As a caravan of Latin American migrants seeking asylum and entry at the U.S. border continues to be met with indefinite delays, tear gas, and accusations from President Donald Trump claiming that they are mostly criminals or gang members, a new report has revealed the shocking magnitude of the risk faced by those who attempt to make the journey into the U.S. through Mexico. Over the past four years alone, The Associated Press has discovered, nearly 4,000 migrants have died or gone missing en route through Mexico — many at the hands of the same gangs that U.S. politicians like to claim the migrants are members of. Many more deaths, the AP reported, likely remain unidentified or unreported. And for Honduran mother Haydee Posadas, whose son disappeared en route to the U.S., it took more than seven years before she even knew for sure whether her son was dead or alive.
Posadas, a 73-year-old grandmother from Planeta in San Pedro Sula who is known as “Mama Hydee” to her local neighborhood, said her son Wilmer Gerardo Nunez first left for the U.S. in the 1990s at the tender age of 16 in an attempt to support the family after she lost her job at a factory. Nunez was deported twice from the U.S. but returned each time and eventually fell in love with a Mexican woman, Maria Esther Lozano, with whom he had a child, Dachell. But in 2010, with Lozano pregnant, Nunez was deported a third time. He returned home to Honduras to find that violence in the neighborhood, long overrun by dangerous gangs and seemingly governed by authorities with little regard for human life, had escalated to a shocking degree. At one point, Posadas said, one of her daughters was handcuffed to her house while men claiming to be police went inside and executed her grandson — apparently because they suspected him of involvement in a gang.
Nunez, Posadas said, was hoping to return to California and meet his new daughter when he set out for his fourth and final trip north. Facing threats from the local gangs — and with his ankle injured from fleeing the Zetas gang on a prior trip — Nunez took a shorter but more dangerous route to the U.S. border. Two weeks after he left, authorities discovered 72 corpses of migrants on a ranch in San Fernando, Mexico, near the Texas border. The Zetas, it was later revealed, had massacred the migrants after intercepting them and demanding that they join the cartel. Only one person in the entire group agreed to join the gang, according to an Ecuadorian who said he was one of just two migrants — the other being an unknown Honduran man — to escape the massacre.
Authorities released names of the victims — among them Posadas’ grandson and two neighbors who had been traveling with them — but Nunez was not among them. For years, Posadas engaged in a desperate attempt to find out whether her son was alive — was he the mysterious Honduran man that the Ecuadorian, now in hiding, had spoken of? Officials refused to confirm, deny, or even look into the matter. It wasn’t until 8 years later, when an Argentine investigative team exhumed the bodies at the ranch and arranged DNA tests, that Posadas finally had confirmation. Nunez, it turned out, had been one of the 72 who were killed. Almost as painful as the death of her son, she said, was “having to wait with no answers … like so many mothers who still have no answers about their sons.”
“My heart hurt so much … most of all because of the death he suffered, not even knowing who killed him, with his eyes blindfolded, hands tied,” Posadas told The Associated Press. “Why? Why, having the proof, did they hide it so long?”
Mexican officials have yet to publicly comment on what caused their failure to properly identify the bodies in the massacre. No one was ever convicted for the murder of the 72 migrants, and nine of the bodies remain unidentified.
Watch video of The Associated Press’ interview with Posadas below.
Read the full story at The Associated Press.