Two trucks, a Chevrolet Silverado and another Toyota Sequoya, circulate at full speed through a gap located between Camargo and Gustavo Díaz Ordaz, on the small border of Tamaulipas, a few kilometers from the United States. In the troca of one of them, terrified, there are a handful of migrants, almost all Guatemalans. Behind, on their heels, a convoy of police formed by a pick-up of the Secretariat of State Security, three armored vehicles of the GOPES (Special Operations Group) known as Mamba Negra and two other pick-ups. The agents make use of their weapons and some of the persecuted manage to call their relatives: “they are shooting at us,” they say. It will be the last communication of his life. It’s January 22 and a few minutes pass from 10 in the morning. We are at the beginning of the Camargo massacre, the largest massacre of migrants perpetrated in Mexico in recent years.
Shortly after the persecution, the bodies of 19 people are burned: 16 are Guatemalan migrants, another is Salvadoran and two others are Mexicans who work helping the undocumented cross the border. Among the first victims identified are Mexicans Jesús Martínez Guerrero and Daniel Pérez Quirós, who worked crossing migrants irregularly into the United States. Also two Guatemalans, Elfego Roliberto Miranda Diaz, 24, and Marvin Alberto Tomas Lopez, 22. In the following days, the names of the rest of the deceased will be made public. The state in which the Chevrolet Silverado was left is an example of the violence unleashed, since it had 113 bullet impacts (8 on the right side, 74 on the back of the box, 8 on the left side, 6 on the hood and 17 more in the cabin area). The two vehicles were completely burned.
The Tamaulipas State Attorney General’s Office, which is investigating the events, is sure that the state police chased, shot and burned them, and then tried to hide the evidence. To reach this conclusion, they are based on various indications: the accounts of 4 witnesses, 8 bullet casings found in the area, the geolocation of one of the police vehicles and the cell phones of each of the accused and evidence that the weapons assigned to the agents had been used.
This is the account of the facts that the investigators presented to the judge. Animal Político had access to the initial hearings held in Ciudad Victoria, Tamaulipas, on February 2 and 8, of which Vice News has already advanced part of its content. In them, the agents were linked to the process and sent to prison until the sessions resume on October 8. The police have not admitted their participation and in those hearings they refused to talk about the day of the massacre. The research focuses for now on the who, but does not address a fundamental question: why vulnerable men and women seeking a better life were killed when they were close to crossing the border.
Jorge Chavarria Bárcenas, Hector Javier Alfaro Acuña, Ismael Vázquez León, Carlos Rodríguez Rodríguez, Jorge Alfredo Castillo Miranda, Williams Figueroa Medellin, Jose Luis Lopez Morales, Cristian Eduardo Gonzalez Garcia, Horacio Quirós Sanchez, Mayra Elizabeth Vazquez Santillana, Horacio Rocha Nambo and Edgar Manuel Antonio are the agents linked to the process for the crimes of qualified homicide, abuse of authority, falsification of reports given to an authority and crimes in the performance of administrative functions. Of these, Vázquez Santillana, Quirós Sánchez and Castillo Miranda are attached to the operations directorate, while the rest are part of the GOPES (Special Operations Group), an elite body that had training from the United States and the Secretary of the Navy and that has been accused of various violations of human rights. Another 9 officers of the same police force are in search and capture for the same facts. In addition, two officials of the National Institute of Migration (INM) and seven police officers from the municipality of Escobedo (Nuevo León), are linked to the process within another folder, which is investigated by the FGR, and which is focused on the plot of human trafficking.
What witnesses say
The charred bodies were found on August 22 in a remote area of the municipality of Camargo. The investigations, however, are based on complaints filed by relatives of Jesús Martínez Guerrero and Daniel Pérez Quirós, the Mexican victims. The second spoke to a cousin hours before the massacre and told him he was close to Camargo but that “there was a lot of law.” Later, in the middle of the shooting, he called his wife and told her “that the police were shooting bullets.” The next day they saw the truck burned and they knew he had died.
The testimonies are a key piece of the accusation put together by the FGE against the 12 policemen. Up to 4 people told authorities they saw the blue vans chasing or shooting at the migrants, hearing the detonations or subsequently seeing the fires caused by the burning vehicles. All these testimonies were summoned by prosecutor Artemisa De Jesús Castillo García, although none had to ratify her words at the hearing. Animal Político knows the identities of all of them but decided not to publish them for security reasons.
