The roads and bus lines that run through the Mexican state of Tamaulipas, along the American border, have turned into a trap for Central American migrants who use this route to enter the US.
On Monday, 15 bus passengers were kidnapped at gunpoint as they were traveling along the border between the towns of Nuevo Laredo (Tamaulipas) and Hidalgo (Coahuila).
Mexican authorities said that a group of gunmen hijacked the bus and took away the group, according to the bus driver’s version of events.
Nearly 400,000 Mexicans and Central Americans try to cross into the US each year, aided by smugglers who work for drug cartels
The bus, which had departed from Nuevo Laredo station, “was stopped by armed people riding on several trucks.”
The driver managed to close the doors “and drove to our [military] facilities to request assistance,” said Víctor Zamora, the Coahuila secretary of state, in a public statement. “Logically, when they saw the bus was coming towards us, the trucks that were following it pulled away.”
Although the public official did not provide information about the passengers, it is believed that they were immigrants headed for Hidalgo, an unwelcoming town filled with smugglers and safe houses specializing in getting people across the border.
Mexican authorities have shown little concern for the case, which underscores the ease with which cartels kidnap dozens of migrants every month.
Although it took place on Monday, the kidnapping was not confirmed until Wednesday, and then only when Coahuila governor Rubén Moreira was making a speech on a completely different subject.
“The secretary of state has informed me about an incident outside our state’s borders, but when they reached our state line the incident ended, and the people who had been chased arrived in our territory of peace and asked us for help,” he said.
Later, Zamora confirmed the news and provided further details.
In March, 24 migrants from Honduras were kidnapped by an armed group in Altamira (Tamaulipas) as they rode a bus. They were released 14 hours later following a raid by federal forces.
Tamaulipas is one of Mexico’s most violent states, home to the Zetas cartel, which routinely perpetrates atrocious crimes against Central American migrants. Chief among these is the August 2010 massacre of 72 people who were hacked to death in the town of San Fernando.
Faced with escalating violence in Tamaulipas, in 2014 the Peña Nieto administration introduced a security strategy that deployed thousands of soldiers and purged law enforcement agencies that had in many cases been on the cartels’ payroll.
Nearly 400,000 Mexicans and Central Americans try to cross into the US each year, aided by smugglers who work for drug cartels.
English version by Susana Urra.