Nearly 150 Central American migrants packed into a tractor trailer and bound for the United States were rescued in the Mexican Gulf state of Veracruz after being abandoned by smugglers, Mexican authorities said Sunday.
The case comes a week after a truck ferrying scores of Mexican and Central American migrants without sufficient water and ventilation was found in Texas. Ten migrants died in that case.
The 147 people rescued in Veracruz — whose ranks included 48 minors, including 14 unaccompanied by adults — had been left without food and water and were found on Saturday in a rural zone of the municipality of Ozuluama, the Mexican National Institute of Migration said in a statement.
Traffickers had directed the migrants to exit from a truck into which they had been packed in overcrowded conditions lacking ventilation, authorities said. They were told to hide in the underbrush and await the return of the smugglers, who never came back.
Mexican authorities provided medical care to the migrants, some of whom were dehydrated, officials said. None required hospitalization and all were taken to an immigration facility in Veracruz while officials attempted to clarify their status in Mexico.
They included citizens of Honduras, Guatemala, El Salvador and Nicaragua, authorities said.
The migrants abandoned in Veracruz were likely following the same well-transited route as those who perished in Texas.
Central Americans destined for the United States regularly make their way via trucks, trains, buses and other vehicles to the U.S.-Mexico border area, seeking to cross illicitly into the United States. Texas' Rio Grande Valley, adjacent to Mexico's Tamaulipas state, is a favored crossing zone. Many Mexican migrants take the same route.
Organized criminal gangs, including the ultra-violent Zetas cartel, control the trafficking corridors, charging migrants thousands of dollars each for the trip north, officials say. Smugglers often abandon their human cargoes en route.
Traffickers also seek to recruit some migrants for criminal activity and sometimes kill their charges for refusing to enlist or for being unable to pay smuggling fees, according to law enforcement officials.
In 2010, Mexican authorities discovered the bodies of 72 migrants, mostly Central Americans, on a ranch in Tamaulipas. All had been killed execution-style, Mexican police said. Authorities blamed the deaths on the Zetas.