Women, children and even grandmothers work with criminal gangs to stop and rob trains on the railroad between Veracruz and Puebla, official reports and video evidence have revealed.
A report published today by the newspaper Reforma cited a source with knowledge of the criminal investigation into train theft in the region who said that weapon-wielding gang leaders “push” local residents into robbing trains “in exchange for a payment.”
Train robberies nationwide soared by 476% between the first and last quarters of 2017, according to data gathered by the Rail Transport Regulatory Agency (ARTF), and Veracruz and Puebla ranked number one and two respectively for their incidence of the crime.
When a train is stopped, the source said, “300 people come out to ‘work’ the train,” adding that “the [criminal] leaders are there, they control everything and they are well organized.”
The Reforma report also said that residents assist criminal groups by placing obstacles such as stones on the track in order to halt trains and at times they even remove parts of the track, a tactic that has caused four derailments on one 20-kilometer stretch of railroad in the Veracruz-Puebla border region in recent weeks.
In one video seen by Reforma that forms part of the criminal investigation, hooded men accompanied by young boys and girls — presumably their sons and daughters — are seen throwing stones at a train. Pick-up trucks and other vehicles can be observed next to the track at the ready to be loaded with stolen freight.
The hooded men, armed with sticks, are also seen attacking police officers at different stages in the footage.
At an earlier point in the same video, a police officer is seen speaking to a woman guarding a pile of rocks set up as a barricade on the track.
“Really, you’re not going to let me remove the rocks?” the officer asks her.
“Just leave us for a while, if you want [us to be able to] buy our tortillas. It’s the first day I’ve come. Do you think we’d be here if we didn’t need to be?” the woman responds.
“But one can work,” the policeman replies, only for several of the expectant robbers to pipe up simultaneously: “We are working.”
At least some of the fruits of that “work” were seized by authorities in Puebla last weekend after they discovered two homes that were being used as warehouses to store seven tonnes of stolen freight.
In another video, an elderly woman is seen trying to persuade a police officer not to remove an improvised barricade made of stones.
“Don’t remove them. Why are you going to remove them? Let us work for a while,” the woman says.
“The thing is the boss is coming, ma’am, now we really do have to carry out orders. If I don’t how can I support my family . . .” the police officer responds
“And what do I live off?” the old woman retorts perched on top of the track-blocking stones.
“If you don’t [stop obstructing the track], you’re going to get into trouble ma’am, what do you want? the officer counters to the senior who refuses to move and only repeats her plea to “let us work for a while.”
Source: Reforma (sp)