Human Rights and Civil Society

CNDH reopens investigation into 2010 San Fernando massacre

The ranch in San Fernando Tamaulipas where the 72 bodies were found in 2010. Photo: Associated Press.
The ranch in San Fernando Tamaulipas where the 72 bodies were found in 2010. Photo: Associated Press.

05/24/14 (written by callison) — Mexico’s National Human Rights Commission (Comisión Nacional de los Derechos Humanos, CNDH) has reopened investigations into the 2010 San Fernando massacre to review the investigative processes and ensure that no information or data had been overlooked. On May 20, 2014, CNDH Director Raúl Plascencia Villanueva announced to the Senate that his commission must do what is necessary to promptly reopen and review the case. The CNDH had closed investigations into the matter, and issued a subsequent recommendation (Recomendación No. 80/2013) in December 2013 to Attorney General Jesús Murillo Karam and Tamaulipas Governor Egidio Torre Cantú.

On August 24, 2010, the Mexican military found the bodies of 72 deceased migrants in a mass grave on a ranch in San Fernando, Tamaulipas, near the U.S.-Mexico border. The bodies were found after a shootout between cartel members and the military near the grave site, which resulted in the death of a soldier and three suspects. The migrants, 58 men and 14 women, were predominantly natives of Central American countries and were shot and killed while in transit through Mexico. Authorities believe that members of the Zetas—a notoriously brutal Mexican organized crime group—were behind the massacre.

Central American migrants continue to be amongst the most exploited populations in the country. The recent attempted kidnapping and trafficking of 44 Guatemalan migrants in Chiapas highlights the fact that the San Fernando massacre is more than just an isolated incident.

CNDH and fellow human rights activists hope that reopening the San Fernando case can ultimately bring those responsible for the murders to justice and help the victim’s families in their healing. As CNDH Director Plascencia Villanueva said, “The CNDH is not looking to dispute or argue with the victims [about what happened]. Rather, we’re seeking to assist them; we’re seeking to help them.”


Redacción. “Marina encuentra 72 cuerpos en fose en Tamaulipas.” El Universal. August 25, 2010.

“Recomendación 80/2013.” Comisión Nacional de los Derechos Humanos. December 23, 2013.

“Migrants, human trafficking victims in Mexican spotlight” Justice in Mexico. May 3, 2014.

Notimex. “La CNDH reabrirá expediente de massacre de 72 inmigrantes.” Excélsior. May 20, 2014.

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