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Mexican President at Fidel Castro Ceremony: ‘Mexico Is a Land of Refuge’

Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto, in bidding farewell to the late Cuban dictator Fidel Castro during a ceremony in Havana attended by various world leaders, quoted the island nation’s independence leader José Martí, saying, “Mexico is a land of refuge.”

His comments came as migrants in Mexico from elsewhere in Latin America, including Cuba, are increasingly mistreated in at hands of Mexican law enforcement.

USA Today reported earlier this year that immigrants are treated much worse in Mexico than any other country.

While praising the late Cuban dictator, Mexican President Peña Nieto recalled that more than half a century ago, Fidel and his brother Raul, while in exile, chose Mexico as the launching pad for their violent revolution.

“They arrived inspired by the words of the immortal hero José Martí: ‘Mexico is the land of refuge where all pilgrims have found a brother,’” declared the Mexican leader in Spanish.

The Mexican president’s comments may come as a surprise to the migrants from Central and South America, as well as refugees from Cuba, mistreated as they pass through Mexico en route to the United States.

Citing human rights groups, USA Today reported in June:

While Mexican politicians complain about the mistreatment of Mexican immigrants fleeing to the United States, Mexico is far more abusive toward Central and South American migrants … who seek asylum or want to pass through to the U.S., human rights groups allege.

Many of the tens of thousands of refugees fleeing violence in their home countries, “are routinely preyed upon by both criminal organizations and corrupt government officials in Mexico,” the Washington Office on Latin America, a nonprofit rights group, said in a report issued in May.

Although Mexico provides 20-day visas to Cubans to help them make their own way to the U.S. border, the refugees are not immune to being preyed upon by smugglers.

“We’ve heard a lot that in Mexico there are gangs like the Zetas that make attacks on roads and that there are dangerous zones,” Cuban migrant Yordani Casanova, 33, told Agence France-Presse (AFP) in January.

Mexico has closed its doors to Central American migrants seeking refuge from their gang violence-ridden countries, including children, according to Human Rights Watch (HRW).

“Our research found wide discrepancies between Mexico’s law and the way it is enforced,” reported HRW in March. “Children who may have claims for refugee recognition confront multiple obstacles in applying for refugee recognition from the moment they are taken into custody by [Mexico’s immigration agency]. As one [United Nations] official told us, ‘the biggest problem in Mexico is not the [asylum] procedure itself, but access to the procedure.’”

“Some children remained in immigration detention centers for a month or more, and those who exercise their right to appeal adverse decisions on their applications for refugee recognition might be held in immigration detention centers for six months or more,” it adds.

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