Mexican authorities said Wednesday they are investigating the possible kidnapping of 50 illegal migrants in the southern state of Oaxaca, a day after saying there was no evidence of the crime.
Honduran, Guatemalan and Salvadoran migrants were being interviewed by officials at the federal Attorney General's Office about an assault last Thursday, the National Migration Institute said in a statement.
The migrants — 30 men, 15 women and five children — were held up by gunmen while trying to cross the country by train and are now missing, said the Foreign Ministry of El Salvador, which first reported the crime.
Migration Commissioner Salvador Beltran del Rio said he has been in contact with the foreign ministers of Honduras and El Salvador about the alleged abduction on the Oaxacan isthmus, which many migrants from Central America cross on their way to the United States.
The Salvadoran Foreign Ministry asked the Mexican government Tuesday to investigate the disappearance after witnesses said the victims were held up, beaten with machetes and had their belongings stolen. Witnesses said they had just escaped an operation by Mexican soldiers and federal police that resulted in the arrest of 92 illegal migrants from the same train.
Mexico is the transit route for thousands of illegal migrants seeking to reach the United States, with many falling victim to gangs and organized crime. The government's National Human Rights Commission reported in 2009 that nearly 10,000 migrants are kidnapped a year by gangs. The commission said Wednesday that it also has opened an investigation into last week's reported abduction, and called on local, state and federal governments to prevent such kidnappings and guarantee the safety and rights of migrants, regardless of their legal status.
In the most brazen case to date, 72 slain migrants were found in the northeastern state of Tamaulipas in August, a massacre blamed on members of the Zetas drug gang, which controls transport routes in that area for drugs and other contraband.