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What About Mexico’s Abuses?

Created: 30 April, 2010
Updated: 13 September, 2023
5 min read

Magdalena Vázquez Calderón recived the ashes of her two sons, murdered after being kidnapped in Tecate, Mexico. File Photo.

    Mexican President Felipe Calderon has publicly condemned the passing of SB 1070 in Arizona, a law that will allow any authority to ask for immigration status of those who “appear to be undocumented.”

    Calderon has publicly said this change in the law is tainted by an electoral process and deeply affects the friendship, commerce and tourism ties that bind Arizona with Mexico.

    The Exterior Relations Office even published their own “travel alert” for Mexicans visiting the state.

    “All regulation aimed at criminalizing the migration phenomenon, -witch is in essence a social and economic process-opens the door to intolerance, hate, discrimination and abuse to the rule of law” the president has said.

    But the Mexican president seems alienated from the reality those immigrants face in their own country, Mexico, he doesn’t seem to know what happens to those who even share his last name, such as Magdalena Vázquez Calderón, a woman from Mexico City whose sons where killed July 2009.

    She and her husband traveled to Tecate, Baja California to search for their boys: 22 year old José Enrique Sánchez Vázquez, 22 and 20 year-old Cruz Adán, whom had left the family home to try to cross to the US and work as carpenters.

    “My sons where shot dead before they even crossed the border” said Vasquez unequivocally.

    “…I arrived here in Tecate on the 28th [of July] and I found that authorities were not able to help me because my sons ‘were not from around here.’ I went to the missing persons office three times and they didn’t help me; it was only until I asked for help from Human Rights that they decided to open a file,” she said.

    The decomposed bodies of her two only sons where found by police on July 15th, they were found as “Joe Does” until they were identified by their parents on August 6th. Their cremated bodies were finally released to their relatives on November 30th, four months after they were found dead.

    The boy’s parents did their own investigation of their sons murders, they interviewed the emigrants that survived the attack and found that the brothers had arrived in Tecate July 14th with the plan to cross the border illegally in the rural mountainous area of Tecate. There, they were contacted by a group of female “coyotes” who promised to help them cross the border for a fee. But on their way to the US they were stopped by a group of kidnappers who worked with the “coyotes” in order to get their victims.

    The brothers and the dozen people that were with them where tied and the smugglers called Jose Enrique’s wife –who was already living in San Francisco, California—. They asked a ransom of 4 thousand dollars for his release.

    The money would have to been sent trough a money-wire service.

    But José Enrique tried to escape; he was brutally beaten by the kidnappers and when his brother defended him, they where forced to dig their own graves and then shot to death.

    Threats against immigrants on their way to the US has been on the rise in the last couple of years, governmental corruption and lack of attention by Mexican authorities have created a fertile ground for criminal gangs who see immigrants as an easy target for kidnapping and extortion, a true gold mine for the criminal world.

    Extortion is one of the biggest threats for immigrants, according to a study by the Human Rights Commission (CNDH) and the Human Mobility Office of the Vatican in Mexico, both organizations monitored immigrant shelters and found 63% of all immigrants who where interviewed suffered some kind of extortion or physical abuse, including the threat of being thrown off moving trains.

    But the most alarming trend is kidnapping, just from September 2008 to February 2009, 9,758 cases of kidnapping where documented along the immigrant shelter network in 7 Mexican states, that translates to 1,600 kidnappings a month, and the number can be much higher.

    The average ransom was $1500 to $5000, which translates to a potential profit of 25 million dollars in just six months.

    Kidnappers are mostly part of organized crime and are in many cases aided by corrupt Mexican officials; in 99 of the documented cases victims described the support or compliance of local and state authorities, and in another hundred cases, the victims said uniformed authorities were directly involved in the attack.

    A report filed by the Guatemalan Human Rights Commission found that one out of every four Guatemala immigrants being deported from Mexico was victim of some kind of abuse during their stay in Mexico. Just 26% said they where attacked by “coyotes” or smugglers, but more than 50% say they where abused by personnel from the National Immigration Institute (the Mexican equivalent of Immigration and Customs Enforcement).

    This is not isolated but a problem that is systemic.

    According to the Department of State Trafficking in Persons report, one year after Mexico implemented its federal anti-trafficking law, the country has not fully complied with the minimum standards for eliminating trafficking. Despite most states criminalizing human trafficking, no convictions or punishments have been issued against traffickers or complicit public officials.

    Why doesn’t the president address that abuse as well?