Questionable tweet puts Mexican president’s secretary on defensive

La Bestia
Honduran stowaways crouch to avoid tree branches as their freight train speeds through the jungle in Chiapas, Mexico, in 2000.
(Don Bartletti / Los Angeles Times)

The private secretary of Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto was on the defensive Monday after a photograph appeared on his Twitter account that seemed to be making fun of Central American migrants who, routinely and in huge numbers, board a dangerous train to cross Mexico.

The photo disappeared from the account of Erwin Lino soon after local media began calling attention to it.

Copies shown on websites and Mexican television portrayed a jet flying through the skies with dozens of young men clinging to the top of the fuselage. A caption read: “Honduran soccer team on way to Brazil” for the World Cup.

The apparent attempt at humor was intended to mimic La Bestia, or The Beast, a ramshackle train that crosses from Mexico’s southern border with Central America and carries on northward.

Thousands of desperate Central Americans, an increasing number of them from Honduras, clamber aboard every month hoping to reach the U.S. Many are killed, raped or kidnapped.

A later message on Lino’s Twitter feed said the account had been misused “by someone other than me” and that the secretary had changed his password.

“An apology for the tweet published earlier,” the message said. It was not clear if the picture sent was a tweet or a re-tweet.

“This is really bad taste … about something that is tragic,’’ Denise Maerker, a journalist and commentator, said on her afternoon television-radio show.

If Lino is to be believed, it means someone unauthorized gained access to the Twitter account of one of the president’s closest aides. But few Mexicans seem to be accepting his explanation, judging by the Twitter conversation that followed his apology.

“Yeah, he tosses out a discriminatory tweet then feigns dementia,” wrote one user.

“Don’t screw around with us,” tweeted another. “Have some dignity and accept your mistake.”