Police in northern Mexico were involved in the deaths of 193 people, mostly Central American migrants, under circumstances similar to those in Iguala, Guerrero, in September.
Previously classified documents have revealed that collaboration between local police and organized crime resulted in the deaths of 72 migrants in San Fernando, Tamaulipas, in August 2010.
The documents have been made public by the federal attorney general as a result of a freedom of information order obtained by the United States research organization, the National Security Archive. The attorney general’s office had declined to release the information on the basis that doing so could hamper an ongoing investigation.
The information shows that local police worked for the drug cartel Los Zetas by rounding up people traveling by bus, mostly migrants, and turning them over to the gang, which used them, for the most part, as drug mules.
Police also acted as lookouts for the gang, and turned a blind eye to their illegal activities.
Those officials are believed to have played a role in the deaths of 193 people whose bodies were found in hidden graves in San Fernando in 2011 and 49 in Cadereyta in the state of Nuevo León in 2012.
Federal Police arrested 16 San Fernando police in April 2011.
A San Fernando organization that assists victims’ relatives had previously accused local authorities of their participation. Its director, Ana Lorena Delgadillo, told the Associated Press the release of the information was an important step toward finding the truth, but lamented that the amount of information released was limited.
Authorities found the 72 San Fernando victims on a farm after a survivor, a migrant from Ecuador, reported the incident. He said they were offered work as gunmen for Los Zetas with a salary of US $1,000 every two weeks but were killed when they didn’t accept. The dead were from El Salvador, Honduras, Ecuador and Brazil.
Police have also been implicated in killings in Allende, Coahuila, in early 2011. State Gov. Rubén Moreira says there is information linking the deaths of 28 people, also at the hands of Los Zetas, to municipal police. Two officers are in custody.
Local officials in Allende have alleged that 300 people disappeared after gang members turned up looking for two local residents they believed had double-crossed them.
The U.S. has also declassified some documents that offer a look at the extent to which Los Zetas has exerted control over authorities in Tamaulipas, Nuevo León and Chihuahua, according to the National Security Archive.
A Federal Bureau of Investigation report said in 2005 that Los Zetas had “established control” over Nuevo Laredo and “effectively controlled” its police.
The U.S. Consulate in Monterrey said in 2010 it was “Zeta territory,” having become a “safe haven, source of revenue (primarily from extortion) and supply center” for the gang, and that many state and local police, along with government officials, had criminal gang ties.
The Consulate noted in March 2010 that the Nuevo León state governor had suspended 81 police officials who had been co-opted by Los Zetas.