Jul 12, 2012

Migrants have become spoils, said the priest Solalinde

CNN Mexico: Americas Program Original Translation
See Spanish Original.

The defender of migrant rights returned to Mexico after a couple months outside the country in response to death threats 

The Central American migrants that cross through Mexico to reach the United States have become spoils for organized crime, said the priest in defense of human rights, Alejandro Solalinde, in an interview with the journalist Carmen Aristegui, on CNN in Spanish.

“This is a new method of payment for organized crime through trafficking or exploitive labor: recruitment and kidnapping of youth to make them become hired assassins. This is like slavery, because they do not have a way out without dying”, said Solalinde.

The priest was outside of Mexico for two months, shortly after receiving death threats by presumed organized crime member for the help he gives to migrants who come to his shelter Brothers on the Road, in Ixtepec, in the state of Oaxaca, which receives on average of 200 migrants a day.

According to the National Human Rights Commission (NHRI), Ixtepec, located in the southeast, is one of the high risk zones for migrants in Mexico.

Solalinde returns to work at his shelter on July 12th and will be protected by four bodyguards from the Mexican government, he said this Tuesday in a press conference.

In his interview with Aristegui, the activist said that the recruitment of migrants is a business comparable with drug trafficking and kidnapping.

“The National Commission of Human Rights spoke to us of businesses worth millions in dollars. Everything is money; they are the plunder," he said.

“It is a business that they make at the cost of the poor, at the cost of our brother migrants, the most vulnerable. Now the community of migrants has grown and the voraciousness of using them for business as well. Now they are not people; they are merchandise.”

On June 28, 2012, the NHRI issued a press release that recommended the Mexican authorities to “redouble the effort” to “protect and guarantee the human rights of children and adolescent migrants,” a group considered to be in “a vulnerable situation.”

“Many times they travel alone and are exposed to human trafficking networks where they can be exploited sexually or for their labor,” expressed the Commission.

Solalinde charged that there are colluded public officials that allow these crimes to occur.

“There are governors that should be judged or investigated and that need to realize how it is possible that under their office there have been the kidnapping and disappearances of thousands of migrants and nothing done about it,” he said.

In its Special report on the kidnapping of migrants in Mexico, the NHRI indicated that, in some cases, the migrants refer to the participation of National Institute of Migration (INM) agents in the kidnapping.

Furthermore, it suggests reorganization, such as an administrative sanction and penalty for those who commit acts in abuse of their power.

Other organizations, such as Amnesty International (AI), have indicated that there are risks for the defenders of migrant rights in Mexico. In April, AI warned that the life of Solalinde was at risk and asked Mexican authorities to protect the activist and his team.

In May, the Inter-American Commission of Human Rights condemned the threats against the priest, after having in 2010 issued a series of precautionary measures for Solalinde.

“I returned because I care a lot for the migrants; I worry a lot about the emergency situation, because I cannot be away from the mission; I feel like a fish out of water,” said the Priest to Aristegui.

According to government data cited by NHRI, each year some 150,000 undocumented migrants enter the country, whereas civil society organizations have documented 400,000.

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