MEXICO CITY – A second migrant survived the massacre of 72 Central and South Americans near the U.S. border, Mexican authorities confirmed Wednesday, and they said he has given information that helped their investigation.
Authorities had kept secret the information about the other survivor, a Honduran, to protect him, said a spokesman for the Attorney General’s Office, Ricardo Najera.
As of Tuesday, the only survivor known publicly was Luis Freddy Lala Pomavilla, an 18-year-old Ecuadorean who escaped and alerted Mexican marines. They found the bodies Aug. 24 on a ranch in Tamaulipas state just about 100 miles from the Texas border.
But Ecuadorean President Rafael Correa said Tuesday that Lala told authorities there was another survivor. Lala returned to his country over the weekend and is in a witness protection program.
Lala, who was wounded in the neck, told Mexican investigators the migrants were detained by people who identified themselves as Zetas, a drug gang that dominates parts of Tamaulipas. The victims in what could be Mexico’s biggest drug-related massacre were apprehended while crossing some of the country’s most dangerous territory on the way to the U.S.
Authorities suspect the Zetas drug gang killed the migrants after they refused to smuggle drugs.
Najera said the second survivor was uninjured, is in the custody of authorities and has offered “important information” about the massacre. Najera did not say how the witness escaped the massacre or where he is.
The Mexican foreign ministry also said Wednesday that the bodies of 16 Hondurans killed in the massacre had been returned to their home country – the first remains to be repatriated.
Besides the Hondurans, authorities so far have identified 13 Salvadorans, five Guatemalans and a Brazilian among the massacre victims.
Meanwhile, Honduran Foreign Minister Mario Canahuati called Correa “irresponsible” Wednesday for revealing there was another survivor.
“His situation is extremely delicate,” Canahuati said of the Honduran. “We’ve spoken to him … he says he is at great risk and in fear of his life.
“We regret the president of Ecuador gave out this information irresponsibly and didn’t take into account the risk to the Honduran’s life.”
Meanwhile, a truck carrying the bodies of the 56 unidentified victims from Tamaulipcas to Mexico City for further forensic tests crashed into a parked car Wednesday just before it reached the capital’s morgue, the Attorney General’s Office said.
A pedestrian who got trapped between the two vehicles was injured, but the remains were not damaged and were delivered to the morgue, the agency said.