May 6, 2011

Migrants Attacked en Route to Peace March: “We are Completely Alone on the Side of the Tracks”

A migrants' caravan of 60 persons en route to join the March for Peace with Justice and Dignity was attacked by three armed assailants who tried unsuccessfully to kidnap a woman in the group. The attack took place at 1:30 this afternoon, near the border of the municipalities of Orizaba and Rio Blanco in the state of Veracruz.

Rubén Figueroa, a representative of the Mesoamerican Migrants' Movement traveling with the caravan, told the Americas Program that local police arrived at the scene but left after about ten minutes.

"They said they didn't know who they were up against, because it seems like these people are very strong. That's why nobody is here."

“We are completely alone on the side of the tracks,” Figueroa said in an interview at 4:15, several hours after the kidnapping attempt. The men who carried out the attack reportedly threatened to return. The Federal Police and representatives of the National Commission on Human Rights were expected to arrive but had not.

In a follow-up phone interview at 6:00, the migrant group continued to wait on the tracks in growing desperation.

"We don't know what to do," Figueroa said, visibly shaken. "We're between a rock and a hard place and night is falling and there isn't a single government official here." Figueroa said the group was considering going into the Orizaba park or a church or anywhere they could feel slightly more secure given that they had been completely abandoned by public security forces.

"It makes me furious, it makes me want to cry."

“This is part of the disintegration we're seeing in our country," said Eduardo Almeida of the human rights organization Nodo. “There is a whole industry to kidnapping migrants to recruit them for crime, to extort money from family members in the United States, or to sexually exploit women, as one can assume was the case with these women, to sexually exploit them in human trafficking networks." he explained that "the stretch between Orizaba, that part of Veracruz, and Puebla is very dangerous. There have already been numerous kidnappings of migrants.”

It is not known if the attack was related to the march, as migrant kidnappings are an increasingly common phenomenon. However, because it was well-known that the migrant caravan was on its way to join the national march, Almeida didn’t rule it out as a motive.

“It’s a march that was announced very publicly,” Almeida said. “[The attack] could be a sign of hostility toward the idea of relating migrant issues to the theme of Mexican violence prominent in the march called by Javier Sicilia.”

Almeida noted the context of the attack on the migrants. "It's important to point out the loss of security; this is a zone that noone can travel safely through--not just migrants. It shows the level of institutional deterioration, because crime is there and it has been growing also because of institutional and governmental incpacity to stop it in the right places, beyond a general strategy of militarization."

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