By Calvin Palmer
The 72 people found dead yesterday at a ranch near the Mexican border with Texas were migrants kidnapped by an armed group, authorities in Mexico said today.
One man survived and made it to a checkpoint manned by Navy troops on a highway in the northeastern state of Tamaulipas.
The soldiers found 72 bodies — 58 men and 14 women — after clashes with armed attackers at the ranch near the small town of San Fernando, 100 miles south of Brownsville, Texas.
One marine and three gunmen were killed in the clashes, the military said. Twenty-one rifles, some 6,600 cartridges, and four trucks, including one bearing fake defense ministry markings, were seized.
The survivor told federal officials that he was an illegal immigrant. Police believe the migrants were mostly from Central America.
It is not clear if all of them were killed at the same time but it is believed they had refused to pay extortion fees demanded by the armed group.
The perpetrators of the carnage have not been identified but the area is controlled by the Zetas drug cartel, which has diversified into trafficking of migrants trying to reach the United States.
Drug gangs often demand payment from migrants trying to cross the border and sometimes kidnap them, holding them hostage while demanding money from relatives in the United States or their home countries.
Tamaulipas is one of Mexico’s most violent states. It has recently seen scores of brutal clashes between the Gulf drug gang and its former allies, the Zetas, over control of trafficking routes into the United States.