In an indicator of the difficulties often faced by Central American migrants, three Mexican customs officers were suspended after a video surfaced in which one of them appeared to chase a Honduran migrant into the Usumacinta River with a machete.
According to El Universal, the incident occurred during a raid on the small town of Boca del Cerro, Tabasco, on March 20. In an attempt to flee, a Honduran woman jumped into the river. After pursuing her to the water’s edge with a machete, the video shows a National Migration Institute (Instituto Nacional de Migracion – INM) officer standing by while she struggles to keep afloat in the fast-moving current. Seeing this, a group of local villagers intervened, chasing off the agent and rescuing the woman by boat.
Locally, these events sparked a political controversy. After villagers from the area complained to state officials, the three police officers involved in the raid were suspended and are currently under investigation for misconduct. Tomas Gonzalez Castillo, director of an area migrant shelter, told reporters that such abuse is common in Tabasco, and called for a “permanent cessation of operations that endanger the lives of migrants.”
Along with Chiapas, the state is a popular crossing point for undocumented immigrants from Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador. Once in the country, they are often targeted by organized criminal groups for kidnapping and extortion, and are seen as relatively easy prey due to their reluctance to report crime to authorities.
The incident comes at the heels of a report on migrant kidnappings published last February by Mexico’s National Human Rights Commission (Comision Nacional de Derechos Humanos – CNDH) which called on public safety official in the southern border area to specifically implement “concrete and effective measures to arrest those responsible for committing crimes against migrants.”
Last year, the CNDH documented 214 cases of migrant kidnappings, with a total of 1,333 victims. After Veracruz, Tabasco was identified as the state with the second-highest number of kidnappings.