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
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
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,''