The first account refers to hearing a detonation and observes two vans, one blue and one white, chased by the police convoy. “In one of these were undocumented people who wanted to escape because they were scared. Afterwards, a blue van came down and they said that the law came from. They got out quickly, but the blues’ vans were already behind them shooting bullets. The vans in which the wet came were a white box and a blue one, but they only shot the white one,” the witness said, according to the prosecutor.
A second witness claims to have seen the state police vans and armored vehicles and then heard detonations for about half an hour. One of the policemen, hooded, came to ask him if they were in Tamaulipas or Nuevo León.
The third of the witnesses said that, after hearing gunshots, he hid in his house, where he locked himself. From there he observed a lot of smoke, until a policewoman, covered in a mask, arrived and asked if anyone had gone to hide in his house.
The last account indicates having seen the convoy of police heading to the place, without having witnessed the shooting or the chase.
For the prosecutor, the “probative value” of these witnesses is that “they are coincident with each other.” “They managed to appreciate a chase between police and civilians, more precisely between blue armored trucks, white vans with blue and vans with civilians on board, one of them a white van that was carrying undocumented immigrants. They also managed to see the gunshots fired by the uniformed police officers and later appreciated the fire from these vans. It does not refer to just one. They refer to it two, they refer to it three,” he said.
What geolocation says
The geolocation of the vehicles and the call sheets of the agents is another key piece of evidence for the prosecutor. On the one hand, only one of the six units, the 1295, had a device that allows its monitoring. And the mapping of coordinates places it between 10.19 and 10.39 in the municipality of Gustavo Díaz Ordaz, adjacent to Camargo, just the place where the events took place. Subsequently, the vehicle remained static for 39 minutes, and then moved towards Reynosa, a municipality located 47 kilometers to the east. “This search is a few meters from the place where the lifeless bodies were located,” the prosecutor said. Finally, the unit returned to Díaz Ordaz at 2:00 p.m., and remained there until 9:00 p.m. The vehicle was occupied by two officers: Mayra Elizabeth Vázquez Santillana and Jorge Alfredo Castillo Miranda. In her approved police report, the official said that the elements arrived at the scene of the events around 2:00 p.m., alerted to a possible confrontation. For the Prosecutor’s Office it is suspicious that she omitted that, according to the geolocation of her own car, she had been there four hours before, just at the moment in which the shooting broke out.
The call sheet of the cell phones of the twelve policemen are also a key indication for the FGE. As detailed in the hearing, the phones of all the agents emitted signals between 10 and 11 from the repeater of Lucio Blanco, located in the municipality of Gustavo Díaz Ordaz.
What Ballistics Says
Ballistics is also another indication that the FGE wields against the police. According to the prosecutor at the hearing, in an inspection carried out on the 24th, two days after the massacre, they found nine bullet casings: one of a handgun and another eight of a long weapon. This leads investigators to think that the police made the remains of the shooting disappear to hinder the investigations, since only one of the vehicles had 113 projectile impacts.
Tests on the weapons attached to each of the accused elements indicated that all of them had recently been struck.
Destruction of evidence
The FGE believes the police chased, killed and burned the migrants. Also, they tried to hide the evidence. For this, it is based on the approved police report signed by Mayra Elizabeth Vázquez Santillana, who is the one in charge. It ensures that the officers arrived in the area at 2:00 p.m. alertades by a confrontation. According to this version, a man in his 50s who did not want to identify himself was the one who gave the notice that a shooting had occurred. In addition, it is noted that in one of the vehicles of the victims two burned weapons were found.
“Those now accused altered, modified, destroyed, lost evidence, evidence, objects or instruments related in this case to the criminal act, with the deprivation of the lives of the 19 people,” said prosecutor Artemisa De Jesús Castillo García.
The hearings were held on 2 and 8 February and investigations have progressed since then. The police are still in prison and will have to defend their innocence in the sessions that will be held from October 8. So far, none have acknowledged their involvement in the events and their defense lawyers insist that the evidence is not supported or was obtained by irregular means.
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