COMALAPA AIR FORCE BASE, El Salvador – COMALAPA AIR FORCE BASE, El Salvador (AP) — A third man survived last month's massacre of 72 migrants by suspected drug traffickers in Mexico and is now in the United States, Salvadoran President Mauricio Funes said Sunday.
"We know of a Salvadoran who is in the United States and who fortunately avoided getting killed," Funes said. "His testimony will be key in solving the case."
Mexico has said 77 people were in the group of Central and South American migrants who were abducted and held at a ranch in the northern state of Tamaulipas, which has been embroiled in a vicious turf battle between the Zetas gang and its former employer, the Gulf cartel.
The Attorney General's Office said Friday the number included the 72 people who were found dead, two who were known to have escaped and three Mexicans whose whereabouts were unknown.
Funes announced the existence of the third survivor Sunday during a ceremony to receive the bodies of 11 Salvadorans killed in the massacre, but gave no give further details.
The Mexican Attorney General's Office declined to comment on Funes' statement. Mexican officials didn't initially reveal that more than one person survived the massacre, confirming there was a second survivor only after Ecuador's government revealed that information.
Earlier Sunday, Ecuadorean Justice Minister Jose Serrano said authorities in the South American nation had arrested a man suspected of smuggling to Mexico 18-year-old Luis Freddy Lala Pomavilla, one of those who survived the massacre.
Miguel Angel Dutan Meneses was arrested Saturday at his house in Biblian, a hamlet 140 miles (230 kilometers) south of the capital of Quito. A judge ordered him jailed while authorities investigate, Serrano said.
Among the suspect's possessions, authorities found a money order for $3,000 made out to a woman in Honduras, said Romeo Garate, district attorney in the province of Canar, where Biblian is located. Garate told local media that could indicate Dutan is part of a larger smuggling network.
Authorities believe Dutan also smuggled a second Ecuadorean who was killed in the massacre, Garate said.
Mexican authorities believe the Zetas kidnapped the migrants — most if not all of whom were headed to the United States — and gunned them down after they refused to work for the cartel.
Marines found their bound, blindfolded bodies slumped against a wall when they raided the ranch.
Cartels have increasingly tried to recruit vulnerable migrants to smuggle drugs, Mexican officials say.
Associated Press Writer Gabriela Molina in Quito, Ecuador, contributed to this report.