Friday, September 3, 2010

The Truth About the Immigrant Massacre in Tamaulipas

by Gennaro Carotenuto
translated from Italian to Spanish by S. Seguí for Rebelión
translated from Spanish to English by Kristin Bricker

Coffins containing the remains of 72 immigrants massacred
in Tamaulipas. (AP)
Regarding the massacre of 72 immigrants in the [Mexican state of] Tamaulipas, where the judge in charge of the investigation and the mayor of the town of Hidalgo were also murdered shortly thereafter, the global disinformation complex has wanted to have us believe that the victims were being recruited by drug traffickers or that they were trying to sell themselves to the cartels, or that maybe they had refused to be hired as hit-men.

This interpretation lacks basis.  It is slanderous and racist, and it seeks to hide the truth about the exploitation--down to the last cent their lives are worth--of the 600,000 Central and South American immigrants who attempt to cross Mexico every year.  The reality is that these immigrants are the constant victims of extortion, harassment, rape, and threats even before they begin to cross the desert--the wall constructed by George Bush--to be victims of the Minutemen patrols--those armed "anglo" patrols in the US--, of racist state laws such as Arizona's, and of so many other vicissitudes in their quest for work in the United States.  According to Catholic priest Alejandro Solalinde, from the moment the "cachucos" (a slur that means "dirty Central Americans") leave their country, "they stop being people and they turn into merchandise, into a gold mine for both the mafias and the authorities."

Mainstream media portrays them as low-cost criminal labor for drug traffickers, society's trash, undesirables, accomplices or even members of the mafia, and therefore without rights nor human dignity.  Now pilot-less aircraft or "drones" will be used against them.  Those drones won't manage to stop the entrance of even one gram of cocaine, but they will help to throw the immigrants into organized crime's open arms.  In reality, these immigrants are victims of a true humanitarian emergency that the Obama and Calderón administrations should deal with.

Immigrants are a business worth $3 billion dollars per year, which is divided up amongst the criminal cartels and corrupt police forces, both in the US and in Mexico.  To cross to the other side they pay between $4,000 and $15,000 dollars.  Often, it is only the principle of martyrdom that drives the "American dream," which has already been achieved by (in addition to tens of millions of Mexicans) a million Hondurans, two million Salvadorans, and three million Guatemalans who send about $10 billion dollars in cash remittances to their families in their countries of origin every year.

According to Felipe Arizmendi Esquivel, the bishop of San Cristóbal de las Casas, Chiapas, at least two-thirds of immigrants suffer extortion or robbery once they are in Mexico, and one out of every ten is raped during the trip. About one-fifth is detained and sent home.  This is a shrinking number, because [the authorities] who intercept the immigrants prefer to get money out of them rather than send them home.  The situation has gotten much worse over the past decade with the violent campaign against immigrants that George Bush led when he constructed the wall between the US and Mexico, which will soon be complemented by a double wall on the border between Mexico and Guatemala.  The measures that have been adopted to detain immigration, just like those along other borders between the South and the North, do not impede human trafficking; they do no more than raise the price, making the business more lucrative and putting immigrants lives even more at risk.

Every year, according to official statistics, at least 20,000 immigrants are kidnapped by criminal cartels and forced to pay, in addition to the cost of their passage across the border, ransoms of between $1,000 and $5,000 dollars each.  They become trade items between the cartels, as if they were packages, or they are murdered has hostages in order to convince others to pay.

According to Jorge Bustamante, the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Immigration, Mexico is undoubtedly the country where the worst human rights abuses on the continent are committed, enabled by the media's shameful silence.  The media is always ready to write pages of condemnation about integrationist governments, but they are always silent about the Mexican hell. 

In 2009, Mexico's National Human Rights Commission (CNDH) published a volume entitled "Welcome to the Kidnappers' Hell," in which it denounced the mistreatment of Central American immigrants and collected numerous testimonies regarding the involvement of Mexican authorities in the kidnappings.

The report describes kidnapping's characteristics.  The immigrant is usually detained by the police and sold to criminal organizations, who sent him to isolated places like the San Fernando ranch where the Tamaulipas massacre occurred.  There, the beatings, the harassment, the rapes, and the torture begin.  The goal is to obtain family members' telephone numbers so that [the criminals] can obtain exorbitant ransoms from the immigrants, almost all of them very poor.  In general, those who cannot pay are murdered.

The Tamaulipas massacre fits within this atrocious context of 20,000 kidnappings per year.  Seventy-two immigrants who probably couldn't pay were shot just like in the Nazi massacres.  We know about it only because Freddy Lala, an 18-year-old Ecuadoran, managed to survive and alert others after walking over 20 kilometers with a bullet in his neck.  Or maybe it was that, just like in the times of Plan Condor or the genocide in Guatemala, they allowed him to survive so that he  would tell the story and cause more terror.

Immigrants are victims, not accomplices.


Gennaro Carotenuto, a lawyer with a doctorate in History, teaches the History of Journalism in the University of Macerata (Italy).  Scholar of international politics, dictatorial regimes, and the Contemporary History of Latin America, he also teachers Geopolitics and Oral History at the same university, and has been a visiting professor in the University of Montevideo (Uruguay).  In 2005 he published Franco e Mussolini, la guerra vista dal Mediterraneo (Milan) and in 2007 he edited the fourth volume of "Storia e Comunicazione. Un Rapporto in Evoluzione" (EUM).

S. Seguí is a member of the Rebelión collective and Tlaxcala, a network of translators for linguistic diversity.  The [Spanish] translation can be freely reproduced under the condition that its integrity is respected and that it mentions the names of the author, the translator, and the source.
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