- BBC World News
Some 1,500 people gathered in the town of Comitancillo, Guatemala, this weekend to remember 16 migrants who were brutally murdered in January.
Their bodies were flown from Mexico to Guatemala on Friday, seven weeks after they were found in a truck near the US-Mexico border.
Investigators believe they were killed as part of a turf war between gangs that control human trafficking routes.
Twelve Mexican police officers have been arrested in connection with the murders.
A total of 19 bodies were recovered from the side of a highway about 14 miles south of the Mexican border with the state of Texas.
Forensic tests confirmed that three of the victims were Mexican and the rest were from Guatemala. At least 11 of them were from the same town, Comitancillo, in the mountains of Guatemala.
Thousands of Central Americans try to reach the United States each year, fleeing poverty and violence in their countries.
The route north is fraught with danger and migrants frequently fall victim to criminal gangs along the way.
Some pay human traffickers, known as coyotes, to cross them into the US The money amounts to thousands of dollars and often in excess of US $ 10,000.
Competition for migrants’ money is furious and investigators believe that in the case of these killings, a rival gang attacked the group – the immigrants and those who drove them – and then burned the bodies.
Santa Cristina García, 19, was one of the murdered migrants. His family told local media that he had moved to the city of Zacapa, 380 kilometers from Comitancillo, in late 2020 to work.
She was employed in a store, but her salary was too low to help her family. Garcia’s 16-month-old sister has a cleft lip and the young woman wanted to earn enough money to pay for surgery, so she made the decision to immigrate to Florida.
His father borrowed the money to pay a coyote, giving the title to his house as collateral.
Santa Cristina’s cousin, Anderson Marco Antulio Pablo, 16, accompanied her on the journey and was also killed.
Many of those who died were very young, like 18-year-old Ribaldo Danilo Jiménez Ramírez.
His father also borrowed money to pay for his son’s dangerous trip to the United States.
The last contact the family had with him was when he called an aunt who lives in the US to tell her that he and the other migrants were approaching the border. He told his aunt that he was tired and that they were huddled together in a bus.
The musicians also went to the house of Elfego Miranda Díaz to play at his wake. The 24-year-old was a pastor in an evangelical church.
Elfego Miranda Díaz’s plan was to reach New York, his sister told the media. He wanted to stay five years to earn enough money, not only to build a house, but also a church in Comitancillo.
He leaves behind a wife and three children. His sister said the family does not know how they will feed the children now that the father has died.
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Eddie is an Australian news reporter with over 9 years in the industry and has published on Forbes and tech crunch.