Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Witnesses describe the massacre at Tlatlaya


El (December 28, 2014)   Source: Reforma. Translated by un vato for Borderland Beat.
Soldiers guarding execution site
Distrito Federal.-- The military intrusion triggered an uproar inside the warehouse. Some of the armed young men were roused from their sleep by the operation.

"Surrender, sons of bitches! Mexican Army!", they were yelling outside.

"We're being hit by the contras (the rival gang)!", yelled one of the sicarios (gunmen). 

"They are not  contras, they're military!" said another.

"Wake everybody up!", yelled another young man.

"One of the guys said they should surrender, but another person said no, that they were going to get killed anyway, it was then that the people inside began to fire towards the exterior, hearing the Army yelling at them to surrender and to come out one by one with their hands on the back of their heads," recalls Cinthya Estefany Nava Lopez, one of the two sex workers who were with the alleged criminals, according to statements given before the PGR (Attorney General), and which Reforma had access to.

The soldiers lighted the entrance to the warehouse from their Cheyenne and fired their bursts.

Patricia Campos Morales, the other prostitute, was awakened by the military gunfire.

"The sicarios that were inside the warehouse begin to fire and one of them yells 'man down', that shooting lasted between 5 and 10 minutes, after that the sicarios yelled, 'Don't shoot, we give up.'

"Then one sicario went out and the soldiers fired at him, and he managed to come back inside; he had gone out to tell the soldiers that they had surrendered and the soldiers told them, 'come out, sons of bitches, and we'll let you live!', at that point the sicarios began to surrender. Subsequently, the soldiers asked if there was anybody else, and that they would give us 10 minutes to come out", narrates Campos in her statement.

When the shooting started, Mrs. Clara Gomez ran from the corner where she was sitting up to a white pickup that was on the right side of the building and climbed into the passenger side.

"That's when I realize, thanks to the light (from the soldiers) that my daughter was lying face down, beside another boy, also face down, right by the open passenger side door of the truck I just mentioned. I heard both of them moaning, so then I get closer to look at my daughter and I touch her to see if she shows vital signs and I realize that she is still alive."

"Right then, the shooting starts again and I move to the back of the pickup where I had been a few seconds before," the mother of Erika Gomez told the office of the Mexican Attorney General (PGR; Procuraduria General de la Republica).

Cinthya Estefany Nava recounts that the soldiers reiterated their warning.

"They yelled that they would give them 10 minutes to come out, and if they didn't, they would kill them like dogs, that's when I heard a voice from inside the warehouse say to surrender and go out, and after a 10 minute period, I heard no more shots, only moaning", said the young woman.

"Yes, we surrender!" yelled one of the sicarios

The crossfire ended and, for the PGR, the casualties up to that moment were one wounded soldier and 14 armed civilians killed.

Lined up and executed

Lieutenant Ezequiel Rodriguez Martinez has declared to the PGR that, after the sicarios surrendered, he was the one who ordered three soldiers to enter the warehouse.

"I ordered Sgt. Second Class Roberto Acevedo Lopez and two troopers, Fernando Quintero Millan and Leobardo Hernandez Leonides to reconnoiter the inside of the warehouse, where they stayed between 3 to 5 minutes, reporting 22 dead", declared the Infantry Lieutenant.

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The women survivors of the massacre have also stated separately that there were three soldiers who entered the warehouse, but it was not to make sure that there were more than 20 dead.

Cinthya Estefany Nava, Patricia Campos and Clara Gomez testified that the soldiers went in to finish off the dying men and to execute at least 10 persons who had come out of the gunfight unharmed and had surrendered their weapons.

The PGR says that there is only evidence to show that eight were executed; the National Human Rights Commission (CNDH: Comision Nacional de Derechos Humanos) says there were 15.

The two prostitutes, in all of their statements before the authorities, have claimed that they were in fact kidnapped and that, at the moment the soldiers entered the warehouse, they had their hands tied. 

They insist that, along with them, there were two other kidnapped men, also gagged.

"Only three soldiers went into the warehouse, two stayed guarding us and one went to look around the warehouse", recalls Campos.  

The soldiers took the weapons from the sicarios and took the men to a booth located on the left side of the warehouse.

"This guy wouldn't give up even though his hand was messed up, shoot anybody that moves", instructed the one that was looking around the place.  

"That's when I heard a shot and, from where I was, I bent down to look at the soldier, and that's when I saw him shoot two boys that were wounded towards the back of the warehouse on the right side. After that we heard more shooting and moans from the people," remembers Cinthya Nava.

When he started to pull the trigger, one of the soldiers who was guarding the captives yelled at him, "don't kill them!", says Patricia Campos.

"It's because he was going to shoot at me," justified the executioner.

"Ah, OK, in that case, do it", agreed his fellow soldier, according to Campos' statement.

After finishing off the two sicarios, the soldier asked those who had surrendered their weapons to come out of the booth and to form a line.

"Right then, a soldier who was guarding us said to the other, 'You don't think the shot will ricochet?', and the other one answered, 'No, it's not a problem,' then the soldier came back to guard us.

"He told us, 'put your face down, don't turn around', right then the soldiers begin shooting at the people who were lined up on the left side of the warehouse. At the same time, I heard more shots from the right side of the warehouse, you could hear moans and cries and the soldiers were saying, 'you thought you were so tough? Now take it! You thought you had balls, sons of bitches?', and they kept on shooting", Campos narrates.

Mrs. Clara Gomez says that one of the soldiers came out of the booth with the last boy who was still alive and took him to the soldier who had a flashlight. He stopped him in front of the soldier, who asked for his name, age, where he was born and his nickname.  

"Then the soldiers shot him and I heard him moaning. They brought out several persons like that and they would ask them the same thing and shoot them in the end, leaving them wounded. There were approximately 9 persons that the soldiers shot", states Clara, who says that once they fell to the ground, they were finished off.

When all the sicarios had been executed, the executioners asked the three women and the two men who were tied up to get up off the floor and then they took them to the booth on the right.

They kept the five of them there until 07:00 a.m., when the men in olive green decided to reduce the number of witnesses.

"At that moment, two soldiers took the two (kidnapped) boys towards the back of the room with the pretext that they were going to take their photographs for the record, according to them, and I heard shots", says Campos.

"I became aware that the two boys who had been tied with us were already dead along with two other people, I also saw that there were about eight people dead in the middle of the warehouse, and on the left side, there were about five dead, some on top of others", says Nava.

The landscape was a bunch of dumped bodies.

Well into the morning, Colonel Raul Castro, commander of the 102nd Infantry Battalion, based in San Miguel Ixtapan, came to the scene of the slaughter.

They took on site photographs of the three women survivors and turned them over to the Edomex State Attorney General. The two prostitutes were sent to the Federal Prison at "El Rincon", Nayarit.


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