Mexico becoming a ‘no-go zone’ for migrants as gruesome massacre remains unresolved five years on
The disgraceful lack of effective investigations into the mass killings of 72 migrants in Mexico five years ago is giving a green light to criminal groups who terrorize and murder people crossing the country to seek safety and a better life, said Amnesty International.
On 22 August 2010, the corpses of 58 men and 14 women from Central and South America were found piled up inside a ranch in San Fernando, Tamaulipas, near Mexico’s border with Texas. Since then, authorities have made a number of arrests but have failed to publish any information as to whether anyone has been sentenced.
Those responsible are believed to be members of criminal gangs, many of them suspected to be working in collusion with local security agencies.
“The mass killings in San Fernando paint a gruesome picture of the state of human rights in Mexico, where being a migrant seems to be reason enough for criminals to harass, torture and murder you,” said Carolina Jiménez, Americas Deputy Director for Research at Amnesty International.
“Amid Mexico’s brutal ‘war on drugs’, many routes for migrants to reach the USA have become no-go zones. The endless list of human rights violations and abuses against people on the move in recent years show the urgent need for a region-wide plan to protect those making one of the world’s most dangerous journeys in search for a better life, free from poverty and violence.”
Not much is known about the final hours of the 72 people who were killed in cold blood in San Fernando. The only details come from the sole survivor of the massacre, who said he has been receiving death threats.
Eva Nohemi Hernández Murillo, a25-year-old woman from Honduras, was one of those killed in San Fernando. She was travelling to the USA hoping to provide her three young children, who were in Honduras, with better opportunities.
Eva Nohemi last spoke to her mother, Elida Yolanda, on the phone two hours before a group of armed men intercepted the van in which she was travelling with other migrants.
“I learned about what had happened when I turned on the TV to watch the news two days after the massacre. I saw a body that looked like Eva Nohemi but could not believe it was her until the government confirmed it four years later,” said Elida Yolanda.
“All I ask is for an investigation to know what happened to my daughter. I don’t want to see any more people dying.”
Investigations into the massacre have been patchy, with local and federal authorities failing to coordinate efforts or inform relatives of any progress. There have been extreme delays in identifying the victims – with some of the remains sent to the wrong families.
Authorities have also failed to provide any form of protection to the relatives of those killed, many of whom have received threats when seeking justice.
Since the San Fernando massacre, hundreds of other men, women and children attempting to reach the United States through Mexico have been threatened, disappeared, kidnapped, raped, forced into sex work or murdered.
Between April and May 2011, Mexican authorities discovered 193 more bodies in 47 mass graves in San Fernando in events that are still to be effectively investigated.
A year later, 49 torsos, several of which are believed to be from irregular migrants, were found in the city of Cadereyta, in the neighbouring state of Nuevo León.
“How many more migrant men, women and children have to be murdered in Mexico before authorities take action? There’s no time to waste, the Mexican government must step up efforts to investigate these massacres and bring those suspected of responsibility to trial, provide relatives with full reparation and take steps to prevent any more deaths,” said Carolina Jiménez.
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