Nicaragua

Wilton Gutierrez and his Mom Now Both in the US

The traumatic journey that ten-year-old Wilton Gutierrez made from Nicaragua to Texas may finally be over. He’s in a shelter for unaccompanied minors in Texas, waiting to be reunited with his mother. His mother, Meylin Obregon, was freed from her kidnappers on April 14 in Mexico. According to an interview in Univision, she’s been granted asylum and is now in the US.

Meanwhile, the Nicaraguan government announced they were dropping their petition to have the boy repatriated and returned to his father.  Vice President Rosario Murillo indicated as much in her daily monologue on April 15th. She also stated they’d continue to offer support to Meylin’s family.

Lazaro Gutierez, Wilton’s father, still wants the boy returned.  When the case first came to light, he said he’d agreed with the mother’s decision to leave the country. Now, though, he claims he’ll maintain his formal request that Wilton be repatriated.

The relatively bright outcome to Wilton’s story owes much to the video of him a border patrol agent took and posted. The video shows a small and distraught ten-year-old emerging from a desolate landscape to plead for help. He says that he came with a group that left him behind. When the moving video went viral, officials in Nicaragua, Mexico, and the US all rushed to assure the child’s well-being and locate his mother. Had this not happened, the story might have ended very differently.

A saga that echoes many

Wilton Gutierrez’ story echoes that of many other migrant children. He made the journey from a remote rural community in Nicaragua to the border, together with his mother. They were attempting to reach Miami, where Meylin has two brothers. One of them, Misael Obregon, had been actively assisting her. Two of Misael’s own sons travelled with Wilton and his mother.

The boy’s two cousins apparently crossed the border as unaccompanied minors and were allowed to enter the US.  However, when Meylin and Wilton attempted to cross, they weren’t so lucky. Their first attempt to enter the United States failed, and they were deported to Mexico. They were then kidnapped and held by ransom-seekers.

Wilton’s uncle, Misael Obregon, says he was asked to pay $5,000 per head to liberate Wilton and his mother. He only had enough money for one, so he and Meylin agreed he should free the boy first. Wilton crossed the border but was later abandoned by the group he was traveling with.

On Monday, April 12, after the case became world news, the Nicaraguan government got involved.  Vice president and government spokesperson Rosario Murillo announced they were asking Interpol for help locating the mother. Nicaragua also requested assistance from the Mexican and US authorities. Several days later, Meylin was released, under circumstances that aren’t totally clear. “Maybe because of the news bulletins (…) They said it wasn’t good for them to have me there.”

In a brief interview on Univision April 15, Misael Obregon confirmed that Wilton’s mother had been admitted into the United States. He thanked President Biden “for listening to his heart”.

Seeking a better life or fleeing domestic violence?

Lazaro Gutierrez appeared in a live interview with Maria Lily Delgado, Univision’s Nicaragua correspondent. He said he was upset that the “uncle began to say terrible things about me”. He affirmed he was originally in agreement about Meylin leaving with Wilton, “if she had a way to get him across.” However, he disagreed with the way she did it. “He’s just a child and he never knew what he was going to go through, that he was going to suffer so much.”

Misael Obregon, on the other hand, has on several occasions publicly accused Gutierrez of psychological violence: “There were witnesses when you threw her out of the house. Remember when you promised not to do any more harm to my sister? But you just went on in the same way (…) You know there are mistreatments that hurt more than clubbing a woman on the head.” Gutierrez has insisted that Obregon’s accusations are all false.

Meylin herself has said nothing about the conflict thus far. According to Misael Obregon, she’s in a holding center in Texas, and is doing the paperwork needed to reclaim her son. Obregon states that the authorities have promised to get this all done as quickly as possible.

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