At least 300 residents of Allende, Coahuila, are thought to have been killed in 2011 when the town of 27,000 was attacked by members of the drug gang Zetas.
The gang believed they had been betrayed in a cocaine deal by two local men. So they rounded up friends and families of the two and abducted them at gunpoint. Then they drove bulldozers through their homes and destroyed them.
Until this year, the story was virtually unreported, notes a report in today’s edition of The Economist. No one wanted to talk about it for fear of reprisal. Indeed, after two local youths gave some visitors a tour of the devastated homes, they were killed.
In February, government officials finally acted and launched an investigation. On nearby farms they discovered oil drums believed to have been used by the gang as incinerators, burning the victims’ bodies after they were shot.
The town’s mayor believes 30 to 40 Allende families were exterminated, and he has a list of 34 houses that were destroyed.
The missing from the Allende massacre are among the 13,000 the government believes to be missing as a result of drug-related abductions. Earlier estimates put the figure at over 26,000 but many of those believed to have been missing have been located.
Meanwhile, families claim that searching for their loved ones has been left up to them.
The newspaper reports there are encouraging signs: the state constitution now explicitly prohibits abductions, and a new law allows victims’ families to claim rapid legal recognition of an abduction so they can access bank accounts and social security benefits of the victims.
Last week the mayor held a party for journalists to reinforce his claim that peace and tranquility have returned to Allende, although many of its residents are scared to admit any relationship with those who are missing.