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Al Jazeera

Three killed as smuggling boat capsizes in Mexico: Official

People cross the Usumacinta river on boats from Guatemala to Frontera Corozal, Chiapas state, Mexico [File: Eduardo Verdugo/AP Photo]

Three people have died after a people-smuggling boat capsized off the coast of eastern Mexico, according to authorities.

Four others were rescued after the eight-metre (25-foot) vessel capsized on Monday off a part of Veracruz state where the Tonala river meets the Gulf of Mexico, according to Governor Cuitlahuac Garcia. Those rescued included a 12-year-old boy. Four others were missing following the accident.

Authorities said those who drowned and those rescued were migrants from Honduras.

“They retrieved three bodies. The four survivors report that there are four missing,” David Esparza Diaz, the civil protection chief of the Agua Dulce municipality, told the AFP news agency.

Also on Monday, a 36-year-old father and his seven-year-old son were found dead in the Suchiate river, which marks the border between Mexico and Guatemala. The pair were from El Salvador, according to Mexico’s national immigration institute. Their bodies were set to be turned over to El Salvador on Tuesday.

Tens of thousands of people migrate from Central America through Mexico every year, often bound for the southern border of the US. They continue to make the journey despite tightened border inspections by Mexican authorities along the Guatemalan border.

Increased restrictions force many to undertake increasingly treacherous journeys, often with the aid of smugglers, through waterways or in crowded smuggling vehicles.

Monday’s incidents followed the deaths of four people a day earlier being transported in the back of a cargo truck in township of San Juan Chamula. Sixteen others were injured when the vehicle was involved in a collision.

In December, a truck carrying migrants overturned on a highway near the city of Tuxtla Gutierrez, killing at least 56 people and drawing a spotlight on the desperate measures the more than 160 passengers were willing to take.

In recent months, US President Joe Biden’s administration has sought pledges from Latin American countries to shore up their immigration controls in preparation for the lifting of a restriction that allowed US authorities to turn away most asylum seekers, citing COVID-19 concerns.

The administration was set to lift the restriction, known as Title 42, on Monday. However, the move was blocked by a federal judge following a challenge by officials in several US border states.

The policy has allowed the US to carry out nearly two million expulsions of asylum seekers since March 2020.