Transient Immigrant Mauro Rodriguez from Tela, Atlantida, Honduras stands outside of La 72 Immigrant Refuge Shelter.
Photos courtesy of Ruben Figueroa
By H. Nelson Goodson
March 21, 2013
Villahermosa, Tabasco, Mexico - Three Central Americans have been charged with extortion for forcing undocumented immigrants to pay $100 dollars to broad a freight train, according to the Federal Public Ministry in Tenosique. The suspects charged were identified as José Alberto González, Jorge Alberto Alvarado, both from Honduras and José Osmaro Cruz Gálvez of El Salvador.
The suspects were taken into custody on Sunday, after state, federal and local authorities were alerted to death threats made to local immigrant rights activists who have reported for several months the criminal activities and extortion of immigrants in the train route.
A criminal organization (CO) composed of Central Americans and Mexican nationals operate in the Tenosique, Tabasco zone and its leaders who eluded arrest have vowed to kill and decapitate both Franciscan Father Tómas González Castillo and Ruben Figueroa, an immigrant rights activist for the Mesoamerican Migrant Movement who help immigrants crossing into Mexico on their way to central and northern Mexico. Father Castillo operates La 72 Immigrant Refuge Shelter in Tenosique, which offers complimentary food donated by supporters, spiritual support to immigrants, temporary shelter and a safe house from criminals.
The CO controls freight train quota passenger payments and exploit undocumented immigrants trying to get on the train between Tenosique, Tabasco to Coatzacoalcos, Veracruz. The CO 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 or forced servitude.
Recently, CO's have engaged in kidnapping hundreds of immigrants at a time and then attempt to collect ransom. Thousands of immigrants have disappeared between Tabasco and the state of Veracruz, which the CO is based. The missing undocumented immigrants are believed to have fallen victims of drug cartels, criminal organizations and corrupt law enforcement officials. There bodies are then buried in clandestine graves along the train route or disposed in acid drums.
The drug cartels have recently evolved into mafias and their influence has reached epidemic proportions in every municipality and state in Mexico resulting in the proliferation of daily criminal activity that includes kidnapping, extortion and mass murder.
Father Castillo says, they have requested for local, state and federal protection for La 72 Immigrant Shelter to prevent another San Fernando, Tamaulipas massacre where 72 immigrants were killed because they refused to join the local Zetas in their feud with the Gulf Cartel. Castillo believes a massacre is waiting to happen, especially when authorities have failed to provide adequate security around the shelter until Thursday. In a given day, about 60 to 90 immigrants spent the night at the shelter.
With the recent dead threats to Father Castillo, the shelter volunteers and workers have raised their awareness to their surroundings. Only a squad car from the municipal police has been station near the shelter, since Sunday and additional lighting has been provided by the local government.
The Federal Police and municipal police were assigned to provide security at La 72 shelter on Thursday, Figueroa confirmed. The military in the region on occasion patrols the train route, which ensures the CO to continue operating in the zone with impunity.
Cartels are trying to take control of the multimillion dollar drug routes heading into the U.S. border.
Photo by Ruben Figueroa