They prey on migrants

The massacre of 72 migrants in Tamaulipas, Mexico was not an isolated incident. The path to the US border has become a hellish gauntlet of criminal bands and corrupt authorities for the Salvadoran and other Central American migrants who dare to attempt it. A story on the MSNBC website describes how hundreds of families have shown up at government offices looking for information about the fate of their loved ones who have not been heard from. There are many more migrants who have disappeared than the 72 bodies found in Tamaulipas:
SAN SALVADOR, El Salvador — Paula Cruz wept quietly at the foreign ministry office in El Salvador's capital after reporting that her son was missing — apparently kidnapped — in Mexico.

"I got a phone call asking me to send $2,500 to ransom him," the 77-year-old mother said, clutching the last letter she received from her 43-year-old son. "I didn't have the money. I don't know if he is alive or dead."

Cruz fears her son may be one the 72 migrants found shot to death in northern Mexico last week. She is one of hundreds of people who streamed to government offices in Central America after news of the massacre spread, searching for news of relatives who went missing after setting out through Mexico hoping to reach the United States.

In the overwhelming majority of cases, family members' descriptions did not match the bullet-ridden bodies found in heaps at a ranch in the state of Tamaulipas. Instead, rights workers say, the missing migrants may be part of a huge toll of hundreds, and perhaps thousands, of migrants killed by organized crime gangs and whose bodies may have been hacked up, dissolved in acid or buried in unmarked paupers graves.

The true number of undocumented migrants killed in Mexico in recent years may never be known, but they would almost certainly dwarf the number discovered last week. Mexico's National Human Rights Commission said there were witness accounts of 198 mass kidnappings involving 9,758 victims in a six month-period in 2009.

Thirteen Salvadorans have been identified among the victims of the massacre, while 138 families have reported to El Salvador's foreign ministry that they have a missing loved one who they fear may have been a victim. Among the 13 Salvadorans identified were a 15 year old girl and a 16 year old boy. Salvadoran president Mauricio Funes has requested a meeting with the Mexican president Felipe Calderon to discuss the issue. The archbishop of San Salvador used his position to urge the governments of El Salvador and Mexico to conduct a thorough investigation to hold people responsible. He also expressed solidarity with the families and with other migrants, who leave El Salvador looking for options to feed their families. Their decision to go to the United States is not tourism, he said, it's survival.