14 | OCT | 2019
Protesters demand release of two activists accused of human trafficking in Mexico
Last March, EL UNIVERSAL revealed that the U.S. Customs and Border Protection department (CBP) was investigating organizations and individuals who worked with migrants, including Pueblo Sin Fronteras - Photo: Mario Guzmán/EFE

Protesters demand release of two activists accused of human trafficking in Mexico

11/06/2019
17:36
Newsroom & Agencies
Mexico City
Amalia Escobar & Oscar Gutiérrez/EL UNIVERSAL, AFP, EFE
-A +A
Irineo Mujica Arzate and Cristóbal Sánchez were arrested on Wednesday, June 5 for human trafficking

Irineo Mujica Arzate, head of the Pueblo Sin Fronteras nonprofit organization, and Cristóbal Sánchez, an advocate for the rights of migrants, were arrested on Wednesday, June 5 for human trafficking.

Sources from the Ministry of Public Security and Civil Protection in Sonora confirmed the arrest of Mujica Arzate in Sonoyta on Wednesday at 14:30 hours. At almost the same time, Sánchez was arrested outside his home in Xochimilco, Mexico City.

The arrests were made by elements of the Attorney General of the Republic (FGR) in compliance with a warrant from the state of Chiapas, where they were being investigated for trafficking migrants through the Mexican territory.

Both suspects were moved to the state prison of Tapachula.

The Attorney General informed that Mujica is being charged with the trafficking of migrants, aggravated by the fact that some of the migrants were children and adolescents.

Cristóbal Sánchez faces charges related to the illegal introduction of persons to the Mexican territory, according to the government body.

Through a press release, the FGR informed that, during the months of April and May, a group of Hondurans filed complaints against two Mexicans before the Federal Public Ministry, who allegedly “requested large sums of money (USD$8,000) in exchange for protection and transport to the U.S.-Mexico border, with aims to crossing the border illegally.”

The institution added that the evidence obtained was enough to request arrest warrants from the District Court Judge.

Suspects reject accusations

Through their Facebook page, the nonprofit organization Pueblo sin Fronteras condemned the arrests.

“They were arrested by a Mexican government that promised to defend human rights, but bows to the pressure of the U.S.’ anti-immigrant government,” the NGO claimed through a press release.

“Both of them are human rights defenders who have been working for over a decade to help migrants. Today, they are political prisoners.”

They demanded the immediate release of Mujica Arzate and Cristóbal Sánchez and that the charges against them be dismissed.

“It is no coincidence that Irineo and Cristóbal were arrested on the same day that the Foreign Minister Marcelo Ebrard met with the U.S. Vice-president Mike Pence and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo in Washington DC. This is a result of Donald Trump’s threats to impose tariffs on Mexican goods,” the document states.

Last March, EL UNIVERSAL revealed that the U.S. Customs and Border Protection department (CBP) was investigating organizations and individuals who worked with migrants, including Pueblo Sin Fronteras.

A group of activist on Monday requested for the immediate release of Cristóbal Sánchez in front of the National Palace in Mexico City.

The protestors claimed that Sánchez was just a political prisoner meant to symbolize Mexico’s growing efforts to stem the flow of migrants into the U.S. border as a result of an agreement signed between both countries on Friday.

Activists criticized López Obrador’s government, pointing out that one of his campaign promises had been to release all political prisoners. Cristóbal Sánchez’s brother has stated that the arrest was completely arbitrary.

“He was arrested at his home by policemen who did not identify themselves and did not have an arrest warrant against him,” he stressed.

Sánchez was then immediately taken to a state detention center on charges of human trafficking.

“Since that day, our colleague has suffered all sorts of harassment and violence that flagrantly violate his dignity and rights,” he added.

Sánchez has worked to protect the rights of migrants for 15 years. He is a collaborator of a special program on migration affairs at the Ibero-American University, according to protesters.

According to his brother’s testimony, the activist has also done field work for the University of Columbia, in the United States.

Though Sánchez was accused of conducting an illegal negotiation with Honduran migrants in Tapachula on March 29, the family of the accused has assured that they have proof that Sánchez was in Mexico City at that time.

Father Solalinde speaks up

A Mexican priest and well-known activist Alejandro Solalinde Guerra, founder of the Hermanos en el Camino shelter for migrants in Ciudad Ixtepec, Oaxaca, deplored the arrest of Irineo Mujica and Cristóbal Sánchez, though he assured that he had received “multiple phone calls from migrants claiming that they had paid Pueblo Sin Fronteras to take them to Tijuana and that the organization had not kept its word.”

Solalinde insisted that the United States was responsible for the violence and poverty that had struck Central America, though he assured that Trump was unlikely to take responsibility for his country’s historic role in the migratory phenomenon.

Furthermore, the priest called on Mexican President López Obrador to continue to defend the human rights of Central American migrants, despite U.S. threats to impose tariffs on Mexican goods.
 

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