MEXICO CITY (CNS) — The state of Veracruz has filed criminal complaints against two railway operators for failing to keep Central American migrants from stealing rides atop northbound trains.
The operators of Catholic-run migrant shelters, however, questioned the government’s motives, saying the Gulf Coast state has been among the most dangerous to travel through for those lacking the proper papers.
“Nobody wants migrants passing through Mexico, not the government, the companies or society,” said Franciscan Brother Tomas Gonzalez Castillo, operator of a migrant shelter near the Guatemalan border in neighboring Tabasco state. “They’re all searching for arguments and a strategy to stop this migration phenomenon.”
Migrants cross into Mexico from Guatemala and often take trains toward the U.S. border. Criminals now charge the migrants $100 to climb aboard, while gangs at every station collect similar fees, Brother Gonzalez said.
The criminal involvement has brought about attacks on migrants riding the rails, he said, adding that he has documented at least seven incidents over the past year. An attack March 27 on “La Bestia,” as the train carrying migrants atop is known, left two teenage migrants dead, according to press reports.
“There are these attacks on the train, because they don’t have anything to pay the fee,” Brother Gonzalez said.
Veracruz Gov. Javier Duarte told reporters March 31 that prosecutors would file criminal complaints with the federal attorney general’s office against railway operators Kansas City Southern de Mexico and Ferrosur, alleging that the companies’ employees were complicit with criminals.
Both of the railways “are allegedly responsible for actions or omissions in crimes and human rights violations committed against migrants,” Veracruz Attorney General Luis Angel Bravo Contreras told reporters April 1.
Neither company has publicly responded to the allegations. Kansas City Southern de Mexico did not respond to an interview request.
Alberto Xicotencatl, director of the diocesan migrant shelter in the northern city of Saltillo, said the railway companies are impacted by criminals targeting cargo rather than migrants, although many migrants end up mutilated by fast-moving trains.
“The businesses, the presence of migrants doesn’t matter to them and doesn’t harm them in any way,” he said.
The complaint once again drew attention to Veracruz, where human rights defenders allege persecution and at least 10 journalist have been murdered or gone missing since 2010.
Xicotencatl said migrant shelter operators have had their difficulties in Veracruz — with both the government and church officials — as allegations have surfaced of police and local authorities being complicit in crimes committed against migrants.
Workers at the migrant shelter in Tierra Blanca refused a request for a telephone interview on the topic of violence. Xicotencatl said the shelters and their operators’ outspokenness have caused some discomfort for Catholic officials, who attempt to maintain good relations with the state government.