Guatemalan President Alejandro Giammattei on Friday urged justice for 16 migrants gruesomely murdered in Mexico in January, as their remains were received with honors.
On January 22, 19 charred bodies were found in Tamaulipas, a state on the border with the United States that has been rocked for years by organized crime gangs.
Sixteen of the dead were determined to be Guatemalan and the other three of Mexican origin. The bodies were found on a country road inside a truck that had been riddled with 113 bullets and then burned, according to investigators.
"We will not rest until we obtain reparation, trial and punishment of those responsible for this deplorable act," Giammattei said as the coffins arrived at a Guatemalan Air Force base in the capital.
The Mexican government had offered to cover the costs of repatriating the remains.
The bodies arrived in coffins draped in the blue-and-white Guatemalan flag. Foreign Ministry officials dressed in black carried photographs of the victims as relatives sobbed.
- Warning to traffickers -
Most of the dead are from the town of Comitancillo, a remote, indigenous community near the border with Mexico. The corpses will be taken to their communities for burial.
The Mexican state prosecutor's office has said 12 elite police officers were arrested on suspicion of having participated in the killing.
Tamaulipas, on Mexico's Gulf coast, is the shortest route to the United States from the south, but also the most dangerous because of the presence of criminal gangs which kidnap, extort and murder migrants.
Camargo, the town where the victims were found, is the scene of turf battles between the Noreste cartel, which controls a part of Nuevo Leon, and the Gulf cartel, which has been active in Tamaulipas for decades.
Giammattei also had a message to human traffickers: "We are working closely with the countries of the region and with the Guatemalan security forces to locate, chase and dismantle all those criminal gangs that unscrupulously take advantage of the needs of our fellow citizens."
Migration from Central America has increased since 2018 as waves of people seek to flee poverty and violence at home, hoping to make a new life in the United States.
More than half of Guatemala's 17 million people live in poverty.