Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Undocumented Immigrant Viacrucis Seeks To Stop Kidnappings, Extortions And Murders In Chiapas, Tabasco And Veracruz

Photos courtesy of Rubén Figueroa

A delegation of 20 undocumented immigrants from Central America, including immigrant rights activists and Viacrucis organizers met with the governor of Veracruz.

By H. Nelson Goodson
April 22, 2014

Amatlán de los Reyes, Veracruz, Mexico - On Monday, more than 1,000 undocumented immigrants from Central America involved in a tri-state (Chiapas, Tabasco and Veracruz) Immigrant Viacrucis departed from Coatzacoalcos, Veracruz to the municipality of Amatlán de los Reyes where a 20 member delegation met with Veracruz Governor Javier Duarte de Ochoa. The delegation requested for Governor Duarte de Ochoa to act and help stop the kidnappings, extortions and murders committed against undocumented immigrants riding La Bestia (Beast) freight train through Veracruz on their way to the U.S. border.
Veracruz and the region of Coatzacoalcos has become known as the capital of kidnappings and extortions, according to Franciscan Priest Tomás González Castillo, one of the Viacrucis organizers and director of La 72 Immigrant Refuge Shelter in Tenosique, Tabasco. Castillo says, that thousands of undocumented immigrants from Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador who ride La Bestia through the state of Veracruz have become victims of kidnappings, extortion and murder by criminal groups, gangs and corrupt immigration officials along the train route. Most of those crimes committed against the undocumented immigrants have gone unpunished by Duarte de Ochoa's administration in Veracruz allowing criminal organizations to operate without impunity in Coatzacoalcos. 
Immigrants riding La Bestia fall victims of several gangs and criminal organizations operating in the tri-state area who charged between $100 to $300 dollars in quota to ride La Bestia train. Those who fail to pay the quota are thrown off the moving train, raped, stabbed or murdered.
Governor Duarte de Ochoa recently filed a complaint and lawsuit with the Mexican federal attorney general's office against both of La Bestia freight train operators, Ferrosur and the Kansas City Group for allowing undocumented immigrants to ride the train into Veracruz. Duarte de Ochoa claimed that both train operators should be held accountable for the major crimes perpetrated towards undocumented immigrants during the train route to Veracruz. But immigrant rights groups on the contrary say, that Duarte de Ochoa's administration has not prosecuted or investigated such crimes that have been reported and has lacked to provide any state police security or protection along La Bestia route to prevent such crimes.
Duarte de Ochoa promised the immigrant delegation to pursue criminal investigations and prosecutions against those who commit crimes against the undocumented immigrants. He also said that undocumented immigrants would be allowed to use the Veracruz public bus transit to safely travel through Veracruz without fear of becoming victims of further extortions by criminal groups, according to Ruben Figueroa, an immigrant rights activist from Movimiento Migrante Mesoamericano.
Last Thursday, the Immigrant Viacrucis began at the border in Naranjo, Guatemala with 50 immigrants and later increased to almost 500 when a group in Tenosique, Tabasco waiting at La 72 Immigrant Refuge Shelter joined the group. They were expecting to ride La Bestia from Tenosique to Palenque, Veracruz, but the freight train operators in protest of Duarte's recent lawsuit denied the immigrants access to the train. The Immigrant Viacrucis group than decided to walk to Veracruz stopping at immigrant refuge shelters at different cities and picking up more than 1,000 supporters along La Bestia route.
Fray Castillo and immigrant activists are advocating for government visas to allow legal transit of immigrants through Mexico and government protection of immigrants against violence resulting from extortions, murder, quotas, rape and forced prostition by local gangs known as Los Zetas, Mara Salvatrucha's (MS-13) and corrupt Mexican immigration agents, including local, state and Federal Police. 
Exploiting undocumented immigrants has become a multi-million dollar operation. An estimated 70,000 undocumented immigrants from South and Central America travel through Mexico on their way to the U.S. border every year.
Figueroa estimates that criminal organizations, gangs and corrupt public officials, including Mexican immigration agents, local/state police and fededal police lost about $4M U.S. ($52M pesos) of extortions, kidnapping ransoms and La Bestia freight train quota charges during the week long immigrant Viacrucis march from Naranjo, Guatemala to Mexico's states of Chiapas, Tabasco, Veracruz and Mexico City.

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