Cuban migrants report abuses in Mexico
Posted on Monday, 11.15.10
Cuban migrants report abuses in Mexico
Since a deal between Cuba and Mexico was made two years ago, Cubans traveling through Mexico to get to the U.S. say their journey has become riskier and costlier. By PENILEY RAMIREZ
Special to El Nuevo Herald
MEXICO CITY — On Oct. 26, Yanisleidys Pineda Nápoles turned 20 years old. Her birthday gifts — the only items allowed to enter Iztapalapa’s Migratory Station — were a towel, a tube of toothpaste, a brush and a roll of sanitary paper.
She has spent six months in Mexican migratory prisons and, even though she is no longer deportable since she left Cuba more than a year ago, she doesn’t know how long the Mexican authorities will keep her in detention.
Hers is not an isolated case. In the past two years, after the Memorandum of Understanding between Cuba and Mexico was signed on Oct. 28, 2008, the passing of Cubans through this country en route to the United States has turned into a riskier and more expensive adventure.
Non-government organizations, such as Amnesty International, Without Borders and the Cuban-Mexican Civic Association, keep records of abuse, torture and extortion of Cubans by the Mexican authorities of the National Institute of Migration, the Navy, the Federal Patrol Police, the District Attorney’s Office and even the federal, state and city police, not to mention kidnappings by organized crime.
The Institute of Migration did not elaborate beyond specifying the duties and obligations of its officers. Its director of social communications, Fernando Mora Guillén, explained that the institute couldn’t take action without specific complaints presented before the secretary of Public Functions.
The methods keep getting more sophisticated and they go from mental and physical torture to bribe demands or “passing fees” in cash, money orders or bank transfers.
Yanisleidys and her partner, Alexander Castillo Valdés, left Cuba at the end of 2009 with a letter of invitation to Ecuador. From there they went to Sanzurro, Colombia. Then they paid $4,000 to two Dominicans who owned a fishing boat to take them to the shores of Cancún on April 29 of this year. That is where their five-day ordeal through Mexico led by a Guatemalan coyote began.
Yanisleidys is following the steps of her sister, Yanicel Dolphie Nápoles, who lives in New Jersey and traveled the same journey five years ago. Yanicel sent $2,500 to the couple to leave Cancún and the same amount to go through Mexico City.
“Everything was going well until the taxi in which we were traveling crashed on its way to the New Laredo [Tamaulipas] border and the Mexican authorities turned us over to migration,” Yanisleidys said.
They were victims of extortion at the station. First, the local migration deputy officer asked them for $8,000 to give them an exit permit, a document that would allow them to travel 30 days through Mexican territory until they reached the United States.
Since they could not come up with the money, the officer tried to make them sign a deportation order with the approval of the Cuban consulate and threatened to turn them over to organized crime.
Through their lawyer, Eduardo Matías López Ferrer, who has been helping Cubans in Mexico for more than a decade, they were granted a permit. Nonetheless, they were taken out of their cells every morning to talk on the phone to an officer, who presented himself as an employee of the Migration headquarters in Mexico City and who asked them for money for their release.
According to Castillo, this person said that he “had their files and could decide whether to release them or deport them.”
Castillo said he had seen and heard employees in civil clothes beating Cubans on the soccer field of the Iztapalapa Migratory Station after receiving their order of deportation.
That was the case of Leonel, a Cuban athlete who was deported to Cuba after being taken out at 5 a.m. and beaten at the Iztapalapa station.
“I cried that night,” Castillo said.
“I couldn’t sleep hearing the screaming and the beating.”
Mora, the social communication director of the Institute of Migration, responded to these accusations through the Mexican newsweekly, Proceso.
“All foreigners, Cubans or otherwise, who are undocumented in national territory, are immediately secured and their return to their countries of legal residence is expedited,” he said.
“The Institute has established security measures to give special follow-up to each case in order to guarantee their rights during their stay and repatriation.”
PURPOSE OF DEAL
Regarding extortions, he said the purpose of the Memorandum of Understanding signed by Cuba and Mexico is “to discourage illegal practices, such as extortion, and to guarantee the compliance of the norms in effect in migratory matters, while respecting the human rights of undocumented foreigners.”
Diana Martínez, an official with the organization Without Borders, based in Mexico City, reiterates that Migration has not behaved according to the norms they themselves established.
She made reference to the case of a Cuban named Mario, who was detained in Mexico City and transferred to Chihuahua, where he was persuaded to stop a hunger strike he had launched to protest his situation.
After being beaten, Mario was deported to Cuba in the back of a plane covered by a blanket “to hide the blood, as if he had been kidnapped,” Martínez said.