Mexico investigates senior migration officials after deadly fire

MEXICO CITY (Reuters) – Mexican prosecutors have opened criminal cases against senior immigration officials as they investigate a fire that killed 40 migrants at a detention center last month, the attorney general’s office said on Tuesday.

The people include the head of Mexico’s National Migration Institute (INM), Francisco Garduno, and the agency’s top official in the northern state of Chihuahua, where the fire took place, Salvador Gonzalez, two sources familiar with the matter said.

INM did not immediately respond to a request for comment, and Garduno could not be reached directly. Gonzalez said he will cooperate with the investigation and will assist the victims.

The Attorney General’s office said in a statement it had opened criminal proceedings against six officers in connection with the fire and, as is customary in Mexico, called them by their first names.

It was not stated whether the individuals were or would be charged, and neither the Office nor the INM provided further details.

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The statement said Garduno and another senior official, identified by the two sources as Antonio Molina, allegedly failed “to guard, protect and ensure the safety of the people and facilities entrusted to them” and allegedly failed “Crimes against migrants” eased.

Molina was also not directly available for comment.

The fire came after warnings from the federal auditor about problems within the INM and concerns from the National Human Rights Commission over the death of a migrant at another detention center in 2020.

“They point to a pattern of irresponsibility,” the attorney general’s office said.

The statement also claimed Gonzalez and three other officers were linked to conduct that led to the migrants’ deaths.

President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador said earlier Tuesday the migrants could not escape the fire because the person with the key to their locked cell was absent.

Five people were arrested in the case last month, including INM agents and a private security guard. Neither INM nor the security company commented on the arrests.

(Reporting by Lizbeth Diaz; Writing by Sarah Morland; Editing by Daina Beth Solomon)

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