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Mexico: Central American Migrants Arrested

Central American Migrants Arrested, Shelter Managers Attacked by Police, Migration Agents
Proceso: Mathieu Tourliere

Following an operation in which they captured more than 320 Central American migrants who were walking the road between Tenosique, Tabasco and Emiliano Zapata, agents of the Federal Police and the National Migration Institute assaulted staff of The 72 migrant shelter, Rubén Figueroa, Fray Tómas González and Fray Aurelio.

After learning last night [Wednesday] that authorities had detained the caravan of migrants, 72 staff members came to the social center of the community of Chacama, Tabasco, where the migrants were being held.

"They hit me in the face, they knocked me to the floor, and a migration agent pushed Fray Tomas and almost fractured his arm," Figueroa to Proceso. He said that the agents knew who the defenders of migrants were, and that the migration representative for Tabasco was present. "Everyone knew who we were," he added.

He explained that when they reached the community centre, he found the frightened migrants. Women and children were screaming and crying, he said.
Authorities boarded the migrants on several buses, which headed towards Villahermosa [capital of Tabasco, on the Gulf of Mexico]. But Figueroa didn't know their final destination.


Massive raids against migrants and attack on human rights defenders

On 30 April, close to 300 migrants, including three pregnant women, an elderly woman, and several children, were arrested and assaulted by agents of the Federal Police (PF) and the National Institute on Migration (INM) as they were marching on the federal highway from Tenosique to Emiliano Zapata, Tabasco. The human-rights defenders Rubén Figueroa, Fray Tomás Castillo, and Fray Aurelio Tadeo, who were carrying water and food to support the migrants, were beaten by the federal police close to the community of Chancamac, Tabasco.

Figueroa, a representative from the Mesoamerican Migrant Movement, declared that "the response of the Mexican State before the increasing social mobilizations demanding the universal right of free transit has been this brutal operation. It is evident that the position of authority is to continue entrenching its prevailing migratory policy." Furthermore, he indicated with regard to the arrested migrants that "they came alone and for that reason their rights were trampled"; the train companies Ferrosur and Kansas City Southern decided not to allow them to board their trains. The director of the "La 72" migrant home in Tenosique, Fray Tomás González, called the violence with which federal police and migratory agents met migrants as lamentable, as "they did not understand the reasons, they just got on top of us, first kettling us and then beating and kicking us [...]. We provided no resistance so that they would not hurt us."

Beyond this, on the night of 1-2 May there was a second mass-raid against migrants, and close to 150 persons who were sleeping in the train station of Palenque, Chiapas, were detained by INM agents together with federal police. Nearly a hundred migrants succeeded in evading arrest by taking refuge in the migrant home in Palenque. The detained were taken to the migrant station in Palenque, and it is feared that they will be deported.


300 Central American Migrants Start Walk to U.S, as Train Rides Are Blocked
Proceso: Mathieu Tourliere

Having already spent some 10 days stranded at the migrant shelter The 72, in Tenosique, Tabasco, [near the Guatemala border] after being prevented from boarding the freight train better known as "The Beast", 320 Guatemalans, Hondurans, Nicaraguans and Salvadorans yesterday made the decision to continue walking on their migratory route to the United States, activist Rubén Figueroa, a member of The 72, reported to Proceso.

Since Easter, train engineers working for the company Ferrocarriles del Istmo de Tehuantepec [Isthmus of Tehuantepec Railway]-operator of the Chiapas-Mayab [Yucatán] railway route, which connects Mérida [Yucatán] with Coatzacoalcos (Veracruz) [along the Gulf of Mexico]-have blocked access to train, says the activist. "They just told them not to climb on, and if they do, they disengage the cars," Figueroa added.

Meanwhile, Gustavo Villanueva Baca, CEO of the Isthmus of Tehuantepec Railway, assured Proceso that he knew nothing about engineers preventing access to the train. According to him, Tenosique "is not a loading station", so the train doesn't stop there. "As a cargo carrier, I don't have the right to provide transportation services to persons; however, I can't forbid anyone climbing on the train," he explained.

