Monday, June 24, 2024

Report of 50 migrants massacred in Sonora ‘completely false,’ state attorney general says

The attorney general of Sonora has rejected a claim from a New York-based law firm that more than 50 migrants were killed in the northern state last Thursday.

“First of all, I want to be emphatic in pointing out that what that organization has asserted is completely false,” Sonora Attorney General Gustavo Rómulo Salas Chávez told reporters on Monday.

The law firm 1800migrante.com — which says it is also a non-government organization that provides legal advice to migrants — said in a statement on Sunday that “more than 50 migrants were victims in the massacre in Sáric,” a municipality in northern Sonora that borders the United States.

Its claim appears to be based solely on the account of a Peruvian migrant who witnessed the attack.

Salas said that only three deaths have been confirmed, those of a four-year old boy and two women. An additional 10 migrants were reportedly wounded and taken to a hospital in Caborca, another municipality that borders the United States.

The statement released by 1800migrante.com quotes a Peruvian migrant referred to as “Carlos,” whose real name was withheld for privacy. Carlos said that he and other migrants left a town in the municipality of Tubutama in three vans on Thursday night and were traveling toward the Mexico-U.S. border when a car rammed into the vehicle he was in from behind.

He said that the impact forced the van he was in off the road into a “small gully.”

Armed men got out of the car and started shooting at Carlos and approximately 24 other migrants who were traveling with him, according to the version of events published by 1800migrante.com.

“We all ran to save ourselves,” said Carlos, adding that the two other vans carrying female and child migrants subsequently came under fire when they arrived at the scene. Carlos said that armed men in another vehicle later arrived and engaged in a gun battle with “the first ones who attacked us.”

“You could tell they were opposing gangs,” Carlos said, adding that “we saw from the mountain” that the vehicles were later set on fire.

Some of the migrants — among whom were Ecuadorians, Dominicans, Hondurans, Peruvians, Brazilians and Guatemalans — were in the vehicles that were set alight, according to Red Cross personnel who responded to the attack.

“What I could see is that they were dressed in blue military uniforms, they used military weapons and grenade launchers,” Carlos said, referring to the men that attacked the migrants.

According to the statement from 1800migrante.com, Carlos escaped through the desert with five Ecuadorian migrants and managed to cross into the United States a few days later. He then contacted the law firm for assistance to locate his 28-year-old sister, Ana Vidal, who was in one of the vans traveling toward the border last Thursday.

A poster of a young woman sitting on a bench in front of a garden
The death of Ana Vidal, a Peruvian migrant, was one of few confirmed by authorities after the attack, according to a lawyer working with her brother. (William Murillo/X)

William Murillo, co-founder of 1800migrante.com, said in a post on the X social media site on Monday that it had been confirmed that she had been killed. In the same post, he said that two Ecuadorians, including the four-year-old boy, and a Honduran woman were also among the victims.

Salas, the Sonora attorney general, said that “first investigations” by state authorities found that between 11 and 14 migrants were traveling in three vehicles that came under attack on Thursday night. He said that three or four wounded migrants were still receiving treatment in hospitals in Caborca.

Salas also told reporters that the army had just captured “in that area” a “complete [criminal] cell of eight individuals with long weapons.”

They were detained in the municipality of General Plutarco Elías Calles, a border municipality whose administrative center Sonoyta is opposite Lukeville, Arizona. Salas didn’t explicitly say that were involved in last Thursday’s attack , although he gave that impression. He also said that three other suspected criminals had been arrested in the same area.

Before the remarks from Salas, authorities in Sonora had provided scant information about the events in Sáric last Thursday.

Murillo claimed that “the silence of Mexican authorities borders on complicity with these criminals who control a significant area of the border.”

“… We demand full transparency from the authorities in order to know the facts [and] the names of the victims and the wounded,” he said.

Migrants traveling through Mexico frequently become victims of crime, including murder.

Seventeen migrants and two Mexicans were killed in a massacre perpetrated by Tamaulipas state police in 2021, while 72 migrants were murdered in the same state by the drug cartel Los Zetas in 2010.

With reports from Aristegui Noticias, La Jornada and Uniradio Informa

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