GUATEMALA CITY (AP) — The remains of 16 Guatemalan migrants killed near the Mexico-U.S. border in late January were returned to their native country Friday.
They landed in Guatemala’s capital, where they were met with flower wreaths and their waiting relatives. The remains were scheduled to be driven directly to their communities in Guatemala’s San Marcos department, which borders southern Mexico.
The Guatemalan government declared three days of mourning.
The bodies, along with three others, were found piled in a charred pickup truck in Camargo, across the Rio Grande from Texas, in an area that has been bloodied for years by turf battles between the remnants of the Gulf cartel and the old Zetas cartel.
A dozen Tamaulipas state police officers were arrested in connection with the killings. The remains were flown from the Mexican border city of Reynosa early Friday.
Relatives of the dead in the Guatemalan town of Comitancillo first raised the alarm that something horrible had happened in Camargo. Because the bodies had been burned, it took weeks for positive identifications through DNA samples, but the families in Guatemala had already started mourning.
The families had suddenly lost communication with their migrating relatives around Jan. 21, and believed they had been near the area where Mexican authorities made the grisly discovery.
Some said that one of the smugglers who had been leading the group told the families what had happened.
Guatemala President Alejandro Giammattei confirmed earlier this month that five Guatemalans had survived the attack and were under protection in the United States.
The massacre raised memories of another migrant massacre in Tamaulipas in August 2010, when members of the Zetas cartel killed 72 migrants near the town of San Fernando.