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These guns for hire… against migrants

18 December 2015

After the Summer 2014 “Central American Migrant Crisis”, the Obama Administration crowed about the 86 million dollar “Southern Border Plan” … which basically is paying Mexico to do the dirty work of preventing Central American migrants from crossing Mexican territory to the United States (which is the ultimate source of that “crisis” in the first place). According to Centro PRODH (a Catholic Church affiliated legal aid and civil rights organization in Mexico), the “strategy” appears to include outsourcing a terrorist campaign against migrants to private companies. Eliana Gilet reported in Wednesday’s on-line Disinformemos on the Legal Center’s press conference announcing legal action against at least three of these companies. My translation (edited more or less to U.S. news style):

At least three private companies are implicated in the arrests, beatings, attacks and murders of migrants , according to public denunciations filed this morning (16 December) by several prominent human rights workers. In all, eight formal complaints have been filed with the Federal Prosecutor (PRG) against three private security firms: Cusaem, Cuerpo Especial Valle de Toluca, and Sepromex (Servicios Especiales de protección México).

Fathers Alejandro Solalinde (director of the Casa del Migrante in Ixtepec, Oaxaca) and Heyman Vazquez Medina (Casa del Albergue de la Misericordia in Chiapas), as well as Ramón Verdugo (director of the “Todo por ellos” shelter), Martin Martinez Rios (Association Civil Estancia del Migrante) and Sister Leticia Gutierrez Valderrama of the Scalabrinas Mission for Migrants and Refugees, laid out information received by their respective organizations.

Sister Leticia said, “As organizations, we are joining in the denunciation of eight homocides: in Coatzacoalcos (Veracruz); in Celaya (Guanajuato); and in Chiapas. Three were comitted by Cusaem and the rest, according to the testimony of witnesses, were committed by police, but we have failed to further identify [the culprits]”.
Cusaem is the main offender. Sister Leticia explained that “after implementing the Southern Border Plan, the Mexican government subcontracted security firms to implement anti-migrant action. It’s a private security company, which to our knowledge, has jurisdiction only in the state of Mexico, but has seen action in Queretaro, Jalisco, Guanajuato and Tlaxacala.”

Appeals have also been made to the National Commission on Human Rights, demanding action in the documented case against Cusaem. However, as Sister Leticia said, “The CNDH said: ‘Sister, can not make any recommendation because we do not know who the security firm is working for — whether it is under the aegis of the army, the Federal Police. We’re just seeing violence by this private company.

“It’s called that [a private company], because it answers the description of one given in international treaties, and if we use that name is because they are working under some authority, but until now nobody has been able to tell us who authorized these companies to use heavy weapons reserved only to the military, to go migrant hunting.
Journalists at the conference insisting on full details and complete numbers of complaints were told by Martin Martinez Rios that “migrants have already realized that the Mexican justice system is useless. They’re not going to complain. Three people we serve in Hidalgo told us they would rather die than go to a doctor. Much less go to the Mexican justice “

“Violence against migrants in Queretaro have increased since April, including the deaths of two people that went unreported because we do not know where their bodies are,” Martinez said. He added that the guards working for Cuerpo de Seguridad Valle Toluca have no specific training, “let alone know about respecting human rights. They are trained to kill and have told us themselves: ‘Our motto is to shoot everything that moves around the train’. “

Martinez recounted two episodes in which he saw or heard the bullets hitting “La Bestia” [the freight train on which the migrants travel north] “They were all armed with heavy caliber weapons. They had held 80 migrants who had left the train, rifling throught their backpacks, and taking what was in them. There were women among the [migrants being held] about which we know nothing, where they are, or what has happened to them.”
Father Elias Espinoza D’Avila recounted a meeting with the Mothers of Disappeared Migrants Caravan at a migrant shelter in Tlaxcala, where he was told of 14 migrants taken off a train in nearby Tocatlán, by a truckload of men wearing black hoods who began shooting at the migrants. One man died after being struck in the chest, and another was hospitalized.

According to the testimony of another migrant on the train, migrants were forced to lay face down in the bed of the truck, while the men in black hoods interrogated them. A boy who raised his head was shot, as was another man. The witness said he was very afraid, and thought he was going to die. The bodies were taken away in trucks, and to this day no one knows what has happened to them.

Heyman Vazquez, the priest from Chiapas, said he has seen the bodies of five migrants. “We have no private security forces on the Chiapas coast, but common criminals are creating insecurity and killing migrants. He added he needed to perform a “mea culpa” for his inability to report in more detail on the problems in his region. But, he added, that “Since the implementation Plan Frontera Sur especially in Chiapas, there has been a need for more people willing for work with and for migrants. “We are so few that we can not follow up on complaints. We just notify the specialized state prosecutor for migrants and if we know the nationality of the deceased, notify that country’s consulate.”

Ramón Verdugo, who works at a shelter for migrant children and youth and Mexican street children in Tapachula, complained about corruption in the municipal solid waste management program. 97 Guatemalan families are eking out a living from picking out PET plastic and aluminum from the city dump, “but are forced to sell to a municipal council member at ridiculous prices, while being paid 30 or 60 pesos per 11-hour days. He also mentioned that in 2013 his group had denounced 11 municipal police officers for sexual exploitation of minors. Seven officers were imprisoned for a short period, and are now free. “Whenever I make a complaint we are persecuted,” he said.

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