By Lizbeth Diaz
LA MORA (Reuters) – Mexico’s president pledged on Sunday that those behind a massacre that killed nine members of a U.S.-Mexican family of Mormon origin will be punished and that the truth surrounding the crime will eventually come out.
In a speech before extended family members near the U.S. border, President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador also promised to keep relatives appraised of the investigation into the ambush carried out by cartel gunmen two months ago.
“There will be justice,” he declared, addressing the small crowd from an outdoor stage set against the rugged mountains that surround the town of La Mora, home to the victims.
November’s gangland attack on a remote stretch of road in northern Sonora state killed three mothers and six children when their vehicles came under heavy gunfire then were torched.
Two rival gangs, factions of the Sinaloa and Juarez cartels, are known to fight over lucrative cross-border smuggling routes in the area.
Security experts say evidence gathered so far suggests the massacre was carried out by the Juarez faction known as La Linea and may have a been a case of mistaken identity.
Lopez Obrador said the investigation was making progress, but did not give details.
Earlier in the day, he met privately with relatives of the victims for about an hour, after traveling nearly four hours by car to the town.
La Mora, like other northern Mexican settlements where relatives of the large families live, was founded decades ago by breakaway Mormon leaders who fled the United States seeking a safe haven for their polygamist beliefs.
Lopez Obrador was warmly received during his visit.
“Thank you for being here at such a painful time,” said Margaret Langford in brief remarks in Spanish, describing her family as broken.
“I love this country,” she added, “and it hurts me to my soul that I can’t live here.”
Langford recently left La Mora, like many other relatives who have fled saying they no longer feel safe, abandoning homes with once-tidy gardens now overrun with weeds.
Loretta Miller, grandmother to four of the children killed, estimates that 80% of her brothers- and sisters-in-law and their families have left and do not plan to ever return.
Mexican authorities has so far arrested seven suspects in the case. At least two other arrests of suspects linked to La Linea have been made in the United States, but it is unclear if they are connected to the massacre.
(Reporting by Lizbeth Diaz; Writing by David Alire Garcia; Editing by Daniel Wallis)