Mexico's Obrador says 32 migrants kidnapped for extortion

Mexico’s Obrador says 32 migrants kidnapped for extortion

/ 06:57 AM January 05, 2024

Armed men kidnapped 32 migrants in Mexico for extortion, says president

FILE PHOTO: Mexico’s President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador speaks during his daily press conference in Acapulco, Mexico, on December 20, 2023. REUTERS/Daniel Becerril/File Photo

MONTERREY, Mexico — The armed men who kidnapped 32 migrants in northern Mexico over the weekend aimed to extort money from them and their families in the United States, Mexico’s president said Thursday, one day after the migrants were released from captivity.

He said that the migrants, who were found on Wednesday, were abandoned by their kidnappers in a parking lot in a commercial center in the northern Mexican city of Reynosa in the state of Tamaulipas.


“It was for the extortion of relatives in the United States,” President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador said in his daily morning press conference.


“Because there was a strong deployment (from Mexican authorities), they decided to free them, safe and sound,” Lopez Obrador added.

READ: Mexico to boost measures aimed at curbing migration to US

The case has highlighted the risks faced by the hundreds of thousands of migrants who cross through Mexico en route to the US border each year, who are targets of extortion and kidnapping by powerful criminal groups.

Human rights activists have been warning for months about an escalating kidnapping crisis along the Tamaulipas border, especially in Reynosa, where last year Reuters documented a pattern of kidnappings – and at times sexual assault – of migrants and asylum seekers.

The 32 migrants were abducted on Saturday from a commercial bus that had departed the northern industrial city of Monterrey destined for Matamoros, across from Brownsville, Texas, according to Mexican officials. They were forced off the bus and whisked away in five cars by armed men while traveling through Reynosa, officials added.

Investigation opened

The group was discovered after an anonymous caller tipped off authorities to their whereabouts around 1 p.m., the spokesman for the state security agency, Jorge Cuellar, told Reuters.


Of the 32 migrants, the majority were from Venezuela, Cuellar said. Of the group, they ranged in age from a 71-year-old man to a 1-year-old baby girl, with 11 minors, he said.

READ: Mexico and Venezuela restart repatriation flights of migrants

Authorities had previously said 31 migrants had been kidnapped, but upon their release, they discovered the baby girl who had not been counted.

The Honduran consulate in Monterrey told Reuters that six of the migrants were from Honduras, including one mother and her two teenage daughters.

The state attorney general’s office said the migrants had given their testimonies and that the office has opened an investigation.

They are now in the custody of Mexico’s National Immigration Institute, the agency confirmed.

No one has been arrested so far in the case, Cuellar said.

A record number of migrants traveled across Central America and Mexico in 2023, aiming to reach the United States, fleeing poverty, violence, climate change, and conflict.

READ: No shade, no water, and record heat: More migrants die in US desert

Earlier this week, a 4,000-person caravan traveling through southern Mexico dispersed after leaders said migration authorities had promised to provide travel permits if the caravan was split up to be processed at several migration centers.

However, the caravan’s leader, Luis Garcia, said in a statement on Thursday that some migrants had been “abandoned on the street” by authorities and had not been let into shelters.

Venezuelan migrant Paola Fuentes shared similar information with Reuters and said she had been made to sign a document without being allowed to read it.

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Mexico’s migration institute did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

TAGS: Kidnapping, Mexico, Migration, United States

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