Mexican railroad suspends freight service citing migrant safety

A major Mexican railroad company has temporarily stopped 60 trains on south-to-north routes because of rising deaths and injuries of freighthopping migrants.

Ferromex, a company that operates several routes that head to five U.S.-Mexico border crossings, announced Tuesday it was stopping the 60 trains, with cargo capacity equivalent to 1,800 trucks, because of the “notable increase of migrant persons concentrated in several regions of the country.”

“In recent days nearly a half dozen regrettable cases of injury or death were registered among the groups of people who on an individual basis or in families, including girls and boys, boarded freight trains on their way north, despite the grave danger that implies,” read a statement by the company.

In the statement, the company said groups of migrants have congregated in rail yards and on trains, including more than 1,500 people in Torreón, Coahuila, 200 miles south of the international border; 800 people in Irapuato, Guanajuato in central Mexico, around 1,000 people in the central northern state of Aguascalientes, and more than 1,000 people on the route between Chihuahua and Ciudad Juárez, the city that borders El Paso.

The company said it had informed its clients about interruptions to supply lines and international commerce.

In early 2023, Mexico surpassed Canada and China as the top United States trading partner, with $263 billion in bilateral trade over the first four months of the year, according to a report by the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas.

The Mexican economy is largely dependent on trade with the United States, as well as remittances – money sent to friends and relatives in Mexico – sent by Mexicans in the United States.

Mexico’s growth as a U.S. trade partner is in large part due to nearly 30 years of free trade between the two countries, first under the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) and more recently under the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA), and to growing investment in the country in the aftermath of the coronavirus pandemic and the U.S.-China trade war.

Migration has over the past decade played a key role in the bilateral trade relationship, with both phenomena often leveraged against each other in U.S.-Mexico negotiations.

In 2019, Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador surged the National Guard – a militarized police force – to interdict migrants after former President Trump threatened commercial retaliation over the number of South and Central American migrants crossing the country.

Ferromex’s corporate ownership and López Obrador have also recently butted heads.

In May, López Obrador revoked a federal concession that allowed a Ferromex sister company to operate a strategic railway in southern Mexico, and dispatched the military to occupy that railway’s installations.

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