Mexican activist who fed train-hopping immigrants is slain

Well-liked activist who fed migrants in Mexico is shot to death

A Mexican good Samaritan who dedicated his scarce resources to feeding Central American migrants passing by on La Bestia train was slain this week along with a friend who assisted him, fellow activists said Wednesday.

Adrian Rodriguez, who was featured in a Los Angeles Times article in June, was shot three times late Sunday afternoon as he visited his parents, receiving wounds to the head, chest and leg. He died immediately.

His friend, a Honduras native named Wilson, was shot five times and died the next morning, fellow activist Jorge Andrade said in an interview.

"It is really worrisome that a person dedicated to giving humanitarian aid to migrants be subjected to this kind of suffering," Andrade said. All three men participated in an ad hoc group called You All Are Us, which cares for migrants passing through Mexico.

Associates suspect that the killings were tied to a February attack by an armed gang on a group of migrants.

Rodriguez and the friend who was also killed this week, Wilson (his last name was being withheld by his organization to protect his family), witnessed the attack and called the police, who made several arrests.

Gangs notoriously prey on migrants crossing Mexico, threatening, raping, extorting money from and even killing hundreds a year. People like Rodriguez, who for the last decade had trudged almost daily to the railroad tracks near his home, lugging bread, coffee, rice, beans and other supplies for migrants, work at great risk, Andrade said.

Rodriguez lived and worked in a town called Tequixquiac, north of Mexico City in the state of Mexico. Migrants often hop trains, hobo-style, that run through the state on their journey from southern Mexico to the northern border with the United States. The trains are known collectively as La Bestia, or the Beast.

In June, Rodriguez told The Times that he had fed thousands of migrants, including many repeat riders, through his shoestring operation. He would also give out donated clothing when he had it.

"Sometimes I'm sad to see the train go and never know the fate of those aboard," Rodriguez said.

Rodriguez noticed early a recent uptick in the number of unaccompanied minors and sometimes entire families making the perilous trip north.

On his Facebook page, which has been closed, Rodriguez showed pictures of himself with makeup and sculpted eyebrows, un-shy of his other life as a transvestite. That characteristic, still frowned upon and a target of discrimination in some more conservative parts of Mexico, did not appear to have been a motive for his killing, friends said.

Rodriguez was well-known and liked in his town, friends said. Wilson had recently received a humanitarian visa to allow him to live in Mexico legally because of his willingness to be a witness in the February attack.

The prosecutor's office in the state of Mexico did not respond to queries about the case. Andrade said state prosecutors were investigating but he hoped the federal attorney general's office would assume jurisdiction.

"We don't want this to go unpunished," he said.

Father Pedro Pantoja, a Mexican Jesuit who also works with migrants, condemned the killings and said the migration route had become a territory of "Mexico in flames."

"Let us hope that the death of Adrian and Wilson might be a seed of hope," Pantoja said during a news conference Wednesday. "We already have too much blood."

Twitter: TracyKWilkinson

Copyright © 2016, Los Angeles Times