FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

A Graveyard for Migrants

by DAWN PALEY

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:

CounterPunch Magazine

minimag-edit

bernie-the-sandernistas-cover-344x550

zen economics

July 24, 2017
Patrick Cockburn
A Shameful Silence: Where is the Outrage Over the Slaughter of Civilians in Mosul?
Robert Hunziker
Extremely Nasty Climate Wake-Up
Ron Jacobs
Dylan and Woody: Goin’ Down the Road Feelin’ Bad
Dan Glazebrook
Quantitative Easing: the Most Opaque Transfer of Wealth in History
Ellen Brown
Saving Illinois: Getting More Bang for the State’s Bucks
Richard Hardigan
The Media is Misleading the Public on the Al-Asqa Mosque Situation
Matthew Stevenson
Travels in Trump’s America: Memphis, Little Rock, Fayetteville and Bentonville
Ruth Fowler
Fire at Grenfell
Ezra Kronfeld
The Rights of Sex Workers: Where is the Movement to Legalize Prostitution
Mark Weisbrot
What Venezuela Needs: Negotiation Not Regime Change
Binoy Kampmark
From Spicy to the Mooch: A Farewell to Sean Spicer
Wim Laven
Progress Report, Donald Trump: Failing
Weekend Edition
July 21, 2017
Friday - Sunday
Kevin Zeese
Green Party Growing Pains; Our Own Crisis of Democracy
Jeffrey St. Clair
Red State, Blue State; Green State, Deep State
Paul Street
“Inclusive Capitalism,” Nancy Pelosi, and the Dying Planet
Anthony DiMaggio
Higher Education Fallacies: What’s Behind Rising Conservative Distrust of Learning?
Andrew Levine
Why Republicans Won’t Dump Trump Anytime Soon
Michael Colby
Ben & Jerry’s Has No Clothes
Bruce Dixon
White Liberal Guilt, Black Opportunism and the Green Party
Edward Hunt
Killing Civilians in Iraq and Syria
Matthew Kovac
Is the Flint Water Crisis a Crime Against Humanity?
Mark Harris
The Revolutionary Imagination: Rosa for Our Times
David Rosen
America’s Five Sex Panics
Robert Fisk
Saudi Arabia: the Kingdom Whose Name We Dare Not Speak At All
Jack Heyman
Class War on the Waterfront: Longshore Workers Under Attack
Kim C. Domenico
Marginalize This:  Turning the Tables on Neoliberal Triumphalism
Brian Cloughley
Trying to Negotiate With the United States
John Laforge
Activists Challenge US Nukes in Germany; Occupy Bunker Deep Inside Nuclear Weapons Base
Jonathan Latham
The Biotech Industry is Taking Over the Regulation of GMOs From the Inside
Russell Mokhiber
DC Disciplinary Counsel Hamilton Fox Won’t Let Whistleblower Lawyer Lynne Bernabei Go
Ramzy Baroud
The Story Behind the Jerusalem Attack: How Trump and Netanyahu Pushed Palestinians to A Corner
Farzana Versey
The Murder of Muslims
Kathy Kelly
At Every Door
David W. Pear
Venezuela Under Siege by U.S. Empire
Maria Paez Victor
Venezuelan Opposition Now Opposes the People
Uri Avnery
Soros’ Sorrows
Joseph Natoli
The Mythos Meme of Choice
Clark T. Scott
High Confidence and Low Methods
Missy Comley Beattie
Glioblastoma As Metaphor
Ann Garrison
Organizing Pennsylvania’s 197: Cheri Honkala on Frontline Communities
Ted Rall
What Happened When I Represented Myself as My Own Lawyer
Colin Todhunter
Codex Alimentarius and Monsanto’s Toxic Relations
Graham Peebles
Europe’s Shameful Refugee Policy
Louis Proyect
Reversals of Imperial Fortune: From the Comanche to Vietnam
Stephen Cooper
Gov. Kasich: “Amazing Grace” Starts With You! 
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail