CADEREYTA JIMENEZ, Mexico: Suspected drug gang killers dumped 49 headless bodies on a highway near Mexico’s northern city of Monterrey in one of the country’s worst atrocities in recent years.
The mutilated corpses of 43 men and 6 women, whose hands and feet had also been cut off, were found in a pile on a highway in the municipality of Cadereyta Jimenez in the early hours on Sunday, officials from the state of Nuevo Leon said.
‘What’s complicating the identification of all the people was that they were all headless,’ said Jorge Domene, the Nuevo Leon government’s spokesman for public security, who said the other body parts were missing.
Domene said the brutal Zetas drug gang claimed responsibility for the murders in a message found at the scene.
The massacre was the latest in a string of mass slayings that have convulsed Mexico in recent months, many of them in the north of the country, where the Zetas have waged a war against rival groups for control of smuggling routes.
The Zetas gang was founded by deserters from the Mexican army who became enforcers for the Gulf cartel, which once dominated the drug trade in northeastern Mexico. Leaders of the Zetas later split from their employers and the two gangs have since fought for control of trafficking routes.
The Zetas have also been at war with the powerful Sinaloa cartel on the other side of the country.
President Felipe Calderon has staked his reputation on bringing Mexico’s drug gangs to heel, sending in the army to fight them shortly after taking office in December 2006.
But the violence has spiraled since, and more than 50,000 people have fallen victim to the conflict, eroding support for Calderon’s conservative National Action Party (PAN), which looks likely to lose power in presidential elections on July 1.
A poll published on Sunday showed PAN presidential candidate Josefina Vazquez Mota trailing front-runner Enrique Pena Nieto of the opposition Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) by 19 points with just seven weeks to go.
The commercial hub of Monterrey was long a bastion of the PAN, and the local business community has been ‘livid’ about the violence engulfing the city, said George W Grayson, a Mexico expert at the College of William and Mary in Virginia.
‘This puts the final nail in the coffin of the PAN in the presidential contest,’ he said after the latest atrocity. (Reuters)