Mexico’s state attorney general’s office announced on Wednesday that a massive, multi-agency search operation found 600 migrants who had hidden in trailers parked in a parking lot in Veracruz.
When authorities arrived at the site on Tuesday, the hundreds of migrants were already inside the trailers, officials said. The smugglers had thrown the migrants inside the vehicles to protect them from authorities who had arrived shortly before the operation started, according to a news release.
Officials said a state prosecutor from nearby Reynosa helped lead the team to the smugglers. They wouldn’t say if the migrants had managed to get out of the trailers before state authorities arrived.
“We arrested several suspects, including several who had been attempting to escape,” state prosecutor Isidro Alaniz told a news conference, the Associated Press reported. “In addition, we recovered several big bags that contained arms and weapons that were packed in inside.”
Mexico’s federal government came under fire last year after it announced that a dozen migrants had died after being found in a water tanker outside the border city of Tijuana. Five men and five women were among the dead.
The announcement ignited outrage across Mexico and outrage in the United States over the lack of transparency by authorities there.
Speaking before the Senate, Secretary of Foreign Affairs Luis Videgaray said in February that Mexican authorities never imagined “that there would be those with such little sense and compassion to die on our soil in such a way.”
Critics of the press release at the time accused the government of overstating the migrants’ deaths to distract from its failure to stop the tide of migration northward.
Agence France-Presse contributed to this report.