The death of dozens of migrants this Monday in Ciudad Juárez, on the border between Mexico and the United States, deepens the crisis on the border.
Saturated for years, the fire in a detention center of the National Institute of Migration (Inami), dependent on the federal government, has raised the horror of the usual penalties of the journey to a new level.
Authorities counted 38 dead and dozens injured, all men, on Tuesday afternoon, the worst tragedy in living memory at a government facility.
Doubts about the actions of those responsible mark what happened.
In a video that began to circulate on Tuesday, guards from the center are seen leaving the migrants locked up, while the flames and smoke swallow the image.
The terror that the video suggests, the desperation and death that it anticipates, clash with the first reactions of the Mexican government, headed by Andrés Manuel López Obrador.
This Tuesday, the president pointed out that the migrants found out that they were going to be deported, when they were in the detention center.
Part of the 68 had been arrested the previous afternoon in the city.
Others returned deported from the United States, according to local media reports: "As a protest, they put mats at the door of the shelter and set them on fire," said the president.
This does not explain why they were locked in cells, or why the guards did not open when they saw the fire.
Why do they seem to be leaving?
In addition, it leaves out other possible explanations, pointed out in some media since early Tuesday morning: the hunger of migrants, thirst... International organizations have raised their voices these days, starting with the United Nations, which has demanded an "exhaustive" investigation of the happened.
Others have been more critical, in the case of
Rachel Schmidtke, her senior attorney for the region, has said: "Inami has a long history of abuses against migrants in Mexico, and greater accountability for those abuses could have prevented this tragedy."
Firefighters and other authorities work to get migrants out during the fire, on Monday night in Ciudad Juárez, Chihuahua State (Mexico). JOSE LUIS GONZALEZ (REUTERS)
Latin America is experiencing multiple migratory crises, fueled by violence, hunger, lack of opportunities, climate change... In the last five years, hundreds of thousands of citizens from Venezuela, Haiti, Nicaragua, Honduras or Guatemala, to name a few , have crossed jungles and deserts to try to reach the United States or Canada.
It has not been easy.
Many have met their deaths along the way, due to the same violence from the mafias or due to the criminal logistics of traffickers and transporters.
Now, too, the State appears as the facilitator of his misfortune.
It's nothing new.
The last two US presidents, Donald Trump and Joe Biden, have entrusted Mexico with part of their immigration policy, consisting of stopping those who arrive before they knock on their door.
Mexico has accepted.
In the last two years, the country has registered record numbers of immigration detentions in a row.
In 2021 there were 228,115.
In 2022, 444,439.
North of the Rio Grande, the Government has been closing routes to migrants, including those for political or humanitarian asylum, still under lockdown thanks to a health directive recovered by Trump in times of the covid-19 pandemic, title 42, which Biden retains.
In Mexico, things have changed a lot in a few years.
President López Obrador came to office in December 2018 with a transversal, humanist discourse, which soon clashed with Trump's threats to build a wall on the border.
A barrier that, he said, the Mexicans would pay for.
The rhetorical battle was on one side and reality on the other.
López Obrador said that no one in Mexico would pay for any wall, but in practice he turned Inami into a barrier, supported by the security corporation born under his mandate, the National Guard.
People demonstrate outside the facilities of the National Institute of Migration in Ciudad Juárez, this Tuesday. JOSE LUIS GONZALEZ (REUTERS)
The multiplicity of the Inami in tasks of monitoring and persecuting migrants, alone or in a caravan, has not stopped the flow.
She has hidden it, sending him further to the sidelines.
Thus, tragedies have happened.
In December 2021, a trailer full of migrants crashed in Chiapas, in southern Mexico, leaving a terrible toll: 54 dead and more than 100 injured.
Earlier, in February, a caravan of migrants that was moving by leaps and bounds in Tamaulipas, in the northeast, ran into a group of policemen who, for a reason that is still unclear, shot them down.
They then set their bodies on fire.
They were 17.
But all of the above does not compare with what has happened in Ciudad Juárez, because there, the migrants were in charge of the Mexican State.
Inami, which nominally reports to the Ministry of the Interior, manages the immigration station on the Stanton-Lerdo International Bridge, less than a kilometer from the US Its agents are in charge of the facilities and of those inside.
Until now, the institute has said that it will collaborate with the investigation, in charge of the Attorney General's Office (FGR).
It remains to be seen what attitude the Government adopts, if it treats the matter as a specific error, protocols not followed by specific agents, or points to the system.
This Tuesday night, the Secretary of Foreign Relations, Marcelo Ebrard, has given some clue as to what could follow.
In a tweet, the senior official said that "those directly responsible for the events have been brought before the FGR," without giving further details.
At the same time, some media close to the Government have reported progress in the work of the Prosecutor's Office, which insists on the responsibility of the migrants in the fire.
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