Three hundred Central American migrants were attacked aboard a train in Veracruz, Mexico while en route to the United States, demonstrating once again the vulnerability of migrants traveling making the perilous journey northwards.
Accounts of the incident differ, but according to testimonies collected by a migrant rights activist group, armed men boarded the train and demanded a payment of between $100-$300 per person to continue the journey, reported Tiempo. Those that did not pay were “thrown from the train or attacked,” according to Ruben Figueroa from the Mesoamerican Migrant Movement.
Local officials, though, blamed the violence on the migrants, claiming a fight broke out after one group of Honduran migrants tried to extort another group of Hondurans, reported Cronica.
Reports on the number of injuries resulting from the attack varied wildly. According to the Mexican Red Cross, at least 200 people were treated for injuries and 15 were hospitalized. However, the government of Veracruz stated just nine were injured.
Whether the migrants were attacked by members of organized crime groups or other migrants, the incident is one more example of the dangers faced by one of the region’s most vulnerable populations.
Migrants are commonly targeted for extortion or kidnapping by organized crime groups. Mexico’s National Commission on Human Rights (CNDH) estimated that in just six months in 2010 at least 11,000 migrants were kidnapped, and the practice generates approximately $25 million in illicit revenues in a six month period, according to the CNDH.
Endemic corruption has also contributed to the targeting of migrants in Mexico. In 2012 a group of 120 migrants were detained by immigration officials who then handed them over to the Gulf Cartel. The group was held for ransom by the cartel until they were freed in a series of military raids.