FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

A Graveyard for Migrants

One of the women lay face up, her torso cutting a diagonal line across the railway track. The other lay face down, her right leg splayed over the same track at the thigh. Both wore reddish tank tops and pants that went down just below the knee. A police officer with an automatic weapon watched over the bodies.

It was far too late to do anything to help. Little yellow numbers, from one to six, were placed on each piece of ballistic evidence, grim reminders of how Mexico is refashioning its police after the US model.

According to local media, the women were murdered by stab and bullet wounds in the late afternoon on May 30. A preliminary report suggests they refused to pay the quota charged by a criminal group after climbing up on the train. Their bodies were found later that same day just north of the Mexican tourist town of Palenque, in Chiapas.

Both women were from Honduras–Mexicans don’t risk traveling on cargo trains when they migrate through their country toward the United States. Most Central Americans traveling through Mexico do so as undocumented migrants. This means they are not afforded the right to free movement.

If they board a bus, undocumented migrants in Mexico can be pulled off and deported by soldiers at numerous checkpoints dotting northern-bound highways. Without paperwork, they can’t make it past the airport service counter. Thus, the train remains the most accessible means of transport for Hondurans, Guatemalans, Salvadorans, Nicaraguans, and others who hope against hope they’ll make to the US and find employment.

The double murder on the train tracks in Chiapas took place on the heels of an Observation Mission into the conditions of migrants in southern Mexico, coordinated by the Mesoamerican Migration Movement. The Mission, led by activists and members of the Catholic Church as well as journalists based in Veracruz and Mexico, made its way from Orizaba, in Veracruz state, to Tenosique, a municipality in Tabasco state, which borders Guatemala.

On the last night of the four-day Mission, participants stayed overnight at La 72, a migrant shelter in Tenosique. The shelter was opened following the discovery of the bodies of 72 migrants on a ranch in San Fernando, in the border state of Tamaulipas in August of 2010. It takes its name in honor of the memory of the dead.

A report from the mission was prepared by participants and delivered to four members of Mexico’s senate who visited the shelter on May 28.

“What motivated us to carry out this mission is the tragedy, the new tragedy that came to light through the media in Cosoleacaque, in the community of Barrancas, when the train was attacked,” said Fray Tómas Gonzalez Castillo when the report was presented to senators.

“This tragedy has had aftershocks, just like after an earthquake, just recently on May 14, here in Tenosique, the train was stopped and there were kidnappings, we’re looking after the victims now, though they are not present today for security reasons,” he said.

The report’s final text rejected the official version of events related to the attack on migrants in the evening of May 1in Barrancas, in southern Veracruz. Dozens of migrants were wounded, one seriously, after they were attacked while riding the cargo train.

Members of the state government claimed the migrants were wounded because of infighting between migrants. But when hundreds of people descended from the train and sought refuge in the village of Las Barrancas, they told local authorities that they were attacked on the train related to the payment of a quota.

South of Las Barrancas, in Las Choapas, Veracruz, members of the Observation Mission, witnessed a train passing carrying between 1,000 and 1,500 migrants. As the train stopped and started as machinists added another car, we watched passengers got off to buy food, pop and water from local vendors along the tracks.

Some on the train that day claimed they were told they would be required to pay four $100 quotas to travel through four stations, each controlled by criminal groups. Those who don’t pay are kidnapped and ransomed, assaulted, killed or disappeared.

“Today there’s a lot of death along the train tracks, and we want support as migrants, a permit or something, so that we can follow the path to our dream, our dream is to arrive to the United States and help our people,” said Gustavo Adolfo, a Garifuna man from Honduras on his way up to the US.

“Over the last years thousands of migrants have been disappeared and thousands have died on the trains without their families ever finding out what happened. We are victims, we are kidnapped, and we die as innocents.”

In the places the Mission visited in Veracruz state, church groups and local organizations provide assistance to migrants, including shelter, meals and legal aid.

“The participation of the government, for it’s part, lacks organized, coordinated assistance for people who are migrants,” reads the report. “Among various agencies, the services offered are intermittent, lacking, and in some areas and cases, null.”

