Forty-nine members of a group of migrants who went missing in San Luis Potosí on May 16 have been rescued, President López Obrador announced at his Thursday morning press conference. The search continues for the two bus drivers who were transporting them.
The migrants disappeared at around 2 a.m. on Tuesday morning, when their bus was intercepted near Matehuala, in San Luis Potosí. They were traveling from Tapachula, Chiapas, to Monterrey, Nuevo León, near the U.S. border.
Nine were found later that day walking along a highway near the municipality of Doctor Arroyo, Nuevo León. They confirmed to authorities that the group had been kidnapped but that they had managed to escape.
“The first migrants gave us the information that they had arrived at a gas station to refuel, and there they had been approached by members of organized crime,” Defense Minister Luis Cresencio Sandoval said at the presidential press conference.
Six more migrants were rescued on Wednesday in the Matehuala area, and one more later in the day in Dr. Arroyo. The migrants rescued on Wednesday gave authorities information that allowed them to locate 33 more people held captive on a farm in the community of Cruz de Elorza, on the border between San Luis Potosí and Nuevo León.
These passengers were rescued at 3 a.m. Thursday morning, according to Sandoval, in a security operation lasting more than six hours, the San Luis Potosí Attorney General’s Office said.
The rescued migrants — 23 men, 15 women and 11 children from Honduras, Haiti, Venezuela, El Salvador, Brazil and Cuba — were transferred to a National Migration Institute facility in San Luis Potosí. Two more migrants and two bus drivers remain missing.
The rescued migrants say they were kidnapped near the town of Los Medina, in Nuevo León and that the kidnappers argued that the bus had passed through the area several times without “reporting” to their criminal gang.
Following the kidnapping, people claiming to belong to the Gulf Cartel contacted the bus company, Heva Tours, demanding a US $1,500 ransom for each victim.
Earlier reports had stated that the total number of missing people at 52, a number which included two drivers, but Sandoval hesitated to specify the number of missing migrants at Thursday’s press conference, saying that they were interviewing the rescued migrants to determine how many more of their traveling companions are missing. It was possible that that as the group is reunited, some would realize that a group member was still missing, he said.
Nobody has yet been arrested for the kidnapping, Cresencio said, and it has not been confirmed what group was responsible, though he confirmed that the Gulf Cartel operates in the area and that local kidnapping gangs are known to target migrants.
In April, more than 100 migrants were kidnapped in the same area.
Following the latest kidnapping, José Luis López, representative of the National Confederation of Mexican Transporters (Conatram) in San Luis Potosí, called for the federal government and state police to reinforce security on the highways to control crime.
“The reality of the National Guard is that it is overwhelmed and does not have the capacity to monitor the roads,” he said. “By not having security on the roads, crime is unleashed.”
At the press conference, Cresencio stressed that 650 National Guard agents had been deployed to locate the missing migrants, and the search continues to locate the missing drivers, migrants and their kidnappers.
“We have no detainees, but [the investigations] continue,” Cresencio said. “The migrants will obviously give us some data that can help us identify the people who did this.”