The sole survivor of last week's massacre of 72 migrants in the Mexican state of Tamaulipas has refused a humanitarian visa from Mexico and returned to his native Ecuador, officials in Mexico said Monday (link in Spanish).
Luis Freddy Lala Pomavilla, 18, was recovering under heavy guard after the massacre, in which suspected gunmen with the Zetas criminal organization captured, blindfolded and killed the migrants execution-style. Reports said the migrants had refused to pay ransom or work as drug runners for the Zetas. Lala managed to survive a bullet wound and escaped.
The massacre has become an international incident. When the citizenship of the survivor was discovered, Ecuador immediately requested that Lala receive extra protection while he recovered; witnesses or survivors to major crimes in Mexico often are hunted down later and killed (link in Spanish). Four countries have sent consular representatives to Tamaulipas to help identify the victims. Thirty-four of those have been identified so far: 16 Hondurans, 12 Salvadorans, five Guatemalans and one Brazilian.
Lala, the survivor, returned to Ecuador on Sunday night after Mexican diplomats turned him over to their Ecuadoran counterparts at a military hangar at Mexico City's international airport, Mexico's Interior Ministry said in a statement. In images posted with the official report, the faces of the survivor, doctors and military personnel are blurred to conceal their identities.
The massacre highlights the risks and dangers that Central and South American migrants face as they travel to the United States through Mexico, where their path increasingly intersects with the brutal warfare associated with the drug trade. A group of migrants from several countries reportedly demonstrated Saturday against the violence in the city of Saltillo, in Coahuila state.
Violence continues unabated in Tamaulipas. On Friday, car bombs went off at a Televisa station in Ciudad Victoria and outside a police station in San Fernando, the town where the bodies were discovered, and a top investigator into the migrant massacre was reported missing. On Sunday, a mayor in Tamaulipas was shot to death.
-- Daniel Hernandez in Mexico City
Photo: The survivor of last week's migrant massacre in Tamaulipas is loaded onto a flight to his native Ecuador. Credit: Secretaria de Gobernacion, Mexico