Mexican authorities are investigating the disappearance of 50 migrants after initially denying that any kidnappings had taken place. A dozen migrants escaped a hold up by armed men during which others may have been abducted.
The 50 missing migrants -- 30 men, 15 women and 5 children from Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador -- disappeared in the state of Oaxaca while hitching a ride on a train, El Salvador's La Prensa Grafica newspaper reports.
Witnesses said that armed men halted the train, robbed migrants of their belongings and beat some with machetes, during which time some people were taken away. Mexican soldiers and federal police conducted an operation on the same train, arresting 92 illegal immigrants.
While gangs like the Mara Salvatrucha 13 (MS-13) have long preyed on migrants making their way up to the U.S., the issue took on new significance when in August this year 72 migrants were murdered in the northeastern state of Tamaulipas in a massacre blamed on the Zetas drug gang. The Zetas appear to have coopted or displaced the MS-13 in this trade.
However, local police have also been tied to the kidnapping and human smuggling trade, which fetches an estimated $7 billion per year in profits for organized criminal gangs in the region.