President López Obrador said Monday that the governments of countries mourning the deaths of their citizens in a fire in a Ciudad Juárez migrant detention center late last month “are right” to demand the resignation of Mexican immigration officials.
A reporter at the president’s morning press conference noted that the government of El Salvador had demanded the resignation of National Immigration Institute (INM) officials in light of the March 27 blaze that claimed the lives of 40 Salvadoran, Guatemalan, Honduran, Venezuelan and Colombian migrants.
Video footage showed that the migrants were left in cells as the fire raged inside the INM facility.
Asked for his opinion on El Salvador’s demand, López Obrador remarked that the authorities of El Salvador, as well as those of Guatemala, Colombia and Venezuela, “are right” to make such an exhortation to the Mexican government.
“What happened is very regrettable,” the president said, adding that the authorities of the countries whose nationals died in the fire “have to protect the lives of their fellow citizens.
“That’s the work of governments, and we’re in contact with them to help,” López Obrador said.
“As I said from the first day, there will be no impunity, the culprits will be punished, the investigation will continue. There are people arrested already, but the investigation process to punish those responsible for this tragedy isn’t yet finished,” he said.
Three INM agents, a security guard employed by a private company and a Venezuelan migrant accused of starting the fire are in preventive detention on charges of homicide and causing injury.
López Obrador said in the days after the fire that the government would wait for the result of the investigation before deciding the fate of INM director Francisco Garduño. He did not specifically name the immigration chief on Monday.
Cindy Portal, a vice foreign affairs minister in the El Salvador government led by President Nayib Bukele, spoke to the media on Sunday after the remains of seven Salvadoran migrants were returned to their families.
“We’re demanding the resignation of the people responsible for Mexico’s immigration policy,” she said.
Portal also said that the El Salvador government is demanding the imprisonment of those found responsible for the crime. Prosecutors must carry out an “exhaustive investigation,” said the official, who denounced impunity in previous cases involving Salvadoran migrants in Mexico.
Emilio Álvarez Icaza, an independent federal senator and former head of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, described the detention center fire tragedy as a “state crime” and López Obrador’s “Ayotzinapa” in a media interview broadcast Sunday.
Ayotzinapa is a locality in Guerrero where 43 students who were studying to become teachers disappeared in 2014. Their disappearance and presumed murder while Enrique Peña Nieto was president is widely described as a state crime.
The Ciudad Juárez detention center tragedy “will follow Andrés his whole life,” Álvarez told the El Financiero newspaper program La Silla Roja.
López Obrador said on March 31 that the case had “pained” him and was the second most difficult event he had faced as president, after a 2019 petroleum pipeline explosion in Hidalgo that claimed close to 140 lives.
The deaths of the migrants in Ciudad Juárez “moved me” and “broke my soul,” he said.