By JARED TAYLOR, The Monitor
Officials have closed a refugee shelter set up in Miguel Alemán, Tamps., as displaced residents of nearby Ciudad Mier made their way back to their homes amid a protective surge of military force.
Mier, once a town of about 6,500 across the border from western Starr County, gained infamy last month when several hundred residents vacated, seeking shelter at the Lions Club in Miguel Alemán.
The exodus came after members of the Zetas, the Gulf Cartel’s allies-turned-rival, reportedly ordered residents out of Mier under the threat of execution.
“It was a very difficult situation,” Mayor Servando Lopez Moreno of Miguel Alemán said in a telephone interview.
The shelter closed Friday after remaining open for nearly a month, Lopez said.
The mass departure gave Ciudad Mier— designated a “Pueblo Mágico” by Mexico’s Tourism Ministry for its significant historical and cultural value — international notoriety as an overnight ghost town. But residents from Mier have said most of the townsfolk able to cross into the U.S. did so months ago, while others with relatives in other cities had already fled as well.
Mexico defense officials deployed 3,000 soldiers, marines and federal police to Mier and other northern Tamaulipas border towns west of Reynosa.
“There’s a lot of security now,” Lopez said.
He said a meeting with local, state and federal officials is set for this week regarding security in Mexico border towns.
“There are many soldiers here now, but we don’t know if it is permanent or transient,” the mayor said. “We know they are here, but we don’t know if they will stay.”
No one at Mier’s City Hall answered telephone calls Friday.
Refugees who spent nearly a month in Miguel Alemán received an outpouring of support from residents in Starr County, as well as from churches from across the Rio Grande Valley.
At least seven Valley Baptist churches — and others in Texas — pooled resources to collect items taken across to the Lions Club shelter.
The provisions included food, blankets, drinking water and diapers, said Jerry Johnson, interim director of the Rio Grande Valley Baptist Association. He noted that the relief effort was headed by Tomas Cantu, pastor at Primera Iglesia Bautista in Roma. Cantu declined to comment for this story.
“He has really brought it to our attention to the needs out there,” Johnson said. “Whatever is out there, we try to meet the needs of folks.”