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Wednesday, July 24, 2024  
17 Muharram 1446  

Migrant dreams turn to tragedy for Mexico fire victims

Guatemala Francisco Rojche left his Guatemalan town
Rosario Chiquival, whose son Francisco Rojche died in a Mexican immigration detention center fire, mourns with her family at their home in Siete Vueltas in Guatemala. AFP
Rosario Chiquival, whose son Francisco Rojche died in a Mexican immigration detention center fire, mourns with her family at their home in Siete Vueltas in Guatemala. AFP

CHICACAO: Guatemala Francisco Rojche left his Guatemalan town, its dirt roads and sugarcane plantations in search of better opportunities in the United States. But the dream died with him when a fire broke out in the Mexican immigration center where he was detained.

Rojche was one of 40 migrants who perished in the blaze that broke out on March 27 in Ciudad Juarez near the US border.

The 21-year-old had left his home in Siete Vueltas a week earlier with his cousin Miguel, a 37-year-old father of six who also died.

Like many other young Guatemalans, they had left their hometown and families because of a lack of jobs, Rojche’s father Manuel Rojche told AFP.

“They get it into their heads that to have a better future they need to risk their lives and go to the United States,” the 47-year-old construction worker said.

Francisco Rojche, one of five siblings, dreamed of buying land and building a house, his father said – an unattainable goal for him in Guatemala, where 59 percent of people live in poverty.

In Guatemala, “you work a lot and earn little,” the grieving father said in his simple home made of cement blocks.

The family created a small altar with a photograph of their son and his cousin, along with flowers and candles.

Emanuel Tzina, a cousin of both victims, voiced dismay that they died while in the custody of the Mexican authorities.

“It hurts us a lot. It makes us angry… knowing that it happened under the protection of the Mexican government,” the 35-year-old said.

Eighteen of the 40 dead were Guatemalan, reflecting the significant flow of people who leave the Central American nation heading to the US border through Mexico.

‘No life’

Five people have been arrested as part of a homicide investigation, including a migrant accused of starting the March 27 fire, three immigration officials and a private security guard.

Mexican authorities have accused the people in charge of the facility of doing nothing to evacuate the migrants, including 26-year-old Orlando Jose Maldonado.

The Venezuelan had survived the perilous journey through the Darien jungle between Panama and Colombia after leaving his hometown in October.

The father of a seven-year-old boy was one of nearly seven million Venezuelans who have left their crisis-wracked country over the past decade.

The last time his family heard from him was the day before the fire.

“There wasn’t a day since he left that he didn’t call me,” said his mother Aide Perez, 62, sitting next to two photos of Nando, as she affectionately called her son.

Before she received the news of his death, she had called his cellphone daily, hoping in vain for an answer.

“He said that he wanted to give his son a good future,” she said.

The victim’s father Orlando Genaro Maldonado, 65, asked why, as he describes it, the men were “practically murdered.”

“Most of those who leave here go to work and look for a different future, because in reality we have no life in this country,” he said.

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