SALTILLO, Mexico – About 300 illegal immigrants took to the streets of Saltillo, the capital of the northern state of Coahuila, to protest the killings of 72 migrants at a ranch in northeastern Mexico last week.
The protesters, who wore masks, carried the flags of Honduras, Guatemala, El Salvador and Nicaragua.
Dozens of Mexicans joined the migrants to express their solidarity and condemn the fact that “killings are becoming a daily occurrence,” organizers said.
The silent march was held Saturday afternoon in Saltillo, with participants setting out from a shelter for migrants and ending the protest at the cathedral.
The migrants uncovered their faces at the end of the march and a representative read a statement.
“Our countries deny us the opportunity for development, but Mexico denies us the opportunity to exist,” the statement said.
Central American migrants travel across Mexico from south to north in an effort to reach the United States, “a country that does not belong to us and to which we also do not belong,” the statement said.
“The only things that belong to us are our dreams, our hopes, our desire to help our families get ahead,” the statement said.
The Mexican government’s security spokesman, Alejandro Poire, said Saturday that the federal Attorney General’s Office was taking over the investigation of the massacre because the case involves federal crimes.
“The Attorney General’s Office of the Republic has decided to take over the investigation in the next few hours to ensure a proper investigation and bring those responsible to justice,” Poire told a group of foreign correspondents.
The Mexican government has expressed its condolences to the governments of Guatemala, Honduras, El Salvador and Brazil since the victims identified so far were from those countries.
Investigators have identified 33 of the 72 people killed at the ranch, of whom 15 were Hondurans, 12 were from El Salvador, five were Guatemalans and one was from Brazil.
These victims were identified because they were carrying documents.
An Ecuadorian who survived the massacre told investigators that the victims were all migrants headed for the United States and the murders were committed by members of the notorious Zetas drug cartel.
The eyewitness, Luis Freddy Lala Pomavilla, 18, notified Mexican marines of the killings at the ranch near the town of San Fernando.
The migrants were kidnapped by armed men before they reached the U.S. border, the eyewitness said.
Marines found the bodies of the 58 men and 14 women on Tuesday after a shootout with gunmen at the ranch that left a marine and three criminals dead.
Investigators are working with consular personnel from the victims’ homelands to try to identify the bodies, Poire said.
The operation “is an effort led by the Mexican foreign ministry and being carried out jointly with local and federal prosecutors,” the government spokesman said.
A team of diplomats from the different countries is in Reynosa, where the bodies were taken.
The massacre occurred as a result of the war between the Gulf cartel and Los Zetas in northeast Mexico, Poire said.
Tamaulipas and neighboring Nuevo Leon state have been dealing with a wave of violence unleashed by drug traffickers battling for control of smuggling routes into the United States.
The violence has intensified in the two border states since the appearance in February in Monterrey, the capital of Nuevo Leon, of giant banners heralding an alliance of the Gulf, Sinaloa and La Familia Michoacana drug cartels against Los Zetas, a band of Mexican special forces deserters turned hired guns.
Heriberto Lazcano Lazcano deserted from the Mexican army in 1999 and formed Los Zetas with three other soldiers, all members of an elite special operations unit, joining the Gulf drug cartel.
After several years as the armed wing of the Gulf cartel, Los Zetas went into the drug business on their own account and now control several lucrative territories.