GUATEMALA CITY – Guatemala’s government has sent Mexico information on 34 migrants who have been reported missing and may be among a large group of victims found in recent weeks in mass graves in northeastern Mexico.
The Guatemalan Foreign Ministry made the announcement Saturday, saying in a statement that it sent Mexico the list of missing migrants “to determine their whereabouts or possible identification among the (clandestinely buried) victims.”
The ministry urged the Mexican government “to accelerate its mechanisms for identifying possible Guatemalan victims among the remains found in the mass graves,” the statement said.
Guatemalan authorities also requested DNA samples from relatives of the missing individuals and asked the Mexican government to provide fingerprints from the bodies to help identify the victims.
Thus far, only one Guatemalan has been identified among the more than 180 victims found in mass graves in San Fernando, a city in the northeastern Mexican state of Tamaulipas. That man’s body will be repatriated once Mexican authorities complete the necessary procedures.
Separately, Guatemalan consular authorities in Mexico also have provided assistance to 22 Guatemalan immigrants who were rescued by Mexican security forces after being kidnapped by a group of suspected drug traffickers in Reynosa, Tamaulipas.
Mexican authorities blame the Los Zetas drug cartel, a band of special forces deserters turned outlaws, for the mass graves and the abductions.
A total of 183 bodies have now been recovered from some 40 mass graves in San Fernando and 74 suspects have been arrested in connection with the killings, Attorney General Marisela Morales said earlier this week.
Among the detainees are 17 police officers who allegedly helped Los Zetas, Morales said.
The bodies found in the mass graves are believed to be those of people who were kidnapped by Los Zetas while traveling through San Fernando on buses and were later murdered.
Last August, a group of 72 mostly Central American migrants were killed near San Fernando – a massacre also blamed on Los Zetas.
Investigators suspect the victims, from Honduras, El Salvador, Guatemala, Ecuador and Brazil, were slain by members of the notorious drug cartel after refusing to work for the gang as couriers or enforcers.
Elsewhere this month, investigators have found more than 100 bodies buried in clandestine graves in Durango, capital of the like-named northern Mexican state.
The discovery of the mass graves has rocked Mexico, where more than 36,000 people have died in drug-related violence since late 2006.
The mass graves were found earlier this month in the wake of reports that gunmen had forced men off buses headed for Reynosa, located across the border from McAllen, Texas, between March 19 and March 31.
Some gangs have resorted to using unusual methods to recruit gunmen because of the high casualties in the war being waged by rival drug traffickers for control of territory, the federal government says.
The incidents involving the buses may have been an attempt to recruit gunmen, investigators said.
Hundreds of people have gone to morgues looking for missing relatives and friends who might be among the victims.
Los Zetas has been blamed for a wave of violence in Tamaulipas and other parts of northern Mexico.
A total of 15,270 people died in drug-related violence in Mexico last year.