Two men who claim they work on behalf of migrant rights, and who have been involved in organizing and leading the Central American caravans up through Mexico to the U.S. border, were arrested and charged with human trafficking just as the U.S. was engaged in tariff and immigration talks with the Mexican government.
Irineo Mujica, who holds dual Mexican and American citizenship, is director of the Mexico-based group Pueblo Sin Fronteras (“People without Borders), an organization that claims to work on migrant rights but that has also been suspected of organizing the waves of caravans that moved through Mexico and landed at the U.S. southern border.
He, along with activist Cristobal Sanchez, were arrested by Mexican authorities following charges levied by Honduran nationals who claimed they had promised to bring them into Mexico and to help them get into the U.S. illegally in exchange for money.
Irineo was detained and quickly released in October at a March in support of the migrant caravans. The U.S. has been calling these “activists” smugglers for some time, and it would appear they have convinced Mexico to share their view.
The US and Mexico have often referred to caravan organizers as human smugglers. In February, Mexico’s interior secretary, Olga Sánchez Cordero, said members of Pueblo Sin Fronteras are among those the government has identified in promoting and organizing caravans and suggested that some may be involved in human smuggling.
While the U.S. media spins tales that the Trump administration has claimed victory in their deal with Mexico erroneously, the arrest of Mujica is certainly new. And, perhaps even more interesting, the Mexican Finance Department’s Financial Intelligence Unit (UIF) froze the accounts of 26 others they believed were involved in the trafficking of migrants and organizing the caravans.
[W]hile caravans were traveling through Mexico between October 2018 and June 2019, the UIF identified a group of people who made “unusual” transactions from accounts in Chiapas and Querétaro to several countries, “including some considered risky jurisdictions by the Financial Action Task Force.”
It also said that a series of financial transfers from Querétaro to six northern border cities – Tijuana, Nogales, Ciudad Juárez, Ciudad Acuña, Piedras Negras and Reynosa – were detected.
The transferred funds originally came from El Salvador, Honduras and Guatemala – the three largest migrant source countries – as well as Cameroon, the United States and England, the SHCP said, stating it believed the payments were made in exchange for smuggling migrants and that criminal complaints will be filed.
Financial transactions from the countries of origin to ostensibly help move migrants doesn’t lend credence to the narrative that these were grassroots groups of people who decided to move north en masse to escape the violence in their home countries. And the fact that some of those transactions originated in the U.S., England, and Cameroon of all places it starts to look like there was organizing — and payment for it — afoot.
No matter what the final deal with Mexico looks like, the arrest of Mujica and the targeting of those who would engage in human trafficking, is beyond the status quo and signals a paradigm shift in U.S. relations with its Southern neighbor.