Mexican immigration agents fired, under investigation over massacre
Mexico City, Feb 3 (efe-epa).- Mexico’s government has dismissed and brought legal action against an unspecified number of immigration agents suspected of involvement in the Jan. 22 killings of nearly a score of people in the northeastern state of Tamaulipas, including several Guatemalans.
The government secretary (interior minister), Olga Sanchez Cordero, confirmed Wednesday that dozens of National Institute of Migration (INM) employees have been terminated from employment.
They came under suspicion after many of the 19 charred bodies discovered in Camargo, a Tamaulipas municipality across from Rio Grande City Texas, were found inside a pick-up truck that had previously been impounded by the INM in the neighboring state of Nuevo Leon.
“I’d say dozens of employees have been dismissed,” Sanchez Cordero said in a press conference, citing their “irregular conduct.” She added that prosecutors are investigating the matter.
The announcement comes a day after 12 Tamaulipas state police officers were arrested for their alleged role in the mass murder.
Two Guatemalan citizens and two Mexicans are among the victims identified thus far.
Guatemalan authorities suspect that most of the victims are migrants from the western localities of Comitancillo and San Marcos who left their homeland in a bid to reach the United States.
The United Nations said the crime calls to mind a massacre of 72 migrants in that same region in 2010, although Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador’s administration says that comparison in not apt because “there will be no impunity” this time around.
That earlier mass homicide, in which 58 men and 14 women of different nationalities were killed in the Tamaulipas municipality of San Fernando, was one of the most shocking crimes in Mexico’s recent history.
“These violations of migrants’ human rights are absolutely unacceptable, and any accusation we may have related to any of our immigration personnel or the police or any other government entity that may violate human rights, we have to have the investigations,” Sanchez Cordero said.
The head of the Government Secretariat, which oversees the INM, said her department has been working with the Tamaulipas state Attorney General’s Office. She added that significant progress is being made in the investigation.
For his part, Tamaulipas Gov. Francisco Garcia Cabeza de Vaca pledged Wednesday there will be no impunity in the 19 killings and said he is in constant contact with state and federal prosecutors, as well as with Guatemala’s government to identify the victims.
He added that despite the arrests of the 12 state police officers that region has “thousands of honorable police who care for the safety of Tamaulipas’ residents with the utmost dedication.”
The federal Attorney General’s Office said Tuesday that the 12 detained state police officers are suspected of aggravated homicide, abuse of authority and other crimes.
The AG’s office is pursuing different lines of investigation, including the possibility the mass killing is linked to a dispute among rival organized crime gangs battling for control of the region and migrant-trafficking networks.
The investigators discovered that one of the vehicles found at the crime scene was the same one involved in an earlier incident in which 66 migrants were detained by police and INM agents on Dec. 6 in Escobedo, a municipality in Nuevo Leon state.
Sanchez Cordero admitted that rights abuses by Mexican immigration agents are commonplace.
“We’ve had problems with many immigration officials, precisely in terms of these types of rights violations, and that has to be acknowledged if progress is to be made,” she said.
According to witness statements gathered by Efe, a commando of gunmen with the Cartel del Noreste (formerly Los Zetas) became engaged in a clash with members of the rival Gulf cartel, which controls Tamaulipas, near the site of the massacre.
The Gulf cartel and Cartel del Noreste have been locked in a dispute over the control of states in northeastern Mexico dating back to March 2010, a conflict that since then has left thousands dead and more than 15,000 people missing. EFE-EPA