Thousands of migrants from Central America go missing every year as they attempt to reach the United States through Mexico. They are often kidnapped by Mexican gangsters, held for ransom, forced to work for cartels or on marijuana farms, or killed. Many turn up in hidden mass graves.Naval marines acting on what they described as an anonymous tip over the weekend discovered 14 migrants being held against their will in a shack in the town of Altamira, in the violent border state of Tamaulipas (link in Spanish). The state has been the scene of several massacres of Central American and Mexican migrants.
The rescued men and women looked for the most part young and skinny, judging by a video released by the navy. They told authorities they had been kidnapped in different places in Tamaulipas and were from Central America, the navy said. The navy did not offer a breakdown of nationalities and said their "migratory status" would be corroborated. They stand a good chance of being deported.
Two men who apparently were holding the migrants were arrested, the navy said.
Monday's announcement from the navy gives hope to groups searching for the missing that more victims may still be alive.
A caravan of mothers this month embarked on a 19-day, 14-state journey through Mexico. All 40 or so mothers are looking for children, spouses or other relatives who vanished on their way north. Through the efforts of the organizers -- they've staged a caravan every of the last several years -- and other migrant-rights activists, a few missing relatives have been found and reunited with mothers.
Human rights groups say government neglect and refusal to recognize the problem of the missing result in families left with the task of searching on their own, sometimes going state to state to offer DNA evidence when bodies turn up.
-- Tracy Wilkinson
Photo: Central American migrants ride on top of a train in Veracruz state, one of the precarious ways in which they try to reach the U.S., in June 2011. Credit: European Pressphoto Agency