Mexicans traveling home from US pay a tip to cops, extortion to criminals

Some Mexicans traveling home from the United States for Easter holidays via the border city of Nuevo Laredo, Tamaulipas, are being pressured to pay tips to police and extortion payments to criminals.

According to a report by the newspaper Reforma that cites travelers’ testimonies, Tamaulipas state police officers deployed to escort returning Mexicans as they travel through the state are asking for tips.

The officers – deployed as part of the ostensibly free Programa Paisano (Compatriot Program), which encourages Mexicans returning home for holidays to travel in convoys escorted by security forces – offer their protection services to travelers after they leave the vehicle importation module at the Juárez-Lincoln port of entry, Reforma said.

Some travelers said that police have asked for tips or fees in excess of US $20 per vehicle to escort them to the federal inspection station located 26 kilometers south of the border city on the Nuevo Laredo-Monterrey highway.

“[The officer] told me: ‘If you want to give us a tip, it’s from your heart and holy hand,’” said one traveler who declined to give his name.

Rogelio Ávila, representative in Illinois of the National Council of Lawmakers and Migrant Leaders (Conalym), told Reforma that police asked him for a tip when he crossed into Mexico via Nuevo Laredo a few days ago as part of a convoy of travelers heading to Zacatecas.

He said that state police approached him and other travelers, welcomed them to Mexico, told them they would escort them until they were out of danger and then pressured them to make a “donation.”

“It happened to me,” Ávila reiterated. He also said that some Mexicans retuning from the United States have been victims of armed criminals who demand “protection fees” of up to US $500 per vehicle. If people refuse to pay, the criminals steal their belongings, Ávila said.

The Conalym representative said criminals also “hunt” travelers after they leave the vehicle importation module, adding that he witnessed three people being robbed at a checkpoint operated by the Federal Commission for Protection Against Health Risks.

“Three people were robbed and they hit the SUV of one person to force him to stop,” Ávila said, adding that the criminals were young men.

The land border between Mexico and the United States is officially closed to nonessential travel but large numbers of vacationing Mexicans have entered the country via Nuevo Laredo in recent days, Reforma said.

Ávila said that more Mexicans who live in the United States will cross the border to Mexico over this Easter weekend.

Source: Reforma (sp) 

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