Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Migrants Link Detainees to Mexico Kidnappings, Murders

Four undocumented Central American migrants identified 10 gang members detained in the southern Mexican state of Chiapas as their kidnappers and linked them with two murders, officials said Saturday.

The Chiapas government’s prosecutor’s office for crimes against migrants reported Friday that the undocumented aliens, after being taken into custody, spotted one of their abductors at an immigration post, which led to the capture of the gang, made up of Hondurans and Salvadorans, in different parts of that southern state.

The crimes in question occurred in late 2010 in the Gulf coast state of Veracruz, a place that illegal aliens typically pass through on their journey to the U.S. border, often on freight trains.

According to the victims’ story, the armed criminals boarded the freight car they were traveling in and shouted “Get down on the floor, you’re kidnapped!” and abducted 13 Central Americans on the night of Nov. 25.

They tied their hands and forced them to walk for an hour through the scrub, threatening them and hitting them with sticks. They also demanded their names and the telephone numbers of family members who would pay their ransom.

“After two attempted phone calls, they managed to speak to someone in my family, and demanded a deposit of $1,000 in a Western Union account of Elektra, because I was kidnapped in Medias Aguas, Veracruz,” one of the Hondurans said in his testimony.

The witness said that after collecting the ransom money, they took him with other migrants back to the train tracks, where the gang was holding nine hostages and where he witnessed one of the two murders.

An individual known by the alias of “El Guero,” the suspected gang leader, “ordered them to get in line, but one of them refused to obey and tried to escape,” the witness said.

“When they caught up with him, they took him to the train tracks, and El Guero ordered him killed with machetes. When he didn’t die, he went up to him, took out his gun and shot him in the head and apparently again in the side.”

The suspected criminals along with the four witnesses were handed over – under army escort – to the Vera Cruz authorities. The Chiapas government said it has dismantled gangs in its territory that were attacking migrants.

The attacks, kidnappings and murders of undocumented migrants crossing Mexico have become business as usual for criminal gangs, including Mexican drug-trafficking cartels. The collusion of corrupt public officials is suspected.

Close to 300,000 undocumented migrants are estimated to cross Mexico every year, of whom less than a third are caught. According to the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, in 2009 some 18,000 migrants were kidnapped in this country.

The abduction of at least 40 undocumented aliens in December in the southern part of the country, reported by activists, moved the United Nations to ask Mexico this week to do something about the situation.

The slaughter of 72 migrants from Central and South America two months ago by suspected drug cartel hit men also led several governments of the region to begin a dialogue with Mexico to guarantee the safety of their citizens traveling without papers to the United States.

Despite high-level meetings and the launching of a security strategy, few tangible results in migrant protection have been achieved in recent months, and activists’ protests are increasing.

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