Mexico: two defenders of migrants are murdered

Two volunteers who helped feed Central American migrants passing through Mexico were shot dead on Nov. 23 while talking in their car near the house where they lived in Huehuetoca, México state, according to human rights defenders speaking at a Nov. 26 press conference. The victims were identified as Adrián, a local resident who described himself as a transvestite, and Wilson, a Honduran migrant who was granted a humanitarian visa by the government in November after testifying to the Assistant Attorney General's Office for Special Investigations on Organized Crime (SEIDO). Human rights defenders asked the media not to use the volunteers' last names in order to protect their families.

Last February the two volunteers stopped an attempt to kidnap migrants, holding one of the suspects while waiting for the police to arrive. They received death threats after that incident; they were promised police protection but reportedly never got it. Adrián and Wilson cut back their volunteer work for a while but resumed it recently. The Nov. 26 press conference included Jorge Andrade and Andrea González from the Colectivo Ustedes Somos Nosotros (the "You Are Us Collective"); Fray Tomás González, the director of La 72: Refuge-Home for Migrant Persons in Tenosique; and Luis Tapia Olivares from the Miguel Agustín Pro Juárez Human Rights Center (PRODH). The authorities have long known about the criminal gangs operating in the region but did nothing, Andrea González told reporters. "We can no longer permit this type of violence and impunity to permeate our society." (El Universal, Mexico, Nov. 26; NPR, Nov. 26, from correspondent; El Economista, Mexico, Nov. 27)

Mexican authorities regularly allow gangs to prey on Central American migrants as they head north in an attempt to reach the US, Mexican human rights defenders say—sometimes from incompetence or laziness, and sometimes as a result of active collusion with criminal elements. The left-leaning daily La Jornada cited a recent example. Edwin Alexander Medina Rosales, who identified himself as a Honduran, was arrested with two other men on Jan. 12 in Tierra Blanca, Veracruz, as they were extorting Central American migrants traveling north on freight trains. But ten months later, on Nov. 24, he was again robbing migrants, this time in Atitalaquia, Hidalgo.

As of Nov. 27 Medina Rosales had been imprisoned in Hidalgo, but according to La Jornada reporter Blanche Petrich his capture happened by chance: extra Atitalaquia municipal police were on duty in anticipation of the arrival of the Caravan of Central American Mothers, a group of women seeking sons and daughters who disappeared while trying to go from Central America to the US. Although the police intervened to detain Medina Rosales and an accomplice, there was a 16-hour delay in processing the suspects, during which the migrant victims were held and threatened with deportation. "For now the predators of the railroad lines are in an Hidalgo prison," Petrich concluded. "It remains to be seen whether later on they walk free and go back into action." (LJ, Nov. 27)

From Weekly News Update on the Americas, November 30.