SAN SALVADOR – Two suspected people traffickers will stand trial on charges they abandoned a group of 14 Salvadorans who were among 72 undocumented migrants killed in 2010 in the northeastern Mexican state of Tamaulipas, El Salvador’s Attorney General’s Office said Wednesday.
Erick Escobar Ramirez and Carlos Teos Parada “will be tried in the coming days for the crime of aggravated people trafficking,” the AG’s office said.
Both defendants are suspected people smugglers linked to the brutal massacre at a ranch in the municipality of San Fernando, the AG’s office said, noting that prosecutors have gathered sufficient evidence against the two men.
“The investigations show that the defendants contacted the victims from different areas of El Salvador, offering to take them to the United States safely” in exchange for payments of between $6,000 and $7,000, the AG’s office said.
After crossing Guatemala and part of Mexico illegally, the group arrived in Tamaulipas, where the “‘coyotes’ (people traffickers) abandoned the victims,” the top prosecutor’s office said, adding that members of the Los Zetas drug cartel abducted them and later killed them at the remote ranch along with the 58 other victims.
Another four Salvadorans linked to the same case are being held in pre-trial detention, the AG’s office said.
It added that arrest warrants have been issued for Salvadorans David Antonio Escobar Canales and Francis Edgardo Palacios Fuentes, as well as Guatemala’s Jose Maria Negreros Sermeño, who is considered “the main contact” for the people-trafficking network in Guatemala.
The victims of the San Fernando massacre also included undocumented immigrants from Ecuador, Guatemala, Honduras and Brazil.
A survivor said the Zetas gunmen intercepted the migrants as they were trying to reach the United States, tried to recruit them as cartel employees and then executed the travelers when they refused.
Founded by deserters from an elite special forces unit, Los Zetas began as the armed wing of the Gulf drug cartel, but ended that relationship in March 2010 to go into business for themselves.
Regarded as Mexico’s most ruthless cartel, Los Zetas was behind last August’s daytime arson attack on a casino in the northern metropolis of Monterrey that left 52 employees and gamblers dead. Zetas gunmen allegedly torched the gaming establishment after its owner refused to pay protection money.
The drug mob also is blamed for the murder of around 200 people whose bodies were found in 2011 in a series of clandestine graves, also in Tamaulipas.
The Zetas also have drawn the ire of older, established cartels through their extensive involvement in extortion, kidnapping for ransom and robbery, crimes that the other drug mobs generally eschew out of a desire to avoid antagonizing the general public.
Mexico is mired in a wave of organized crime-related violence that left 47,515 dead between December 2006 – when President Felipe Calderon took office and militarized the struggle against the country’s heavily armed, well-funded drug mobs – and Sept. 30, 2011, according to official figures. EFE