Sunday, December 26, 2010

More Salvadoran migrants kidnapped in Mexico

This year, tragedies in Mexico have brought the public's attention to attacks on migrants crossing Mexico on their way to the US. Another high profile attack took place on December 16 as gunmen kidnapped as many as 50 Central American migrants stowed away on a freight train in southern Mexico. The incident has further strained relations between El Salvador and Mexico since Salvadoran officials believe Mexico is doing to little to investigate or prevent such crimes.

The BBC reported the most recent attack:

The director of a Catholic shelter for migrants, Father Heyman Vasquez... told BBC Mundo that he had spoken to some of the migrants who reported escaping the kidnapping. He said that 92 out of some 300 migrants on the train had been arrested by migration officials, but that shortly afterwards, the train was stopped by unidentified gunmen.

The migrants reported how the gunmen boarded the train, robbed and hit the stowaways with machetes, and took a group of them away at gunpoint. Father Vasquez thinks between 30 and 50 were abducted. He says the gunmen took all the women who were on the train, as well as some men and children.

The Salvadoran consulate, which also interviewed some of migrants who had been on the train, believes the number of those kidnapped is about 50.
The BBC story notes that Mexican authorities had been denying that any kidnapping took place. Mexican officials did say that they had stopped the train and arrested 92 migrants earlier that same day.

But denials became more difficult after the kidnappers started placing ransom calls to relatives of the abducted migrants. According to a report in the Washington Examiner:
The supposed kidnappers of 50 Central American migrants who disappeared in southern Mexico last week called a family in the United States demanding a ransom, a Roman Catholic priest who first reported the abductions said Thursday. But they contacted relatives of a migrant who had escaped after the Dec. 16 assault, said the Rev. Alejandro Solalinde, who runs a migrant shelter in the southern state of Oaxaca.

The abductors probably thought he was still in the group, Solalinde told The Associated Press in a telephone interview, adding that he reported the call to Central American and Mexican authorities. "We're calling the governments of Central America in case they know of any other calls for ransom," he said.

It was another apparent confirmation of the massive abduction, which Mexican authorities initially denied when they were contacted by the foreign ministry of El Salvador on Tuesday with the complaint.

Witnesses said the majority of those kidnapped are Salvadorans, and Salvadoran Foreign Minister Hugo Martinez continued his criticism of Mexico for initially ignoring the abduction, calling the government's response "hasty and unfortunate." "We believe you can't deal with these problems by ignoring them," he told a news conference Wednesday night. "Rather, they should be recognized and thoroughly investigated."
El Salvador's criticism of Mexican authorities has been growing since the massacre of 72 migrants in Tamaulipas earlier this year. Despite these widely-publicized dangers, however, conditions in El Salvador and other Central American countries continue to push desperate migrants to try and make the perilous journey.

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