Monday, October 4, 2010

Note from Sonia Nazario: This is a compelling editorial by a journalist in El Salvador who has recently spent a lot of time along the rails in Mexico, documenting the situation with Central American migrants there. I found what he wrote, translated here, very compelling. It will give you a sense of how things have deteriorated for migrants traveling through Mexico atop freight trains in recent years.


[Translation of an article from El Faro of El Salvador for August 26. See the original here .]

By Óscar Martínez

I don’t understand the uproar over the 72 migrants Los Zetas assassinated in Mexico. I guess it was because of the number of bodies piled up together, in plain view in the picture from the ranch in San Fernando, Tamaulipas, just across the border from Brownsville, Texas. It’s a worm of corpses rolled up against the wall of a ruined shed in that wilderness in the middle of nowhere, out there at the end of the little dirt road. Some of the corpses had their hands tied behind their backs. Others were lying piled on top of each other, in the parts of the worm that were swollen. I don’t understand the uproar over the massacre of so many migrants.

The big news media, of Mexico, of El Salvador, Honduras, Guatemala, even of the United States, of Spain and South America, have used their front pages, their important sections, their top news spots, to cover the massacre of migrants in Mexico. I don’t understand the uproar in such big media.

The politicians, the ones from Mexico, from Central America, from Brazil, Ecuador, have rushed to sit in their press conference chairs in front of those media and to apppear later on the front pages. It’s true, not just any politicians. They are the heads of departments, of institutions, of organizations. They are even the presidents themselves of those countries, who have said, as the one from Mexico said, that the perpetrators of the massacre in San Fernando are “animals.” I don’t understand such an uproar by so many importaint politicians.

I don’t understand it because uproar usually follows surprise. I don’t understand it, and if pressed I would say they are faking it. They are putting on those serious expressions, those dry gestures. They are making a show with their ink, with their technology, with their ability to contract a cable news service.

The massacre in San Fernando, Tamaulipas, close, very, very close to the United States, up there where the undocumented have almost arrived, is not surprising. The massacre of San Fernando, where a Central American migrant arrives after more than 20 days of travelling, is just one more event, a shocking one, but just one more. The massacre at San Fernando, up there where a Central American arrives after boarding more than eight trains as a stowaway, was predictable. The massacre of the undocumented in Mexico began in early 2007.

What began once more this week are the press conferences by remorseful officials. What began this week are the big headlines in the media that didn’t know where Tamaulipas was or what the devil an undocumented Central American would be doing in those parts. What began this week is the circus. But that will be over soon. That won’t last many years or many months or even many weeks.

It’s a lie what Alejandro Poiré, secretary of the National Security Council of Mexico and spokesman on matters of organized crime, said yesterday. He said that in the past few months they have gotten information that some criminal organizations participate in kidnapping and extortion of migrants. It’s a lie. They have known it for a long time. The FBI was saying it by the end of 2007. The Human Rights Commission of Mexico was saying it in the middle of last year. They said it very clearly. Their report was titled “Special Report on the Kidnapping of Migrants in Mexico.” It said that close to 10,000 undocumented migrants, mainly Central Americans, had been kidnapped in the last six months alone. It also told the full name, first and last, of that “criminal organization.” It is called “Los Zetas,” it is an organized group that has existed since 1997, which the Gulf Cartel founded, which was born with the recruiting of élite military to train assassins. It also said that Mexican municipal and state officials participated in those kidnappings. It said that they occurred in broad daylight in towns and states that also have names: Tenosique, Tabasco, Coatzacoalcos, Medias Aguas, Tierra Blanca, Veracruz, Ixtepec, Oaxaca, Saltillo, Coahuila, Reynosa, Nuevo Laredo, Tamaulipas. Tamaulipas. It’s a lie that Poiré and those he speaks for learned of this “a few months ago.” Unos pinches meses, a Mexican would say, a few stinking months.

It’s a lie, as Antonio Díaz, coordinator of advisers for the National Institute for Migration of Mexico, said yesterday, it’s a lie that so far in 2010 they have learned of around seven kidnappings of migrants by ciminal organizations. It’s a lie, because we shared a table on Monday, July 5, at six in the afternoon in the Human Rights Commission in the the Mexican capital. At that table we said that while we were giving our talk there were migrants being kidnapped, and not seven, we said, but hundreds. Hundreds. And he agreed.

It’s a lie that the Central American officials who have spent the day giving press conferences on the massacre are dismayed. And if that dismay is real, it doesn’t matter much. They too have known for a long time. They have quioted us, the members of El Faro who have covered migration in Mexico, to meetings with the foreign offices of El Salvador and Guatemala, with officials of the Sistema de Integración Centroamericana and other agencies. And we said and we presented documents that list hundreds of kidnappings that have occurred for years in those places that have names, by those criminal organizations that have names. Los Zetas. We told them it was a humanitarian crisis, that it was a massacre, that it should be told at the highest levels and when they shook our hands and said goodbye, they said that they believed us, that they really believed us, and that they were outraged, horrified.

And now they will say, at least those from El Salvador will say, that they have set up two new consulates. That is true. One is in Arriaga and the other is in Acayucan. But it’s a lie that they think that that is a solution. They do not believe it or what they told us was a lie. They said yes, they understood our argument that a consulate is more an administrative office than an office concerned with those other cases, the cases of massacres, of kidnappings, of rapes. They also said they believed it was at the highest levels that voices had to be raised, that this did not require a shout from a vice-chancellor for Salvadorans overseas, but from a president, from many presidents, who see how the migrants are assassinated in their attempts to reach the United States.

It’s a lie, so many headlines in so many important media are a lie because they have sent no one permanenetly to watch over this constant massacre. It’s a lie because they still believe that the lady who successfully opened apupusería in Los Angeles deserves the same coverage in their pages on migration as a kidnaping, or rapes, or mutilations. Or rather the coverage they give the press conferences where these kidnappings, rapes, mutilations, are talked about. Because when it comes to getting muddy, they only mddy up their front pages with ink, never their boots or their reporters, because they don’t want to muddy up their wallets.

If they were only to get muddy, if they were to leave their conferences, if they stopped agreeing when they say they believe something only later to do nothing. If they were only to stop lying. They would know that from Tamaulipas Los Zetas control an entire system of kidnapping of Central Americans. They would know that Los Zetas infiltrate groups of Central Americans on the trains to find the migrants who have families in the United States, those they can beat 500, 800, 1,000 or even 5,000 dollars out of in quick kidnappings. They would know that in every estaca (and they would know that Los Zeta command posts are called estacas) there is a butcher (and they would know that the butchers are men who cut up migrants no one answers for into small pieces and put them in barrels and burn them). They would know that there are dozens of ranches in Mexico like the San Fernando ranch and that there are corpses buried in many of them. They would know that in San Fernando there are no journalists who write about Los Zetas (nor in Tenosique, or in Medias Aguas, or Orizaba, not in Tierra Blanca, or in Saltillo, and they would also know where those places are) because they kill them. They would know that from Tamaulipas Los Zetas have controlled the routes of the coyotes since 2007. They would know that those who don’t pay die and that even though they don’t see the corpses they are there.

You are not surprised, none of you. You have raised this uproar to appear surprised. You are liars. You will once again forget about a massacre that began in 2007. For you there is only one way of saying good-bye: I’ll see you at the next massacre.