Migrants on Activist Pilgrimage Dodge Police, Gangs Across Mexico

Latin Dispatch News, 4/30/2015

Photo by Levi Vonk
Photo by Levi Vonk

Ciudad Tecún Umán is sweltering. All of the town’s households and its handful of ramshackle cantinas still use wood-burning stoves, their sweaty attendants braving the compounded afternoon heat. The smoke trails out into the few dusty streets, unpaved, potholed and barely stretching to the edge of the Rio Suchiate, which divides Tecún Umán and the rest of Guatemala from Mexico.

It was at the river that on March 24 a small group of migrants’ rights organizers launched the Viacrucis Migrante, an activist pilgrimage centered around Semana Santa (Holy Week) and the religious Mexican ritual of the “viacrucis,” in which worshipers reenact Jesus’ last steps before his crucifixion. Now in its fifth year, the Viacrucis Migrante serves as a platform for activists to highlight their grievances, as well as to give migrants direct access to reporters and scholars traveling with them.

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On Southern Border, Mexico Faces Crisis of Its Own

07/19/14 The New York Times

shutterstock_54084691For years, Mexico’s most closely watched border was its northern one, which generations of Mexican migrants have crossed seeking employment and refuge in the United States.

But the sudden surge of child migrants from Central America, many of them traveling alone, has cast scrutiny south, to the 600-mile border separating Mexico and Guatemala.

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Stowaways Are Stranded in Mexico by Train Ban

Train Tracks by HeraldicosNY Times, 5/10/14

Hundreds of Central American migrants trying to make their way to the United States have been stranded in Mexico in recent weeks after the freight-train line they ride — labeled the Beast — began enforcing a ban on stowaways, migrant advocates say. The migrants, often desperate to leave poverty and crime in their home countries, brave riding atop the train cars, activists say, and are prey to criminals who have been accused of rape, robbery and murder.

Many of the migrants have ended up in already crowded shelters, which have reported populations now swelling beyond capacity with men, women and children. Migrant activists say that once the migrants are stranded, they face a difficult decision of whether to return home or try the journey north by foot or car, leaving them vulnerable to criminal gangs and corrupt police along the way. Crew members of the railroad, which is featured in books and documentaries about the migration north, normally turn a blind eye to migrants scrambling to stow away on the trains.

But after the southern Mexico state of Veracruz filed a lawsuit last month accusing the railroad of complicity in the violence on the trains, the train operators began banning the stowaways, migrant advocates said. The train line is run by Ferrosur and Kansas City Southern de Mexico. According to activists, train cars overloaded with migrants have been unhitched and left idle, and the train has skipped stops where scores of migrants waited.

Another rail line known for carrying Central American migrants continues to allow migrants on board, according to human rights activists who advocate Mexico’s granting of travel permits so the migrants can freely head north in better conditions.

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Mexican Authorities Detain 300 Central American Migrants Near Southern Border

mexican immigrantLatin Times, 5/1/14

Animal Politico reports that around 300 undocumented Central American migrants were arrested on Wednesday during a joint operation carried out by Mexico’s immigration agency in tandem with federal and state police in the southern state of Tabasco, near the Guatemalan border. The migrants were part of at least a thousand others bound for the United States who found themselves stranded last week in Tabasco and Chiapas states. Personnel with the cargo train lines which migrants often use to hitchhike north had kept the group from climbing on because of a suit filed on April 1 by the state of Veracruz against two train companies. La Jornada writes that most of the detained group were from Honduras.

Kansas City Southern and Ferrosur, said the attorney general’s office of Veracruz in the suit, was putting the lives of migrant hitchhikers — who often number several hundred per day — in jeopardy by making unplanned stops so that bandits can board. The office accused the companies of “presumed responsibility for action or omission in unlawful acts and violations of human rights against migrants.” Advocates have long claimed that the cargo trains’ operators collaborate with the Zetas and the small-time bandits who work for them to collect “taxes” from riders on the lines collectively known as “La Bestia.”

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What Should Investors Know About Security Issues On Mexico’s Other Border?

Centroamerica_politicoForbes, 3/31/14

The triangle of El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras is now considered to be the most violent non-war zone on the planet. San Pedro Sula, Honduras, was the most violent city in the world in 2012, recording more than three murders a day.

Guatemala City has also emerged as one of the region’s most violent. Between 2008 and 2012, more than 24,000 murders took place there. A similar dynamic of street violence and homicides has taken root in El Salvador, the home base of the Maras.

By contrast, in Chiapas during 2010 and 2011 fewer than 200 murders a year were reported. The number nearly doubled in 2012 to 392, but that’s still much lower per capita than the number reported in Mexican cities such as Ciudad Juarez and Acapulco, or even U.S. cities such as Chicago and New York.

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