Mexican Marines Executed Three U.S. Citizens, Government Agency Finds

A Mexican marine stands guard outside a house in Mexico City, on July 21, 2017. Three U.S. siblings found dead in Mexico in 2014 were executed by Mexican marines and a border mayor’s paramilitary security team, the country’s National Human Rights Commission said Thursday. REUTERS/Henry Romero

Three U.S. siblings found dead in Mexico in 2014 were executed by Mexican marines and a border mayor's paramilitary security team, the country's National Human Rights Commission said Thursday.

Erica Alvarado Salinas, 26, Alex Alvarado, 22, and Jose Angel Alvarado, 21, all American citizens, disappeared on October 13, 2014, while visiting their father in El Control, a small town near Matamoros, a Mexican city in the dangerous state of Tamaulipas, across the border from Brownsville, Texas.

The siblings were en route to their mother's home in Progreso, Texas, but they never made it across the border.

Their bodies were found 16 days later in a field east of Matamoros. They each had been shot in the head, and their bodies were badly decomposed. Jose Guadalupe Castaneda Benitez, 32, a friend from Mexico traveling with the siblings, also was killed.

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According to the commission's report, witnesses said the four victims were forced into a vehicle belonging to the security detail of Leticia Salazar Vázquez, then mayor of Matamoros. Human rights investigators interviewed several men who reported being arrested the same day the American siblings disappeared; many of them said they saw the group taken to an empty lot to be beaten and interrogated by the marines.

The commission determined that the government's detention of the group was illegal. So far, state and federal authorities have denied involvement in the death of the victims. In a press release, the commission added that officials, marines and state and federal police lied in statements to cover up the killings.

Of the arrests made by public servants of the Navy and Hercules Group on Oct. 13, 2014, no record exists, nor were they presented to any authority. There is not even an investigation involving (the victims), much less arrest orders or a complaint against them.

The commission delivered its findings to the Mexican naval secretariat, the governor of Tamaulipas, the mayor of Matamoros and Mexico's National Commission for Security. The murder case is still open. The government of Tamaulipas said it had implemented human rights training for police in Mexico based on the report, and that the case is in the hands of federal prosecutors.

Tamaulipas has faced severe security concerns since the outset of Mexico's war against drug cartels in 2012. The U.S. State Department issued a "do not travel" advisory this month for Tamaulipas and four other Mexican states, "putting the regions on the same level as war zones such as Syria, Yemen and Afghanistan," as reported by The Guardian.

As highlighted by the San Antonio Express-News, a United Nations envoy reported in 2016 that "extrajudicial killings and excessive use of force by security officers persist" in Mexico.

"Protective measures remain insufficient and ineffective; impunity and the lack of accountability for violations of the right to life remain a serious challenge, as does the absence of reparations for the victims," the U.N. report said.