Immigrating from Central America to the United States is dangerous. It’s one reason a large number of asylum seekers are currently traveling as a caravan through Mexico. However, it still doesn’t guarantee safety for this vulnerable group. According to recent reports, 100 immigrants were allegedly kidnapped in Puebla and turned over to a cartel.
Arturo Peimbert, of the Defensoría de los Derechos Humanos del Pueblo de Oaxaca, has accompanied the caravan since it first crossed the border into Mexico. In an interview with HuffPost México, Peimbert said that sources told him that the Mexican government essentially forbade transportation companies from offering free rides to the immigrants walking through the country. Supposedly, these companies couldn’t even take Central American immigrants as customers.
“This has forced us to cross Veracruz by foot,” he said. “From Sayula to Tierra Blanca and from Tierra Blanca to Cordoba. It’s completely irresponsible on the part of the government. This area is the largest grave in the country, where hundreds of people have disappeared because of organized crime. Forbidding the use of trucks – which was endorsed by the governor of Veracruz, Miguel Ángel Yunes Linares – has forced us to cross hostile territory.”
As they made their way through the area, which sees much violence as Los Zeta and Cártel Jalisco Nueva Generación fight over it, Peimbert explained that they started to notice fruit trucks getting closer to the caravan. “They began to offer us transit, charging up to 150 pesos per person,” he added. “We began to document what license plates related to which images of the drivers, and we alerted the [immigrants] to not accept it. But in an act of despair, many took [the drivers] up on their offer. All I could do was try to open the back of the trucks, which were locked.”
An estimated 100 were kidnapped. Several people managed to escape, and through their testimonies, he learned that many of the immigrants were turned over to a cartel located near the police in Puebla. The government has not confirmed this news and neither have other members of the caravan, but Central American immigrants are often subjected to violence, from both cartels and the Mexican government, as they search for safety and opportunity.