Blood on the Tracks

By Jerry Kammer, October 8, 2010

In a chilling report on Mexico's brutal drug cartels in the current edition of The New York Review of Books, journalist Alma Guillermoprieto takes note of the criminal activities of the Zetas. That bloody organization started out in the 1990s as the muscle for the Gulf Cartel and recently branched out into extortion, holdups, and the kidnapping of Central American migrants who seek to cross Mexico by rail on their way to the United States.

"If the pollero, or people smuggler who guides the migrants in their passage through Mexico, does not have an arrangement with the Zetas, the helpless migrants are kidnapped, beaten up, raped, extorted," Guillermoprieto writes in an article – titled "The Murderers of Mexico" – that discusses four new books on the criminal groups that supply the U.S. drug market.

She then makes the observation that while the migrants who enter Mexico from Guatemala travel on just one train route, "the Mexican government seems helpless to stop either the migrants or the crimes committed every day against them."

Today's Reforma newspaper out of Mexico City includes an article that advances the theme of the impotence of Mexican authorities. It quotes the director of a migrant shelter in the border state of Coahuila, the Rev. Pedro Pantoja, who says, "Every day we take in kidnapping victims. This raises questions about the Mexican state, like, 'Aren't you going to do anything, or what?'"

Another priest, Alejandro Solalinde, accuses the authorities of direct involvement in the crime wave against the migrants. "And what's more, if someone escapes … (the authorities) return them to the kidnappers," he said.