MEXICO CITY — As many as six out of every 10 Central American women and girls are raped as they pass through Mexico hoping to cross illegally into the United States, Amnesty International said Wednesday.
The rapists include criminal gang members as well as local authorities in collusion with them, said Rupert Knox, an Amnesty International researcher on Mexico.
Knox called on Mexico to take action to end a "really chilling panorama" faced by migrants passing across its borders even as the nation complains about a tough new immigration law in the state of Arizona.
In irate response to the Arizona law, which Republican Gov. Jan Brewer passed last Friday, Mexico issued a travel warning alerting citizens who are traveling to or residing in Arizona that they might face harassment. Aeromexico suspended some flights to Arizona, and the government of the Mexican state of Sonora canceled an annual meeting scheduled for June with its Arizona counterpart to protest the new law.
The London-based human rights group issued a 48-page report titled "Invisible Victims" that says that tens of thousands of migrants, nearly all of them from Central America, fall prey to gangs that rob, kidnap or rape them as they cross Mexico.
Much of the abuse occurs in the southern states of Chiapas and Oaxaca, where criminals who are in cahoots with conductors and local, state or federal police halt freight trains, which often are carrying hundreds of illegal migrants, it said. Problems are also severe in Tabasco and Veracruz states.
Many migrants who pass through those states, Knox said, "suffer abductions, sexual abuse, mistreatment, extortion, murder and other abuses that they endure in this voyage of terror."
Last year, Mexican immigration authorities detained 64,061 migrants, about a fifth of them women or girls, the report says.
Migrants fear that if they report assaults, abductions or rapes, they'll be deported to their home countries, it said.
Amnesty International arrived at the conclusion that as many as six out of 10 women are raped after sifting through independent studies, consulting Mexican and international experts and monitors, and conducting its own interviews, Knox said.
"Many women migrants are deterred from reporting sexual violence by the pressures to continue their journey and the lack of access to an effective complaints procedure," the report says. It adds that the prevalence of rape is such that some smugglers of people demand that women have contraceptive injections before the journey as a precaution.
Even when severe abuses are reported to the government, they remain a low priority for many state and federal authorities, the report says.
Criminal gangs are behind most of the abuses but "there is evidence that state officials are involved at some level, either directly or as a result of complicity and acquiescence," it adds.
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