SANTIAGO, Chile — Chile is seeing an increase in the number of illegal migrants crossing its northern border with Peru with an eye toward the presidential election on Nov. 19, a top official said Saturday.
Health ministry official Claudia Mauri said one thousand migrants have been intercepted by authorities in recent weeks. She told reporters a year ago that 930 migrants were found and identified during a similar time frame, and in 2016 the figure was 606.
The migrants are predominantly Peruvians who cross the desert along the 1,340-mile (2,310-kilometer) border, Mauri said. Several illegal migrants from Ecuador were discovered Friday and officials are working to repatriate them, she said.
President Michelle Bachelet announced last week that she wouldn’t run for a second term and she has called on Chileans to come forward with names for her Cabinet. It’s a change in tone for the 66-year-old former center-left president, who used to play up her progressive credentials in hopes of winning a second term and ending her presidency with a significant left-wing majority in Congress.
“Our country hasn’t always been considered an inviting destination. There are many things we haven’t done yet,” she said. “It would be good if the right began to talk about the fundamental needs of our country.”
Some of the migrants are hoping to go to Chile’s mining, agriculture and fishing areas, especially in southern Chile where the law enforcement presence is relatively light.