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Mexican Police Officers Arrested In Connection With Migrant Massacre Near U.S.-Mexico Border

News of Mexico’s latest bloody massacre shocked the world. Nineteen bodies had been found near the U.S.-Mexico border with gun wounds and they had been burned to try and conceal the crimes.

Quickly it began to become clear that most of the victims were migrants en route to the U.S. from Central America, including many Guatemalan citizens. Now, new evidence shows that state police officers were likely involved in the murders and attempted coverup.

The massacre is the latest chapter in Tamaulipas’ history of police corruption. Most towns and cities in the state saw their municipal police forces dissolved years ago, because officers were often in the pay of the cartels. A more professional state police force was supposed to be the answer, a belief that came crashing down with the arrests announced yesterday.

Officials have arrested 12 police officers in connection to the deadly massacre.

A dozen state police officers were arrested in connection with the killings of 19 people, including Guatemalan migrants, whose bodies were found shot and burned near the U.S. border late last month.

Tamaulipas state Attorney General Irving Barrios Mojica announced that all 12 officers were in custody and face charges of homicide, abuse of authority and making false statements.

The victims were found piled up in a charred pickup truck in Camargo, across the Rio Grande from Texas, in an area that has been bloodied for years by turf battles between the remnants of the Gulf cartel and the old Zetas cartel. Another burned vehicle was found at the scene and authorities say it had been seized by immigration officials in a raid that detained 66 migrants on their way to the U.S.

The motive behind the massacre is still unclear.

The attorney general did not say what motive the officers might have had, though corrupt local and state police in Mexico are often in the pay of drug cartels. It’s also common for cartels to charge migrant smugglers for crossing their territory, and kidnap or kill migrants whose smugglers have paid a rival gang.

Interior Secretary Olga Sánchez Cordero said that immigration agents tied to the case had been fired, though she provided no details on their number or their alleged role.

“These violations of the rights of migrants are absolutely unacceptable,” Sánchez Cordero said. She said no member of the security forces or immigration authority was above the law.

Since many of the victims have been identified as Guatemalan migrants, authorities are trying to find their families.

Credit: JOHAN ORDONEZ/AFP via Getty Images

Authorities have said four of the dead have been identified so far — two Guatemalans and two Mexicans. Of the 19 bodies examined by experts, 16 were found to be males, one was confirmed as female and the two others were so badly burned their gender had not yet been determined.

The forensic results confirmed the fears of families in a rural Indigenous farming community in Guatemala who have said they lost contact with 13 migrants as they traveled toward the United States.

Guatemala’s foreign affairs ministry said late Tuesday that it was working closely with Mexican authorities. In a statement, it asked that “the full weight of law be applied to those responsible for such unfortunate events that have Guatemalan families mourning.”

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