At the end of this story there will be a Central American family relocated to some safe municipality in Mexico, far from the threat of Barrio 18, the gang that controls their area and one of the two large groups that terrorise the region.
But at the moment, the eldest daughter, Karla, an ebullient young woman of 22 years old, tells me: “If a gang member wants you for him, you can not do anything”.
“One of my classmates who refused to leave with them took her out of class and killed her right there on the doorstep of the school,” she recalls. “That was a warning, they told us.”
They chose her too.
“My sister’s husband, who is the hired assassin, wanted her as his brother’s wife,” recalls his mother, Maria, dressed in a short tank top, shorts and sandals, and scattered on a plastic chair. in the sticky tropical heat of the Mexican border.
“Because the boys are recruited, but our girls are wanted to make them their own, ” she explains.
María refused to give up her daughter, but that did not stop them. And the next day the sicario’s brother decided to follow Karla wherever she went.
For this harassment, the family, composed of the mother, a son and two daughters, decided to flee the Central American municipality, whose name we will not reveal for safety, and leave the country.
And today the four see the days spent locked in a cabin of six meters by ten, in a city on the southern Mexican border that we will not be identify either.
They are asylum seekers, like thousands of other Central Americans, and are part of a relocation program of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR).
The Mexican Commission for Refugee Aid, the body in charge of processing them, received 8,781 asylum requests in 2016 , 154.6% more than the previous year , according to the most recent data made public.
More than half is registered in the office that the agency has in Tapachula , in the Mexican state of Chiapas , bordering Guatemala , and almost all applicants are Central American.
And although the agency does not disclose the reasons why they seek refuge, the nongovernmental organizations that work with them assure that gang violence is one of the most important factors after migration in what is known as the Northern Triangle of Central America: Honduras, El Salvador and Guatemala.
The United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussei , confirmed this on November 17th at the end of his official visit to El Salvador.
The UN representative also used the term “forced displacement” due to violence, both internally and externally.
Agencies such as the UNHCR or the Human Rights Ombudsman’s Office (PDDH) of El Salvador, are urging the governments to recognise the phenomenon as a national problem, to size it and start to solve it, something that so far it has not happened.
In the words of Acting Attorney Ricardo Gómez, the reason why the problem is not recognized publicly is “the political cost for the international community.”
This was said on December 13th, when presenting the second report of the PDDH on the subject, which states that the first thing that makes families migrate are the death threats of the gangs in the country (the Mara Salvatrucha 13 and the two factions of Barrio 18).
A few days later, the Minister of Justice and Public Security, Mauricio Ramírez Landaverde , assured that the government has “studies” that “do not support the conclusions” of the report and that show that the main reasons for displacement are economic and family reunification.
Conspiracy Talk News contacted the Ministry to discuss the issue, but so far have not received a response.
The organizations that work in the area recognize that migration is multi-causal, but insist that government statistics on the subject often hide a more complex problem in which violence plays a fundamental role.
This was illustrated by Celia Medrano , the director of programs in El Salvador de Cristosal, an organization that advocates for human rights in Central America, the digital media Factum last November.
“I am deported and an official receives me, he passes me a questionnaire and asks me: Why did you leave?” I answered, “I did not have a job in El Salvador.” It is recorded that I left for economic reasons.
But if there is an opportunity to generate the interview, that person can begin to explain: ‘I was left without a job because I had a workshop in Soyapango (a municipality in the metropolitan area of the capital San Salvador). The workshop was the object of extortion by the gangs and I could no longer sustain it. I had to go to another area, but since in the other zone I could not generate an income of my own (…) I had to migrate to find a job ‘.
But then the reason was not only economic. The person was left without his means of subsistence also by violence. That kind of aspects are not contemplated. “
As Medrano told us in his example, extortion is one of the ways in which gangs generate violence.
Lilibeth suffered it in her own skin.
It all started a few days after some of the members of the neighbourhood 18 cell clique that controls her neighbourhood killed her husband in the face of her son’s terrified gaze, for not wanting to invite them in more drinks with the money she had borrowed to expand home.
“I already gave them (to gang members) 700 dollars a month,” says the Salvadoran.
But then they came to ask for that weekly amount. If he did not deliver it, they would “disappear”, they promised, but not before cutting his son into pieces. And so that she did not have any doubt, they hit her “with a club”.
Faced with the impossibility of collecting the money each week, his mother asked for a loan that they continue to pay today.
But the harassment continued. And one night, desperate, she decided that her only way out was flight.
“It was three o’clock in the morning and I went out with my son to the road, with the clothes on and not knowing where to grab,” he says.
Account that an older man took them in his car to the capital and told them how to get to the border of Guatemala with Mexico.
“‘They are going to go to such a side and ask God that when they cross there are no (immigration officers),’ the man told us, ‘and if they are caught, tell them your case, so they will not be deported.'” Explain.
Mother and son managed to pass without being arrested and reached the Chiapas municipality in which they live now.
There they had to sleep in the park and stay up to three days in a row without eating. It took months for them to go to the Mexican Commission for Refugee Aid. “I did not even know it existed,” he admits.
La Comar, after reviewing her case, decided to grant them refugee status.
Now she has permanent residency, but Lilibeth says she does not feel safe.
“The other day there was an 18th where the father of my son lived,” says the reason. “When he sees me, he looks at me (watching), I do not face him, I lower my head or put on my cap.”
But he’s not the only one. “I have to be on the lookout everywhere, because here we are in frontier territory and many gang members are entering.”
This threat, which is also mentioned by other Central Americans who sought asylum in Mexico interviewed by CTN News at the border area, is already in the spotlight of Acnur .
“Not only do individuals get away from various situations of harassment and abuse in their countries of origin, we have also begun to detect the presence of their persecuting agents,” acknowledges Jacqueline Villafaña, associate of Protection of the Land Office of the organization in the city of Tapachula .
“They ruined our countries, they ruined our children and robbed our daughters, and now here they want to do the same,” says María, sprawled in her white plastic seat.
We interviewed her on November 21.
He spoke with gravity, but also with some relief, knowing that he had only a few days left in that hot six-by-ten room.
Today she and her three children try to invent a new life in another Mexican state, away from the tropical heat and the gangs.