MEXICO CITY – Local police in the city of San Fernando, in northern Mexico, were actively involved in the 2011 massacre of 193 mainly Central American migrants whose bodies were later found in mass graves, according to a recently released memo by Mexico's Attorney General's Office.
The memo, released under pressure by Federal Institute of Access to Information and Data Protection (IFAI), lays out how detained members of the Zetas Cartel told authorities that municipal police helped in the "intercepting of people" and delivered them in exchange for money.
The San Fernando massacre was one of the darkest moments in the Mexico’s brutal drug war. In the memo, detained members of the Zetas Cartel told authorities that municipal police helped in the "intercepting of people" and delivered them in exchange for money.
Most of the bodies found in and around San Fernando belonged to migrants kidnapped off buses and killed because they refused to work as drug mules, according to officials.
The memo was sent by the Attorney General's Office to the National Security Archive, a Washington D.C.-based research organization that solicited the information under Mexican transparency laws. It published the document on its website on Monday and highlighted the similarities in the case to what happened with the 43 teachers college students who disappeared in southern Guerrero state in September.
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Álvaro Alba Terrazas, one of the detainees, is quoted in the memo as saying that local police collaborated with the cartel and were complicit in the massacre.
"I know that police and transit officials in San Fernando help the Zetas organization, because rather than take detainees to the Pentágano, which is to say the municipal jail, they would deliver them to the Zetas. The truest one [“mero bueno”] is an elderly police officer and another named Óscar Jaramillo, who receive money from the organization to collaborate,” Alba is quoted as saying.
According to members of the Zetas cited in the memo, San Fernando police worked as lookouts for the brutal Zetas drug cartel and turned a blind eye to cartel activity.
San Fernando is a city of 60,000 inhabitants in Tamaulipas state near the Texas border.
The Zetas were fighting for control of human trafficking networks with the Gulf Cartel. In 2011 there were many cases of the mass kidnapping of migrants heading north to try to cross illegally into the United States. Officials have said that most of the bodies found in and around San Fernando belong to migrants kidnapped off buses and killed by the Zetas, some because they refused to work as drug mules.
This is the first time the Attorney General's Office has declassified documents related to the mass killings of migrants in northern Mexico in recent years. Among the bodies found: 72 migrants in San Fernando in August 2010, at least 193 bodies in 47 clandestine graves in San Fernando between April and May of 2011, and 49 human torsos in Cadereyta in the neighboring state of Nuevo Leon in May 2012.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.