Anger mounts in Mexico over Texas trailer deaths

Friday, May 23, 2003

MEXICO CITY -- The bodies of 11 of 19 illegal migrants who died after being locked in a sweltering truck trailer and abandoned in South Texas arrived in Mexico City late Thursday.

Mexican air force personnel unloaded the white and brown metal coffins from a C-130 Hercules transport plane and put them in black, white and maroon hearses. The bodies were then brought to the military wing of Mexico City's international airport -- an area off-limits to the media -- where it appeared a small group of relatives had gathered to claim them.

The trailer was discovered at a truck stop outside Victoria, Texas, on May 14, hours after smugglers helped the illegal migrants across the border, then locked them in the trailer.

At least 13 were Mexican while the other six victims were either from Central America or had yet to be identified.

Two men were arrested in Texas Wednesday in connection with the deaths, one of the deadliest human trafficking attempts in U.S. history.

Four suspects were arrested last week, including the trucker who allegedly abandoned the immigrants in the trailer.

Maria del Carmen Rivera, a neighbor of two of the victims from Pozos, a village in Guanajuato state, said the family hoped to begin funeral proceedings Friday.

"This is very hard for all of us," she said in a phone interview. "But at least their remains are back in their country."

A hearse drove the bodies of Jose Antonio and Marco Antonio Villasenor to a funeral home near Mexico City's center late Thursday.

Two of the Mexican victims' bodies remained in Houston, Texas. One will be buried there at the request of family members, and the other will be transferred separately overland to the northern Mexico, also at the request of family members.

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