"There was no order by the company to prevent migrants climbing on the train," he insists, adding that if it happened as asserted by migrants "they were surely immigration agents."

But according to Figueroa, for 10 days only locomotives have passed through Tenosique because when migrants climb on, they disengage the cars." The activist relates that given the denial of access to the train, yesterday [Tuesday] at four in the afternoon, the migrants who were in The 72 shelter asked to speak with him. "They announced to us that they intended to move on," says Figueroa.

The director of The 72, Fray Tomás González, [winner, last December, of the ‘Gilberto Bosques Franco-German prize in Human Rights] explained to them via telephone that, while the shelter staff couldn't accompany them, they would monitor to see that nothing happens. "Go ahead," the friar concluded.

"They started to gather pesos to buy cardboard and cloth for banners [to make signs]," reported Figueroa, who is a leader of the Mesoamerican Migrants Movement. Then they drew up posters and thought up slogans demanding freedom of transit through Mexico by the granting of temporary visas to cross the country. "If God is for us, who can be against us," asks one poster, while another states: "Central America united in one voice."

In undertaking the walk, the migrants have two objectives, Figueroa explains: "First, to continue on their way [north]; and demand freedom of movement." The second objective represents the primary demand of Figueroa and the Mesoamerican Migrants Movement for many years.

On Tuesday April 15, Figueroa led the "way of the cross of the migrant" whose purpose was to carry out the symbolic crucifixion of a migrant on "The Beast" on Good Friday [April 18]. However, on Wednesday, the 16, engineers didn't allow the caravan of migrants to get on the train, so they had to keep walking. Through the support of several organizations, by walking and on buses, they made it to Mexico City on April 23.

Thanks to the mobilization generated by the caravan-bringing together over a thousand Central Americans under the slogan "freedom of transit"-the Government of the Federal District (GDF), the Secretariat of Government Relations (Segob) and the Senate received a delegation of migrants. Following these meetings, Segob gave them a 30-day pass to cross Mexico or return to their countries of origin.

"The migrant caravan generated a loss of more than 52 million pesos for organized crime, given it costs about 4 thousand dollars to travel through Mexico, taking into account the kidnappings and extortions," Figueroa said.

The new group of 320 migrants left the shelter at 7:00 pm on Tuesday. They slept in a park in the community of Crisóforo Chiñas under the impressed watch of the villagers, who were unaware of the impending arrival of hundreds of migrants.

When shelter staff took breakfast to the caravan on Wednesday morning, Figueroa and Fray Tomás González learned of the surprise of the villagers and decided to change the strategy: Now they are going ahead of the group to advise communities of the arrival of the caravan, "to see how they can provide support, "says Figueroa.

This Wednesday, at three in the afternoon, the caravan of migrants was 25 kilometers [10 miles] north of Tenosique and was approaching the community of Arena de Hidalgo.

Figueroa said that so far 320 migrants had no problems with immigration authorities and organized crime. "Nothing has happened, because the migrants aren't on the train. Hopefully nothing happens," exclaims the activist. He warns: "But they (the criminals) are going to pursue their 'merchandise'-that's how they call them-wherever they go."


Migrant pilgrimage arrives in Mexico City

Migrants and their families as well as activists and human-rights defenders launched a "Migrant Pilgrimage" on 15 April in El Naranjo, Guatemala. They passed through Chiapas, Villahermosa, and Tabasco. At that time, a total of 800 Central Americans had joined the caravan. Starting on 19 April, passing through Holy Week, the procession became the "March for the freedom of transit of migrants." Through these mobilizations, participants sought to call attention to the lack of security experienced by Central American migrants upon crossing through Mexico to arrive in the U.S.: murders, kidnappings, extortion, rapes, robbery, and exploitation are part of their daily bread.

On 23 April, having now more than a thousand participants, the march arrived in Mexico City, where protestors confronted the President, demanding an audience with Enrique Peña Nieto. However, they were received only by a commission that handed over their petitions calling for free transit to the United States. Fray Tomás González, migrant defender at the home "La 72" in Tenosique, Tabasco, reported that on 24 April they were to have two meetings, one with the Secretary of Governance and the other at the Senate of the Republic.


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