Monday, March 18, 2013

Local Zetas In Tabasco Vowed To Decapitate Franciscan Priest From "La 72" Immigrant Refuge Shelter

Father Tomás González Castillo and Ruben Figueroa

Photos: Facebook

Lives at stake for Franciscan Father Castillo and Figueroa, an immigrant rights activist at the Immigrant Refuge Shelter "La 72" in Tenosique, Tabasco. Local criminals associated with Los Zetas vowed to invade La 72 to kill both of them before sunrise on Monday.

By H. Nelson Goodson
March 18, 2013

Tenosique, Tabasco, Mexico - On Sunday, Ruben Figueroa, an immigrant rights activist for Mesoamerican Migrant Movement (MMM) posted on the MMM org website that they were alerted of a death threat by the local criminal organization affiliated with Los Zetas (COZ) that vowed to invade "La 72" Immigrant Refuge Shelter in Tenosique to kill both Figueroa and Franciscan Father Tomás González Castillo, La 72 shelter operator before sunrise. The death threat came hours after three members of COZ in the area were arrested by the military around 2:00 p.m. The COZ controls freight train quota passenger payments and exploit undocumented immigrants trying to get on the train between Tenosique, Tabasco to Coatzacoalcos, Veracruz. One of its leaders managed to elude arrest and apparently leaked word later on Sunday that his men would engage in an armed assault to takeover La 72  later at night. The COZ leader has ordered his men to kill Father Castillo and wanted him decapitated (his head), including Figueroa and others at the shelter for exposing their criminal activities to local and federal authorities. About 60 to 80 unarmed immigrants, including shelter volunteers are currently staying at the shelter.
The COZ operates a multimillion dollar transportation and smuggling routes of undocumented immigrants (human trafficking) who often become victims of violence, rape, murder, kidnappings, prostitution rings, drug trafficking and armed robbery.
Figueroa has requested authorities for 24 hour protection around La 72 compound. He notified the Federal Ministry Police, the Tabasco state Attorney General's Office (PGJ), Mexican Federal Police and the zone military about Sunday's death threats. They launched an operation by the train route that led to the arrest of three suspects.
Figueroa also sent out a news release from MMM org to alert other immigrant shelters in Mexico and request for solidarity, including support or reinforcements. La 72 shelter Facebook last posting was made just before 11:00 p.m. concerning the death threats.
Last Monday, Franciscan Father Castillo announced that a complaint was filed (PGR/TAB/TEN/206/D/2013) with the Mexican Federal Attorney General's Office (PGRF) by the Immigrant Refuge Shelter "La 72" in Tenosique. Father Castillo in the complaint is holding the federal, state and local governments and authorities responsible for the safety or deaths of anyone associated with La 72 and undocumented immigrants. Father Castillo, an immigrant and human rights activist says, they have requested protection and assistance from the Mexican military, federal, state and local authorities for La 72 workers, volunteers and immigrants using the refuge house during their journey to the U.S. 
Mexican government officials have been made aware of the dangerous situation and criminal activity in Tenosique for years and yet very little has been done by the authorities and the current Mexican President Peña Nieto administration. The government and its officials have done very little to provide security in the area and their lack of action can only mean that they might be involved or in collusion with the criminal organizations in control of the area. "We can not continue or get accustom to living in constant threat and criminal activity," Castillo stated in a news release. The elected officials and government must be held accountable too, according to Father Castillo. Castillo also called for public solidarity to help confront the insecurity Tenosique is facing today.  
Recently, a caravan or group of mothers representing missing undocumented immigrants from Central and South America visited La 72 refuge house to seek help in trying to locate their reported missing sons, husbands and daughters.
So far between March 2-4, the lives of the workers,, volunteers at La 72 refuge home and Rubén Figueroa from the MesoAmerican Migrant Movement were threaten by known members of a criminal organization (COZ) associated with Los Zetas. Figueroa, Father Castillo and a handful of La 72 volunteers have been providing food and temporary shelter for undocumented immigrants traveling through Tenosique. Figueroa can be found at La 72 helping immigrants during several seasons of the year.
Tenosique in a major travel point where thousands of immigrants catch a freight train to Coatzacoalcos, Veracruz on their way (route) through Mexico and the U.S. border. The train (bestia/beast) is known as the "Death Train or Tren de la Muerte." 
COZ have taken over the immigrant travel routes around Tenosique and charge an equivalent $100 to $300 U.S. dollars to jump on the freight train. Once the immigrants reach Coatzacoalcos in the state of Veracruz, they must pay the quota. The COZ's are based in Veracruz.
Some immigrants have been thrown from the moving train by criminals, if they fail or have no money to pay the quota. Once they reach Veracruz, most likely there is a good chance the immigrants can reach the U.S. border.
Members of COZ manage the travel arrangements and secure protection for the immigrants and constantly give updated reports to their criminal organization. It's become a multimillion dollar operation for the COZ.
The Tenosique area and routes has become a lawless territory where the COZ members kidnap immigrants for ransom, armed robberies occur, women get violated and raped, extortion is prevalent, where hundreds of immigrants have disappeared and murdered. Tenosique is also close to the Petén jungle region on the Guatemala border where legal and illegal merchandise, including drugs get smuggled into Mexico.
La 72 immigrant refuge house had to ban known members of the COZ from infiltrating the refuge home in order to keep the undocumented immigrants from falling victims of organized crime. The COZ has stationed lookouts (halcones) to spy on La 72 human rights activities, according to Father Castillo.
In early January, a complete file of information and testimony by victims of the illicit organized criminal activity was made available to authorities to expose what is taking place at the Tenosique immigrant travel routes. The Tenosique criminal activity information was provided to the State of Tabasco Attorney General's Office, including the PGRF; Tabasco's Governor Arturo Núñez; Carlos Alberto Vega Celorio, Mayor of Tenosique;  Mexican military zone 38 General Rígoberto García and his staff; members of the Tobasco South Frontier Commission and to Federal Senators, Layda Sanores and Ana Gabriela.
Father Castillo and human rights activists are also expected to meet with Raúl Ojeda Zubieta, the Secretary of Government in Tabasco about the current situation involving criminal activity and the risk to public safety that is taking place in the area.
Father Castillo also stated, that in July 2011, the National Commission for Human Rights (NCHR) made recommendations about security measures to be undertaken, but nothing was ever implemented and the human rights case was closed. Information about the NCHR recommendations was also requested from the InterAmerican Commission of Human Rights and no action has been taken either.
The Mexican Secretary of Government (Segob) was also requested to provide protection and security for human rights activists and journalists in the area, but no action has been taken by the Segob.

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