The Wall Street Journal reports in its Mexican Military Finds 72 Bodies Near Border (David Luhnow and Jose de Cordoba, Aug. 26th, 2010) about this recently-discovered atrocity:
Gunmen from a drug cartel appear to have massacred 72 migrants from Central and South America who were on their way to the U.S., a grisly event that marks the single biggest killing in Mexico's war on organized crime.
Mexican marines discovered the 72 bodies–58 men and 14 women –on Tuesday after the lone survivor of the massacre, a wounded migrant from Ecuador, stumbled into a Navy checkpoint the previous day and told of being shot on Monday at a nearby ranch, Mexican officials said on Wednesday [the 25th].
When the marines went to investigate, they were met with a hail of gunfire from cartel gunmen holed up at the ranch, which sits 90 miles from the U.S. border. One marine and three alleged gunmen died during a two-hour battle, which ended when the gunmen fled in a fleet of SUVs, leaving behind a cache of weapons.
The Ecuadorean migrant told investigators that his captors identified themselves as members of the Zetas drug gang, said Vice Adm. Jose Luis Vergara, a spokesman for the Mexican navy.
"This illustrates that organized crime has no limits or moral qualms about what they are prepared to do," Alejandro Poire, head of the government's national-security council, told a news conference.And notice this :
The incident highlights the extent to which Mexican drug gangs, which used to focus exclusively on ferrying narcotics such as cocaine to the U.S., have diversified into other lucrative criminal activities such as human smuggling and extortion.
At the going rate of $5,000 to $7,000 charged by smugglers to cross the U.S. border, the 72 people represented about $500,000 to the drug gang, said Alberto Islas, a Mexico City-based security consultant. The gang may have simply killed the migrants after they refused to give them more money than they had already given them, he said.
Mexican officials said they didn't know why the migrants–believed to be from El Salvador, Honduras, Ecuador and Brazil–were killed. Mexican newspapers, citing an unnamed federal official, speculated that the migrants were killed for either refusing to give the drug gang more money to cross the border, or for declining to join the gang's criminal activities as drug couriers, gunmen or prostitutes.
A study by Mexico's National Human Rights Commission published last year found that 9,758 migrants from Central and South America had been kidnapped by presumed drug gangs between September, 2008 and February, 2009. The commission found that in many cases, government officials and police worked with criminal gangs in carrying out the abductions.
The commission said that the number of migrant kidnappings could be as high as 18,000 a year. It estimated the average ransom at $2,500–making the business worth an estimated $50 million a year..