Human rights activists getting threats in northern Mexico

Gangs kidnap, exploit and murder migrants who are often targeted in extortion schemes

Human rights activists getting threats in northern MexicoEFE Agency
EFE Agency

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MEXICO.- The increase in the number of migrants crossing Mexican territory on their way to the United States has led to more threats against human rights activists, said the priest Pedro Pantoja Arreola, who is the director of the Casa del Migrante shelter in Saltillo.

Activists have been harassed and received threats, but it is not known who is behind all of this, and a complaint was filed a few days ago with state prosecutors, said priest Pantoja.

"We were at the prosecutor's office to complain about the threats, and it's not just about the recent threats, but we are also dealing with a situation of great violence," the priest said.

The flow of Central American migrants into Saltillo, the capital of the northern state of Coahuila, has surged in the past few months "making it attractive for organized crime groups, which recruit them to commit crimes for them," Pantoja added.

"Since March, we have experienced a human avalanche of more than 350 people daily. What a bonanza for the people traffickers! And they were like vultures on a house," said the director.

Criminal organizations have men posing as migrants going into the shelter to recruit and run extortion rackets against those inside, Pantoja said.

It is often useless to provide assistance to the Central Americans, because the majority of them end up in the hands of Los Zetas, who are considered Mexico's most violent drug cartel, or by corrupt officials who work with criminal organizations, the human rights activist said.

An estimated 300,000 Central Americans undertake the hazardous journey across Mexico each year on their way to the United States. The trek is a dangerous one, with criminals and corrupt Mexican officials preying on the migrants.Gangs kidnap, exploit and murder migrants, who are often targeted in extortion schemes, Mexican officials say.

Central American migrants follow a long route that first takes them into the state of Chiapas, which is on the border with Guatemala, and walk part of the way or ride aboard freight trains, buses and cargo trucks.

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