President Calderon condemns Mexico migrant killings

Mexico's President Felipe Calderon speaks during the anti-crime round-table "Dialog for Security" in Mexico City, 19 Aug 2010 Mr Calderon said drug gangs used migrants for financing and recruitment

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Mexican President Felipe Calderon has strongly condemned the killing of 72 people found dead on a ranch in the north of the country.

Mr Calderon blamed drug gangs for the killing of the group, who are believed to be migrants kidnapped by the notorious Zetas drug cartel.

Officials say they are trying to identify of the bodies.

Reports say the 58 men and 14 women were from South and Central America and had been trying to reach the US.

"President Felipe Calderon strongly condemns the acts in which 72 people, presumed migrants, lost their lives in Tamaulipas state," a statement from the president's office said.

Drug gangs were using "extortion and kidnapping of migrants as a means for financing and recruitment because they are having trouble getting money and people", it added.

Officials are taking the bodies to the nearby town of San Fernando for identification, said Ricardo Najera, a spokesman for the attorney general's office.

They are also bringing refrigeration equipment for the bodies.

An Ecuadorian man, known only as Freddy, who survived the attack is in hospital under guard, recovering from bullet wounds.

The human traffickers in Ecuador who organised his journey have issued death threats against his family in his home town.

The people smugglers said they would take revenge if they were identified, Freddy's family told the BBC.

Others in the group smuggled north were from countries including El Salvador, Honduras and Brazil, according to Freddy.

'Human rights crisis'

He told police the group had been kidnapped by an armed gang and killed after they refused to work for them.

A ranch in San Fernando in Tamaulipas state where 72 bodies were found, August 24, 2010 The bodies were found piled on top of one another in a ranch near San Fernando

After escaping, he alerted marines at a nearby checkpoint. Some were sent to investigate and a shoot-out followed, leaving three gunmen and one marine dead, the military said.

Photos by local media showed the bodies lying along the walls of an abandoned warehouse, some blindfolded with their hands tied behind their back.

Amnesty International says that the plight of migrants who cross Mexico is a major human rights crisis, and that every year large numbers of migrants disappear without trace.

According to the Mexican National Human Rights Commission, nearly 10,000 migrants were abducted, mainly for ransom, over a period of six months in 2009.

The BBC's Julian Miglierini in Mexico City says the Zetas, who have a strong presence in Tamaulipas, are known to use kidnapping and extortion as a mean to finance their activities.

Tamaulipas - where the incident occurred - has been the scene of fierce fighting between the Zetas and Gulf cartels.


Here is a selection of your comments:

I have recently returned from Tijuana. I was doing volunteer work at the "Siempre Para Los Ninos" orphanage. It is becoming more dangerous all the time. Volunteers from the US are less willing to participate in humanitarian out-reach programmes in Mexico and Mexican citizens are reluctant to be identified with US sponsored programs for fear of retaliation from the cartels. The first step in defeating the gangs and cartels is legalising marijuana and lesser drugs in the US and Mexico. Additionally, police and military operations with combined US and Mexican forces need to be put in place. If Mexico is reluctant to use US forces then UN forces should be brought into Mexico.

Dan Adams, Austin, Texas

If Calderon really wanted to end this violence he would call for the end of this drug war. Anyone who does a small amount of research should come to the conclusion that these cartels make their huge profits from these drugs because of their scarcity, which is created by the drug war. The reason our power elites will not end this programme of driving drug prices so high is not because of a concern for public health - it is because the profits from the sales of these drugs line the pockets of those who control our country. The money is laundered into our economy and represents billions of dollars that many pretend do not exist.

Cooper Bentley, Austin, Texas

This is a sad by-product of the vicious drug war. I think we are seeing in Mexico a replay of what happened in Columbia a decade ago.

Kevin Raffay, Huntington Beach, California

I have been advised by friends who are with the Department of Parks in Mendocino County, CA that I should not hike in the Mendocino wilderness due to Mexican drug cartel activity. So, I guess we'll just give this land over to them as well. This area is located nearly 800 miles north of the California-Mexico border. Where does it stop? Now our own president is suing the state of Arizona for attempting to do the federal government's job. This has to be the first time in history that an American president has sided with another country against our own law enforcement.

Duncan Elledge, El Dorado, California

I have been staying in Mission, Texas for the last three years during the winter. In that time we have travelled into Mexico several times without incident to date. On our last trip on the way back to Mission our bus was re-routed through Matamoras because of gun battles in Reynosa. This year we will not be doing any trips into Mexico.

Robert Fine, Rapid City, South Dakota

My aunt lives in Matamorros, Tamaulipas. She lives alone. She is 74. My cousins live near her in the same town. When I phone her she urges me not to come over to visit because it is too dangerous for me. She talks of innocent people found hanging from intersection lights as warnings to people. My cousin runs a newspaper in Matamorros. He is moving to Brownsville, Texas to live and run his business out of Brownsville because of the dangers in Matamorros. Regardless of the potential danger, I refuse to be intimidated and kept away from visiting my ageing aunt.

Maria Grijalva, Sacramento, California

I live in Monterrey. The situation is not looking good over here. There are random shootings and blockages on the streets at least two or three times a week. We have been forced to change our lifestyles; we have to be home around 10pm to avoid any confrontations. We are in the middle of a drug war and the city is in permanent psychosis. I really hope this is over soon - I want my city back to normal with all its elegance, culture and the town atmosphere that we were used to.

Anon., Nuevo León, Mexico

Our school used to sponsor two or three trips each year to locations in Sonora, Mexico. We were forced to cancel those trips when our insurance provider convinced the state government (New Mexico Public School Insurance Authority) to cancel coverage in Mexico due to concerns about the drug-related violence.

Harry Browne, Silver City, New Mexico

The north of Mexico is a failed state. Anyone who can afford to move to the US or Mexico City has already done so. People live in permanent fear. I hope for either legalisation of drugs in the US or a fully fledged US intervention to destroy drug cartels.

Daniel, Nuevo León, Mexico

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