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Official: Honduran survivor of Mexico massacre helped free Ecuadorean migrant, fled with him

TEGUCIGALPA, Honduras (AP) — A Honduran who survived the massacre of 72 migrants in Mexico helped untie the only other survivor — a wounded Ecuadorean — and the two fled together, an official said Friday.

In an interview with El Heraldo newspaper, Honduran Deputy Foreign Minister Alden Rivera revealed details for the first time about the escape.

Mexican officials had previously said there was only one survivor of the massacre — the Ecuadorean who stumbled wounded to a military checkpoint and alerted marines. The Mexicans said when they learned that a Honduran also survived, they kept it a secret to protect him. But Ecuadorean President Rafael Correa revealed the information earlier this week.

Investigators believe the Zetas drug gang kidnapped the migrants and gunned them down after they refused to work for the cartel.

Marines found the bound, blindfolded bodies slumped against a wall last week after raiding the ranch in the northern state of Tamaulipas, which has been embroiled in a vicious turf battle between the Zetas and their former employer, the Gulf Cartel.

Mexican officials say cartels have increasingly been recruiting vulnerable migrants to smuggle drugs.

After the shooting stopped, the Honduran survivor managed to untie himself, then helped free the Ecuadorean, who had been shot in the neck, Rivera said.

Rivera did not say whether the Honduran was hurt but the Ecuadorean survivor, Luis Freddy Lala Pomavilla, told state-run television in Ecuador on Thursday that the Honduran somehow managed to avoid being shot.

Lala, 18, was flown home to Ecuador on Sunday after recovering from his wounds at a Mexican hospital. He is now under a witness protection program in Ecuador. The Honduran is under the protection of Mexican security forces.

Rivera said the two migrants fled the ranch together but when they heard gunshots behind them, they separated.

Lala said he approached two groups of people who refused to help him until he finally reached the marine checkpoint.

The Honduran, Rivera said, walked for a long time until he found a migrant shelter. Rivera revealed no other details about the migrant's escape, but said he was in good health and had been in contact with his family in Honduras.

Lala told Ecuadorean television that a total of 76 migrants were traveling together — Hondurans, Ecuadoreans, Guatemalans and at least one Brazilian.

But a spokesman for Mexico's Attorney General's Office, Ricardo Najera, said Friday that 77 people were in the group: the 72 killed, the two survivors and three Mexicans whose whereabouts were unknown.

The Mexicans were two drivers and an assistant, he said, adding the information came from the testimony of the Honduran and the Ecuadorean migrants.

In a statement that Lala gave to Mexican investigators, he said one migrant agreed to work with the Zetas, but did not reveal what happened to that person. The Associated Press has access to that statement last week.

During a meeting in Guatemala, meanwhile, Central American foreign ministers urged Mexico to find the killers and take steps to avoid more atrocities.

"We call on Mexican authorities to take measures as soon as possible to avoid events like the one that occurred in Tamaulipas," said Honduran Foreign Minister Mario Canahuati.