MEXICO CITY (AP) — About 100 migrants who marched on foot north of the Guatemalan border gathered in Mexico City on Saturday to mark International Migrants Day and remember fellow travelers who died on the journey.
Migrants gathered at a makeshift memorial to the victims of the 2010 massacre of 72 migrants by the Zetas drug cartel in the northern Mexican state of Tamaulipas. The memorial is on the side of the city’s main central boulevard, near the United States Embassy.
The demonstrators erected a plaque which read in part “Migration is a human right”. Many members of the group had been walking since late October from the Mexican border town of Tapachula, after the government barred them from hitchhiking.
The group also remembered 56 migrants killed in a horrific truck accident last week in the southern state of Chiapas. The first bodies of these victims were to be brought back to their country of origin, Guatemala, over the weekend.
In a statement marking the day, a coalition of groups representing the families of Central American migrants who disappeared in Mexico described 2021 as “a year of setbacks”.
The year began with a massacre in January that killed 19 people, including 16 Guatemalan migrants, in the northern state of Tamaulipas. Twelve state troopers face charges in the killings.
This continued with the Mexican government’s efforts to prevent the formation of new migrant caravans and then the December 9 crash of a semi-trailer truck full of migrants.
“These are the visible dramas of 2021, but we must not forget the painful daily dramas that migrants often suffer in silence: disappearances, executions, extortion, rape, torture,” the groups wrote.
“In their rush to contain migration to the United States, the US government, along with Mexico, Honduras, Guatemala, El Salvador and other Latin American countries, are toughening and militarizing their immigration policies, without taking into account the human cost of these measures,” the statement added.
The Mexican government tried to appease the United States by stopping the caravans of foot migrants and allowing the “Remain in Mexico” policy to be reinstated. But Mexico has been unable to stem the flood of migrants crammed by the hundreds into trucks operated by smugglers who charge thousands of dollars to take them to the US border – journeys that too often prove deadly.