Mexico Promises to Stop Central Americans from Boarding 'the Beast'

By Jerry Kammer, July 15, 2014

If you want to know why the train that every year carries an estimated 200,000 Central American illegal immigrants through Mexico is called "The Beast", consider the description provided this week by AFP.

The French news agency said that those who ride the train are exposed to "falls and amputations or to becoming victims of kidnapping, murder, rape, and extortion at the hands of the organized crime groups that prey on these routes."

Now a member of Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto's cabinet, responding at last to criticism of the open criminality and chaos, is promising to stop the migrants from climbing aboard the train, where they sit on the roof or cling to ladders as they move northward on a network of routes.

"We are going to impose order because we can't continue to allow them to put their lives in danger," said Interior Secretary Miguel Angel Osorio Chong. "That is our responsibility in our territory. The Beast is a freight train, not a passenger train. We have to begin regulating it and in the coming days we will announce something in this regard."

The train has been an open scandal in Mexico for years, prompting periodic expressions of outrage from human rights groups and frequent news stories, as we noted here. "The Beast" is actually the collective name for trains that head northward on a network of routes that link Mexico's southern and northern borders.

In May, the El Paso Times cited criticism of the Mexican government from a prominent Mexican advocate for migrants travelling through the country. According to the newspaper, Rev. Alejandro Solalinde "said recently that that corrupt officials profit from the multi-million-dollar exploitation of migrants traveling through Mexico."

U.S. State Department official Thomas Shannon has been quoted as welcoming the promise to take action. "Anything that reduces the number of people who are using the Beast and other trains or buses to travel illegally to the United States is very welcome," Shannon said.

It will be interesting to see what Osorio Chong announces. It will be even more interesting to see if the promised campaign is sustained for more than a few weeks. As the Mexican saying goes: Entre el dicho y hecho hay mucho trecho. "There's a big difference between saying and doing."