Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Central American migrants face growing threat of kidnapping by Mexican gangs

El Diario de Hoy (El Salvador) with additional material from AFP and other sources
9/6/2009

The Catholic Church of Mexico has asked the government to intervene to protect the railroads that run from Arriaga, Chiapas to Ixtepec, Oaxaca, as they have learned that in the next few hours there could be a violent mass kidnapping of Central American immigrants by members of the criminal organization "Los Zetas". Los Zetas, the military wing of the Gulf Cartel that was formed in the 90s by military deserters, act very savagely and in recent years have added kidnapping and extorsion to their criminal activities, in addition to drug trafficking.

The coordinator of Movilidad de la Pastoral Humana of the Catholic Church, Alejandro Solalinde Guerra, said in a telephone interview that they would seek the intervention of state and federal police and the Centro de Investigación de Seguridad Nacional (CISEN) to thwart any attempt by criminal gangs.

Meanwhile in Chiapas, members of the Policía Sectorial del Estado beefed up enforcement at the station and railway shunting yards in Arriaga and escorted the train to the exit of the entity to avoid possible attacks against the over 500 traveling immigrants.

The coordinator of Casa del Migrante Hogar de la Misericordia de Arriaga, Fr. Heyman Vasquez Medina, revealed that some passengers complained that a group of men traveling in a pickup truck with tinted windows and AK-47s and nine-millimeter pistols, offered to transport the migrants to the southern border, otherwise they would force them off the train and kidnap them.

Vazquez Medina said that in the face of the threat of any attack, all the houses of migrants had organized themselves to prevent violent incidents, so he called for the support of all organizations and institutions to stop the assaults and kidnappings by criminal organizations that have intensified throughout the Mexican Republic.

According to a report from the National Human Rights Commission in six months, about 10,000 immigrants were kidnapped in Mexico by Zetas cells or gangs, and were ransomed at an average of $ 2,500 per person, giving the criminals a profit of about $25 million. "There have always been kidnappings of migrants, but they have increased over the last two years. Kidnappings are now done on a massive scale, it is something that has become a daily occurence. What is happening is very worrisome," Vazquez Medina told AFP.

Father Vazquez-Medina also condemned the kidnapping and murder of the director of the Oficina de Atención al Migrante, Raul Mandujano Gutierrez, whom he called an honest and professional man with integrity, who also joined the fight for the welfare of immigrants. Mandujano Gutierrez's body was found in a rural area of Mazatan, near the border, at the beginning of September. He had been missing since he was kidnapped on April 2nd by a group of armed men.

"Today we are grieving, we mourn for the way he was killed, we condemn violence and aggression against any human being, so this unfortunate event should be investigated to its logical conclusion," he said.

As part of the 95th World Migration Day, held on Sunday, dozens of migrants conducted a march through the shunting yards and railway tracks to demand respect for their human rights, an investigation into the kidnapping and murder of Mandujano Gutierrez, and an end to the violence, kidnapping, murder, and rape to which they are subjected during their travels through Mexico. During the march, the flags of El Salvador, Honduras and Guatemala waved against the Mexican sky.

Finally, Mexico being Mexico has its own unofficial patron saint of kidnapping victims. El Santo Niño Cautivo is becoming an increasingly popular object of popular Catholic devotion. The diminutive image -- a Christ child who bears a pair of handcuffs in his hand -- can be found at the Metropolitan Cathedral in Mexico City.

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