Abuse of Migrants Gets More Attention in Mexico

By Jerry Kammer and Jerry Kammer on August 30, 2010

The often brutal mistreatment suffered by Central American migrants passing through Mexico on their way to the United States is receiving increased attention in that country following the discovery last week of the bodies of 72 migrants who had been gunned down. The victims were reportedly murdered by one of the criminal gangs involved in the trafficking of both drugs and human beings.

The magazine Proceso has published stories of several of the migrants who were held until relatives in the United States wired ransom money to Mexico. The stories were recorded by Mexican human rights activists who have been demanding government action to stop the abuses, in which Mexican law enforcement and immigration authorities have often been implicated.

Here are some of their accounts:

"They put a pistol against my head and made me call my relatives," said a Honduran migrant. "After the call, things got ugly. They beat us and forced us to kneel for hours. At night they took our clothes and we slept on the floor....One day they told us they had killed a comrade (whose relatives didn't send money). We never saw him again." A Salvadoran said he was part of a group held captive by armed men wearing masks on a train headed northward. "They asked if we had relatives in the United States," he said. "Most of us said yes. Those who did were allowed back onto the train. The rest were abandoned in an open field."

A Honduran said he was detained by Mexican immigration agents who sold him to the Zetas (a criminal gang of former members of the Mexican Army). The Zetas then called his brother in Illinois, demanding that he send money.