IMPORTANT: Following is the first in a series of articles on the controversy over Central American migrants riding trains northward through Mexico to the U.S., and contains material that has been updated and/or corrected since it was originally published on July 13, 2014. While WND believes it is in the best interest of readers to retain an entire series of articles on a subject to maintain historical context for developing news events, this particular story should be read in light of the updated or corrective information brought to WND’s attention since its original publication, available here.

NEW YORK – The infamous Mexican “Death Train” – also called “La Bestia” [“The Beast’] – on which tens of thousands of illegal alien children from Central America are traveling through Mexico to the United States – is being targeted by criminal complaints from Mexican authorities for allegedly violating the civil rights of passengers.

The Beast is owned and run by a Mexican wholly owned subsidiary of Kansas City Southern, a U.S. train company that acquired the Mexican equipment and routes in 2005 to create a “NAFTA Railroad” that was intended to fit into a multi-modal transportation technology so Chinese companies could deliver products into the heartland of the United States as an alternative to utilizing the West Coast ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach.

Mexican prosecutors have filed criminal complaints charging railroad with complicity in violations of the civil rights of the thousands of unaccompanied minors from Central America illegally hitching rides on the train in their efforts to cross into the U.S. over the border with Mexico.

That flood has surged over the last few months, and critics of President Obama say it’s being encouraged by his program to defer deportation proceedings for young illegal aliens, suggesting to them that if they are able to cross into the United States, housing, education, medical and even legal assistance await.

As reported at the time, Kansas City Southern (KCS, NYSE: KSU) completed on April 1, 2005, the acquisition of Mexican Railroad TFM, S.A. de C.V., an acquisition that gained for KCS all the common stock of Groupo Transportacion Ferrovaria Mexicana, S.A. de C.V., the holding company that owned TFM.

The 2005 KCS acquisition of the Mexican railroad occurred under the broad canopy of the Security and Prosperity Partnership of North America, first announced by President George W. Bush in a meeting with the president of Mexico and the prime minister of Canada, held in Waco, Texas, on March 23, 2005.

In December 2005, KCS changed the name of TFM to Kansas City Southern de Mexico (KCSM), a key piece in putting together the “NAFTA Railroad,” a marketing brand KCS at that time used to describe its North American rail service bringing together KCSM in Mexico and the Kansas City Southern Railroad (KCSR) in the United States.

In 2006, WND reported that Kansas City Southern plans in creating a “NAFTA Railroad” sought to link Mexican deep-water port Lazaro Cardenas as an alternative route for Chinese product shipping containers to enter the United States through Mexico, instead of through the West Coast ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach.

The plans would use KCSSM and KCS multi-modal railroad links to transport the Chinese consumer goods to a Mexican government customs office operated by Mexico as part of what then was being designed as the Kansas City Inland Port, or SmartPort.

But in a press report from Veracruz, Mexico, dated March 31, 2014, the attorney general of the Gulf Coast state of Veracruz, Luis Ángel Bravo Contreras, filed a criminal complaint with federal prosecutors against  Kansas City Southern de Mexico and Ferrosur. (Editor’s Note: A previous version of this story incorrectly stated the lawsuit was against the U.S. parent company.)

The charges are that the railroad companies were complicit in the commission of various crimes  against migrants jumping on the train for a ride to the Mexican border, including the crimes of robbery, human trafficking, kidnapping, murder and extortion.

A map produced by the Jesuit Migrant Service of Mexico and reprinted by the Washington Office of Latin America, WOLA, a Washington-based NGO [Non-Governmental Organization] aimed at protecting immigrant civil rights, demonstrates train routes into Texas are the shortest route for Central American unaccompanied minors to enter the United States through Mexico.


Main cargo railroad lines from Mexico to United States, route map.

As seen in the KCSM route map below, the eastern cargo railroad lines in Mexico are KCSM owned and operated, with a New York Times publication dated May 10, 2014, providing additional confirmation that “La Bestia” is run by Ferrosur and Kansas City Southern de Mexico, KCSM.


Kansas City Southern de Mexico, KCSM, route map.

A WOLA report issued June 17, 2014, described the difficulty illegal immigrants taking “La Bestia” north as follows:

“Migrants in the southern border zone are drawn to ‘La Bestia,’ the train that heads northward to central Mexico and then on to the U.S. border. For hundreds of miles they ride on the roofs of the train cars trying to avoid fatal falls, hot days, frigid nights, and low-clearance tunnels. Every eight to ten days or so, trains depart from two routes that originate near the southern border.”

Not only is the ride physically dangerous, WOLA noted, but the lax security on “La Bestia” leaves migrants at the mercy of Mexican gangs, bandits, kidnapers and corrupt officials.

“The stunning frequency of kidnapping, extortion, human trafficking, rape, and homicide puts Central American migrants’ plight in Mexico atop the list of the Western Hemisphere’s worst humanitarian emergencies,” the WOLA report concluded.

IMPORTANT NOTE: Although WND senior reporter Jerome Corsi solicited comment from Kansas City Southern prior to this story’s publication, he did not receive the following email response from KCS until after the story was posted, due to a technical problem. An updated story can be read here. Here are KCS’s emailed comments in full:

Kansas City Southern de Mexico (“KCSM”, a subsidiary of Kanas City Southern, “KCS”, operating in Mexico) and KCS are aware of the situation where immigrants illegally board trains, mainly Central American immigrants coming from Mexico’s southern border where KCSM does not operate. The “La Bestia” train often shown and referred to in media reports in southern Mexico is not on KCSM and KCSM does not operate such a train.

Because this situation mainly involves immigrants coming from Mexico’s southern border where KCSM does not operate, the number of people illegally boarding KCSM trains north of this region is minimal and subject to heavy railroad security enforcement and respect for human rights.

KCSM complies strictly with the security laws and regulations maintaining close coordination with Mexican and U.S. federal immigration and security authorities. KCSM has regulations for its security crews who must respect the physical integrity of any person who might gain access to one of its trains traveling illegally on the railway.

KCSM has made significant investments during past years to increase the security of railway operations in terms of technology, security staff, intelligence, as well as operating systems related to security in stations, shipping points and the main points of our railway network to prevent this kind of illegal activity with success.

C. Doniele Carlson
AVP Corporate Communications & Community Affairs
Kansas City Southern

Note: Read our discussion guidelines before commenting.