MONTERREY, Mexico – Federal Police officers detained 33 illegal Central American immigrants on the highway that links Monterrey, the capital of the northern Mexican state of Nuevo Leon, to Reynosa, a border city in the neighboring state of Tamaulipas.
Federal forces have stepped up patrols on routes used by illegal immigrants to reach the United States in the wake of the massacre last week of 72 migrants at a ranch in northeastern Mexico.
The migrants detained at the toll booth in the city of Guadalupe were from Honduras, El Salvador and Guatemala, a Federal Police spokesman said.
The Central Americans were detained during an inspection of buses heading for the U.S. border, the police spokesman said.
The migrants – 31 men and two women – were first taken to the Green Cross office for medical check-ups and then to an immigration station for deportation.
Measures taken to prevent crossings into Arizona in recent years have forced Central Americans to try to cross the border in northeastern Mexico, an area controlled by the Los Zetas drug cartel.
Non-governmental organizations linked to the Catholic Church have been saying for more than four years that the Zetas kidnap, extort money from and kill migrants in northeast Mexico who try to cross into Texas.
Marines found the bodies of 58 men and 14 women last Tuesday after a shootout with gunmen at a ranch in the town of San Fernando that left a marine and three criminals dead.
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, told 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.
Over the weekend, about 300 illegal immigrants took to the streets of Saltillo, the capital of the northern state of Coahuila, to protest last week’s massacre.
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 massacre occurred as a result of the war between the Gulf cartel and Los Zetas in northeast Mexico, officials 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. EFE