economy and combat corruption that stokes waves of mass migration to the United States.
The migrants, mostly young people carrying backpacks on their shoulders and women with children, left a bus terminal in the northern city of San Pedro Sula for the border post of Corinto in an attempt to enter Guatemala. Some were pushing children in baby carriages.
"There is no work," said Pablo Mendez, a Honduran carrying his 2-year-ld daughter in his arms. "That is why people are leaving in this caravan."
Reuters video footage showed large groups of hundreds of people walking across San Pedro Sula, with many crossing busy highways on foot.
Another, smaller group of people left San Pedro Sula for the Guatemalan border earlier in the morning.
By 2 p.m. local time (2000 GMT), Guatemala's migration institute said, some 100 people had crossed into Guatemala at an unofficial border crossing.
Many of the migrants had been heading to the Corinto border crossing in Honduras. Guatemalan police and military awaited them on the other side, the Guatemala institute said.
Previously, Honduran police have formed roadblocks to prevent many such caravans from reaching the border crossing. Guatemalan security forces have also clashed with migrant groups when they tried to force their way across without documents.
The first caravan of the year comes after deep economic hardship and poverty that plagues 62% of the Honduran population, made worse by the coronavirus pandemic and two back-to-back hurricanes in 2020 that hobbled the economy.
In Nicaragua, political crackdowns by President Daniel Ortega's government before and after the Nov. 7 presidential elections have led to a surge in migration.
Euclides Mendes, a Nicaraguan migrant, said the size of the caravan gave him hope that the treacherous journey would be safe.
"It's true that we're going to walk a lot, but we're going, and the important thing is to get to the finish line," Mendes added. (Additional reporting by Sofia Menchu Writing by Drazen Jorgic Editing by Marguerita Choy and Jonathan Oatis)
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