10/07/2014 11:37 am ET Updated Dec 07, 2014

San Fernando Migrant Massacre: How US, Mexican and Latin American Governments Share Responsibility

This post was co-authored with Camilo Perez Bustillo.

Migrant rights defenders throughout Mexico recently commemorated the fourth anniversary of the massacre, which resulted in the death of 72 migrants in transit, including 13 women, en route to the United States from six countries. Of those killed, 24 were originally from Honduras, 14 from El Salvador, 13 from Guatemala, five from Ecuador, four from Brazil and one from India. Eleven have yet to be identified, due to the mishandling of evidence from the site of the crime and the bodies as a result of flawed forensic procedures. At least two survivors (from Ecuador and Honduras) are currently in witness protection programs, due to recurrent threats to their lives. San Fernando is located in the northern Mexican state of Tamaulipas, about an hour and a half from the United States border.

The massacre was immediately blamed on Mexico's most violent drug cartel, a shadowy group with paramilitary origins, known as Los Zetas. But human rights advocates have long alleged that Mexican civilian, police and military authorities at all levels of government (federal, state, and local) shared responsibility for this and similar incidents ultimately attributable to Mexico's role in US.-.promoted efforts to contain and reduce the flow of migrants heading to the United States through Mexican territory.

This massacre is the worst single incident in Mexico's bloody U.S.-backed "drug war," which has ravaged the country in the last seven years, producing over 125,000 civilian victims, some 25,000 forced disappearances and more than 250,000 people who have been internally displaced or forced into exile. The victims during this period also include an estimated 20,000 migrants who have been kidnapped each year since 2007 and countless others who have been extorted, assaulted and raped (estimates indicate that 80 percent of all migrant women and girls are victims of sexual abuse or rape). The San Fernando Massacre is also the worst single human rights crime in Mexican history since the October 2, 1968, massacre of students in Tlatelolco, in Mexico City in 1968.

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