A tractor-trailer carrying 160 migrants that crashed in Chiapas last week passed through a toll plaza where immigration agents were stationed, contrary to statements by federal officials.
Fifty-seven migrants were killed in last Thursday’s accident on the Chiapa de Corzo-Tuxtla Gutiérrez highway and more than 100 others were injured.
Footage from state government security cameras shows the truck passing through a toll plaza approximately five kilometers from where the accident occurred. It disproves claims by officials, including President López Obrador, that the semi-trailer didn’t pass through any government checkpoint.
The National Immigration Institute (INM) agents at the location are assumed to have been deployed there to prevent people smuggling. Two INM vehicles parked next to the lane the truck was in before reaching the toll plaza can be seen in the footage. The semi was not subjected to any revision.
The migrants, mostly Guatemalans, had paid smugglers up to US $13,000 to get to the United States, the newspaper El País reported.
Deputy Interior Minister Alejandro Encinas said this week that the people allegedly responsible for smuggling the migrants had been identified. The federal Attorney General’s Office has opened an investigation into the accident and the smuggling operation, he said.
Of more than 110 migrants hospitalized after the crash, over 40 have been discharged, according to the Chiapas government.
The INM has offered humanitarian visas to some of the migrants whose planned northward journey came to an abrupt halt when the trailer they were traveling in detached from the tractor unit and overturned. But most didn’t accept the offer.
The news website Infobae reported that 27 visas were offered but only three Guatemalans and one Dominican Republic national accepted them. Twenty migrants opted to return to their countries of origin while three others remained in Mexico and were weighing their options.
Some other migrants involved in the accident are missing, according to their families and friends. Relatives of Guatemalan migrants said they have received phone calls from men who claim they kidnapped their missing loved ones. The alleged abductors have demanded ransoms of up to US $3,000, they told the newspaper Milenio.
“They’ve been calling us and saying they have information about my missing friend, they’re asking for $3,000 to release him because they kidnapped him. But how are we going to pay if we can barely get together 2,000 quetzales [US $260] to go to Chiapas,” said Pedro Méndez, whose brother was injured in the accident and is also missing.
He said he is collecting donations from neighbors, relatives and friends in order to pay to travel to Chiapas to search for missing migrants.
Elvira Alguá Morales, whose 17-year-old brother is missing, recounted a similar story. “We don’t know anything about him and [the presumed kidnappers] have been calling from Mexican telephone numbers asking us for $2,000 or $3,000 for … information about where he is,” she said.