Two advocates for migrants’ rights were arrested for human trafficking Wednesday, while federal finance officials yesterday blocked the bank accounts of 26 people allegedly involved in the same crime.
Irineo Mujica, director of a migrant advocacy organization that has helped several large migrant caravans cross Mexico, was arrested in Sonoyta, Sonora, at about the same time activist Cristóbal Sánchez was detained outside his home in the Mexico City borough of Xochimilco.
The federal Attorney General’s Office (FGR) said in a statement that Federal Police arrested the two men after warrants were issued by a judge in Chiapas.
The department said it received complaints in April and May from Honduran nationals against two Mexicans who, in exchange for payment, promised to bring them into the country and take them to the northern border in order to illegally enter the United States.
Mujica, who heads Pueblo Sin Fronteras (People Without Borders) in Mexico, faces charges of illegally transporting migrants, including children and adolescents, while Sánchez is accused of bringing undocumented migrants into the country, the FGR said.
Both men were transferred to a prison in Tapachula, Chiapas, on Wednesday afternoon.
Pueblos Sin Fronteras condemned the arrests in a statement on social media.
“[Mujica and Sánchez] were arrested by a Mexican government that promised to defend human rights but in reality is bending to the pressure of the anti-immigrant government of the United States,” it said.
“It’s not a coincidence that Irineo and Cristóbal were arrested the same day as the Mexican secretary of foreign relations, Marcelo Ebrard, met in Washington D.C. with United States Vice President Mike Pence and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo within the framework of the threats to increase tariffs on Mexican products . . . “
The advocacy group said that both men have defended the rights of migrants for more than a decade.
“Irineo is capable of taking off his own shirt to give it to a migrant brother and Cristóbal has always looked out for human rights as a result of his strong convictions and never for any other reason,” it said.
A day after the arrests, the finance department said in a statement that the Financial Intelligence Unit (UIF) had frozen the accounts of 26 people for their alleged participation in the trafficking of migrants and the illegal organization of migrant caravans.
The SHCP said that while caravans were traveling through Mexico between October 2018 and June 2019, the UIF identified a group of people who made “unusual” transactions from accounts in Chiapas and Querétaro to several countries, “including some considered risky jurisdictions by the Financial Action Task Force.”
It also said that a series of financial transfers from Querétaro to six northern border cities – Tijuana, Nogales, Ciudad Juárez, Ciudad Acuña, Piedras Negras and Reynosa – were detected.
The transferred funds originally came from El Salvador, Honduras and Guatemala – the three largest migrant source countries – as well as Cameroon, the United States and England, the SHCP said, stating it believed the payments were made in exchange for smuggling migrants and that criminal complaints will be filed.
The crackdown on the alleged people smugglers comes as Mexico continues to negotiate with the United States over new tariffs threatened by President Donald Trump.
The U.S. president said on May 30 that he will impose a 5% tariff on all Mexican exports from June 10, and that the duties will increase by an additional 5% at the beginning of subsequent months if Mexico doesn’t take action to reduce or eliminate migrant flows.
Mexican officials yesterday committed to sending 6,000 National Guard troops to the southern border, a move they said would bring an immediate reduction to the large number of Central Americans traveling through Mexico to the United States.
“If we are able to make the deal with Mexico, and there is a good chance we will, they will begin purchasing farm and agricultural products at very high levels, starting immediately. If we are unable to make the deal, Mexico will begin paying tariffs at the 5% level on Monday!”
It remains unclear what he meant with his reference to purchasing agricultural products.
This page is available to subscribers. Click here to sign in or get access.
It looks like you are opening this page from the Facebook App. This article needs to be opened in the browser.
iOS: Tap the three dots in the top right, then tap on "Open in Safari".
Android: Tap the Settings icon (it looks like three horizontal lines), then tap App Settings, then toggle the "Open links externally" setting to On (it should turn from gray to blue).