Coatzacoalcos (Mexico) (AFP) - Nearly 150 Central Americans being smuggled to the United States were rescued Saturday in Mexico after traveling tightly packed in a poorly ventilated truck.
The rescue was initially described by authorities in eastern Veracruz state as a near-tragedy with chilling similarities to an incident last week in Texas in which 10 would-be migrants to the US perished.
But Mexican federal authorities later clarified that these travelers were found not inside the truck but rather after they had been told to get out, and were then abandoned by the roadside, without food or water.
Authorities said a total of 147 people were found in the town of Tantima in Mexico's Veracruz state. Originally the figure had been given as 178.
The migrants were from Honduras, Guatemala, El Salvador and Nicaragua, and 48 were minors, 14 of them unaccompanied, the National Migration Institute said.
The migrants were crowded into the back of a tractor trailer truck with poor ventilation. Eventually, the smugglers overseeing them told the travelers to get out and hide amid the brush beside the road until them came back for them. But the travelers were abandoned.
After being found the Central Americans were taken to a migration center, where they were given medical assistance before authorities began the process of returning them home.
Their rescue came less than a week after the horrific suffocation deaths of 10 migrants who were trapped in an 18 wheel truck and discovered last Sunday in a Walmart parking lot in San Antonio, Texas.
Authorities said as many as 200 migrants may have been crammed into the trailer. Many of them had to be hospitalized. Some survivors fled the parking lot in waiting cars, according to witness accounts.
Officials in the United States say fewer migrants are making the perilous overland journey to America from Central American and Mexico in recent months, in large part because of harsh, anti-immigrant rhetoric from US President Donald Trump, who came to power in January.
Migrants from Central America and Mexico willing to make the dangerous trip risk being victimized by thieves, criminal gangs and unscrupulous traffickers who sometimes take their money and abandon them in desperate conditions on either side of the US border.
Veracruz and the surrounding area has become one of the most dangerous regions for undocumented migrants making their way to the United States, according to rights groups, in part because of drug cartels like the notorious Zetas, which often charges a fee before allowing travelers safe passage.