Those who have stepped in to assist migrants have also been threatened and intimidated for their work. “Around two years ago there started to be complaints in this region, complaints of human rights abuses thathave been taken to the authorities, and the activists here have received threats for their work,” said José Jacques, a former legislator who took part in the Mission and in the writing of the report.

There was a time when the extortion and murder of migrants was primarily an issue in the US-Mexico border region. Over the past years, Mexico’s southern region has also become a hellish passage for migrants.

The report ends by echoing a general sentiment that “Mexico is a graveyard for migrants.” The appearance of the bodies of two women migrants murdered two days after the document was released is a dreadful confirmation of their conclusion.

Dawn Paley is a freelance journalist and independent researcher. She was the only foreign journalist to take part in the Observation Mission. Find more of her work online at dawnpaley.ca.  She is a regular contributor to the Americas Program www.cipamericas.org

 

More articles by:
Weekend Edition
April 20, 2018
Friday - Sunday
Paul Street
Ruling Class Operatives Say the Darndest Things: On Devils Known and Not
Conn Hallinan
The Great Game Comes to Syria
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Mother of War
Andrew Levine
“How Come?” Questions
Doug Noble
A Tale of Two Atrocities: Douma and Gaza
Kenneth Surin
The Blight of Ukania
Howard Lisnoff
How James Comey Became the Strange New Hero of the Liberals
William Blum
Anti-Empire Report: Unseen Persons
Lawrence Davidson
Missiles Over Damascus
Patrick Cockburn
The Plight of the Yazidi of Afrin
Pete Dolack
Fooled Again? Trump Trade Policy Elevates Corporate Power
Stan Cox
For Climate Mobilization, Look to 1960s Vietnam Before Turning to 1940s America
William Hawes
Global Weirding
Dan Glazebrook
World War is Still in the Cards
Nick Pemberton
In Defense of Cardi B: Beyond Bourgeois PC Culture
Ishmael Reed
Hollywood’s Last Days?
Peter Certo
There Was Nothing Humanitarian About Our Strikes on Syria
Dean Baker
China’s “Currency Devaluation Game”
Ann Garrison
Why Don’t We All Vote to Commit International Crimes?
LEJ Rachell
The Baddest Black Power Artist You Never Heard Of
Lawrence Ware
All Hell Broke Out in Oklahoma
Franklin Lamb
Tehran’s Syria: Lebanon Colonization Project is Collapsing
Donny Swanson
Janus v. AFSCME: What’s It All About?
Will Podmore
Brexit and the Windrush Britons
Brian Saady
Boehner’s Marijuana Lobbying is Symptomatic of Special-Interest Problem
Julian Vigo
Google’s Delisting and Censorship of Information
Patrick Walker
Political Dynamite: Poor People’s Campaign and the Movement for a People’s Party
Fred Gardner
Medical Board to MDs: Emphasize Dangers of Marijuana
Rob Seimetz
We Must Stand In Solidarity With Eric Reid
Missy Comley Beattie
Remembering Barbara Bush
Wim Laven
Teaching Peace in a Time of Hate
Thomas Knapp
Freedom is Winning in the Encryption Arms Race
Mir Alikhan
There Won’t be Peace in Afghanistan Until There’s Peace in Kashmir
Robert Koehler
Playing War in Syria
Tamara Pearson
US Shootings: Gun Industry Killing More People Overseas
John Feffer
Trump’s Trade War is About Trump Not China
Morris Pearl
Why the Census Shouldn’t Ask About Citizenship
Ralph Nader
Bill Curry on the Move against Public Corruption
Josh Hoxie
Five Tax Myths Debunked
Leslie Mullin
Democratic Space in Adverse Times: Milestone at Haiti’s University of the Aristide Foundation
Louis Proyect
Syria and Neo-McCarthyism
Dean Baker
Finance 202 Meets Economics 101
Abel Cohen
Forget Gun Control, Try Bullet Control
Robert Fantina
“Damascus Time:” An Iranian Movie
David Yearsley
Bach and Taxes
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail