~ This article was originally published by SinEmbargo on August 29, 2015 ~
Arturo Daniel Morales Carmona dreamed of a white collar job, one that paid well, so he could bring his parents out of poverty. Now the boy, only thirteen years old, cannot dream any more. His body was found in the municipal dump in Agua Dulce, Veracruz. He had been missing two days.
Who thinks to slit the throat of a thirteen-year-old boy? Why are there so many evil people in the world? What could Dany have done to deserve this? These are the questions Irene Carmon Vázquez—the boy’s 33 year-old mother—asks. We found her at a funeral home in the town of Agua Dulce—a municipality of 46,000—founded more than 50 years ago by fisherman and later inhabited by workers from Petróleos Mexicanos (PEMEX), the national oil company.
The town is irrigated by the abundant fresh waters of the Tonalá River, the natural boundary between Veracruz and Tabasco. Despite being the southernmost municipality in Veracruz, Agua Dulce has not escaped the wave of violence that has enveloped the state governed by Javier Duarte de Ochoa. The murder of Arturo Daniel makes that clear.
Agua Dulce is located some 30 minutes from the port of Coatzacoalcos, and under it run hundreds of kilometers of Pemex ducts, useful for transporting gas and crude from the Five Presidents oil field to distant distribution centers. Entering the main town, you recognize the decongestive aroma of thousands of eucalyptus that were planted along the highway. “Before there were more, but they were turned into vaporub,” jokes one resident when he points to the trunks battered by deforestation.
Fear lives in Agua Dulce. This week the attorney general of Veracruz announced the arrest of Édgar Omar Canseco Martínez, aka “El Pelón” or “El Texas,” whose base of operations was in Agua Dulce. From there, according to the press release, he ordered killings, kidnappings, and extortions. The official statement, released August 25, noted that “Canseco Martínez has acknowledged his role in at least eight murders, between 2013 and 2015.”
Additionally, he is alleged to be responsible for the kidnapping of Ruth Flores Amado, 28 years old, a Pemex employee who was kidnapped in May, 2015. Her family paid the ransom but she was not released, and two months later was found in a clandestine grave.
Before the arrest of “El Texas,” one of the most talked about incidents—in a relative sense, since the least discussed topics in this town are kidnapping, “liftings” (levantones), and executions—concerned the kidnapping of the ex-mayor Jorge Luis Pérez Léon and his wife on Sunday, June 28, on the beach, in full view of bathers and visitors. The criminals arrived with their trucks and rifles, and after identifying the ex-mayor eating seafood, they ordered him to accompany them, and when he refused, they beat him and grabbed his wife. The people in the water began to run along the beach. The couple was returned safely after the payment of a ransom sum with six zeros.
The Poor Boy
A week ago in Agua Dulce they killed a woman to steal her shopping bags and debit card, four months ago several taxi drivers were taken and later appeared in another municipality with ants in their mouths, here is also where, in 2014, at least five clandestine graves were discovered, containing the remains of some eight people, the majority decapitated.
One of the graves that remains undiscovered is that of the son of an elderly woman, who requested that her name not appear in the press but told how one night, some time after her son had been kidnapped, men on a motorcycle yelled at the door of her house that she should look in a particular spot in the town’s agrarian zone. The woman went to the local police investigator and informed him, and a backhoe was even mobilized for the exhumation, yet, inexplicably, the authorities then reversed course; the mother returned home to keep dreaming of the return of her son.
“His father told me that he had dreamed he was home, he watched him enter the house, clear as day, he was sure he had returned,” Irene Carmona says, sitting in the funeral home surrounded by coffins. Not one looks the right size for Arturo Daniel, whose body grows cold on the other side of the room where his mother mourns him. It has been six hours since the discovery of the of the boy’s body in the dump and the authorities have still not released his remains. The parents want to bury him and be finished with it all. They do not even ask for justice. They are puzzled and confused. “Where could this have come from?”, Irene Carmona asks.
“The day he disappeared, we really wanted to talk (she and her husband, Sandro Morales), but nobody paid any attention to us, not even journalists. At the police station they told me that 72 hours had to pass before they would look for him.” The investigative police, after their visit to the chief investigator, only produced a circumstantial report. For Arturo Daniel, a humble boy who worked selling tamales and was entering his second year of long-distance secondary-school (telesecundaria), there was no Amber Alert.
A day in the life of Arturo Daniel was going to school early, sometimes with his belly only half-full, since his mother had to make the food stretch for his other two brothers.
When he returned from school, Irene Carmona would already have a bucket ready, filled with tamales so he could go out to sell them. “We are in commerce, I sell, his father too, though he is also a mason, finishing patios, sweeping streets. We do a lot of things to get by.”
Daniel Arturo would take his bucket of tamales and go house-to-house in the center of Agua Dulce, “he had his clients, sometimes his younger brother would accompany him, and they would each take 15 tamales. They would sell them all, and give me 300 pesos.”
Arturo Daniel’s younger brother also sold for himself. “He sold pozol—a typical drink in the area, of prehispanic origins, made from cacao and maíz—but the social services office threatened to take him away, and after they did it once I did not let him go out to sell his pozol anymore.”
The boy was the target of mockery from others when they saw him in the streets with his bucket of pozol, “he would get sad, but later he told me that it was better that than to go around robbing.”
The vice of Arturo Daniel: “He would arrive home at around eight at night, never later than that, because after he sold his tamales he would go play Xbox.”
“In my house, I sell the tamales for 15 pesos, and on the street he would sell them for 17, and so he would earn two pesos per tamal, and with what he earned he would rent an Xbox [at a gaming center] for a while and that was how he ended his day.”
Arturo’s heart: “There were times when he wouldn’t go to play Xbox and he would come home and say, ‘Mom, do you want me to buy you a Coke?’ and he would get one and treat me.”
Arturo Daniel, at 13 years old, knew of love: “He had a girlfriend, a girl of 15, but her parents did not like him, they took her away, they said he was a ne’er-do-well. I think because he was selling in the street, because he didn’t quit, but now, with how things are in this world, nobody can quit.”
That Tuesday night, the boy had only gone to pick up payment for tamales he had delivered a few days earlier. He was not back by eight and his mother sensed the danger; they looked for him at the Xbox and he was not there.
“We searched all night, it was pouring rain. So we searched in the downpour, asking everywhere, his clients, nothing,” she remembers.
Terrible thoughts came to the mind of Irene Carmona, “my husband asked to speak with God, he wanted to go up to talk with him, to say that his son was going to return, that he would see him coming. I only know that my son went to pick up payment for tamales and he did not come home.” Irene leaves. She needs to hurry to prepare the funeral. It will be in the grandparents’ house, since hers, in the Kilómetro 2 neighborhood, is very small. It is not yet finished. “We are just now putting up roofing, we are very poor.”
It is 11:00 AM and Arturo Daniel should be in school in the community of El Burro, were he attended class without fail. He was a good student and he dedicated himself because he wanted to be an environmental engineer, but he had not even finished his first week of classes when his remains were found among decaying bags, rotting trash, and the toxic air of that open dump where they tried to hide him. Garbage workers, with a backhoe, found his body.
Ignacio Carvajal is a journalist in Veracruz. This article was originally published by SinEmbargo with the title “Agua Dulce revela la violencia en Veracruz; menor aparece muerto entre la basura” and is available at: http://www.sinembargo.mx/30-08-2015/1467740
Translation by Michael Lettieri, Trans-Border Institute