Brutal slayings horrify Mexican city

2012-03-10 12:07

Mexico City - The slayings of four youths whose bodies were cut to pieces and left in plastic bags has horrified the central Mexico city of Cuernavaca, calling up memories of a similar crime a year ago that spurred the creation of a national crime victims' movement.

Prosecutors in Morelos state said the victims, ranging in age from 14 to 21, were found on Thursday in plastic bags on a Cuernavaca street along with a threatening note from a drug gang. Photos from the scene showed a handless arm lying near the handwritten note.

The youths had apparently been strangled or asphyxiated before being dismembered, according to the prosecutors' statement.

Prosecutors said the four were students at local schools, though the mother of the youngest victim, 14-year-old Brandon Contreras Gutierrez, said the boy had left home 1½ weeks before "and had been hanging out with others, driving around on mini-bikes" in one of the city's rougher neighbourhoods.

Schools evacuated

It was not clear if he had any relationship with gang members who frequently use mini-motorcycles to distribute drugs or transport gunmen.

Morelos state Interior Secretary Oscar Hernandez Benitez said in a statement that he had ordered stepped-up patrols in the city following the killings and he called on the public "to form a united front against violence, for peace and tranquillity in our state".

Local media said two high schools in the victims' neighbourhood were briefly closed and evacuated after the bodies were found. The education department did not respond to requests to confirm that.

Cuernavaca, nicknamed "The City of Eternal Spring", was once known mainly as a balmy resort area for tourists and as a weekend retreat for wealthy residents of Mexico City, just 65km away.

However, it has become the scene of drug cartel turf battles in recent years, and the city was shocked when the son of poet Javier Sicilia and six friends were found dead, their bodies stuffed into a car on March 28 2011.

A half dozen alleged drug gang members have been indicted in connection with those killings and are facing trial.

47 515+ killed

Sicilia went on to found a nationwide movement advocating an end to Mexico's drug violence, which saw at least 47 515 people killed between December 2006, when President Felipe Calderon launched an offensive against drug cartels, through September 2011, the latest figures made available by the government.

Thousands more are thought to have disappeared.

On Friday, Sicilia said the new slayings prove that little or nothing has changed in the year since his son died and that the government continues to fail to prevent or investigate such crimes.

"Unfortunately, we are seeing the same story over and over again," said Sicilia.

"These crimes in Morelos, along with the crimes throughout the nation, are proof of the government's lack of effectiveness and its distance from the people."

"The clearest proof of that is that we continue to have 98% of crimes that go unpunished."

To address such concerns, Calderon unveiled the headquarters of what his government calls its "scientific police division", a wing of the federal police that will use specialised forensics and crime-scene techniques to boost investigations that in the past have been marked by clumsiness and poorly preserved evidence.

Calderon acknowledged the weaknesses of the past, saying police were "not very professional and in many cases incapable of fulfilling their primary mission of ensuring citizens' safety and, in some cases, they even allied themselves with criminals."

The new, 700-million-peso ($55m) facility will have DNA, ballistics and fingerprint labs as well as a cyber-crime unit.

Soldiers under fire

Calderon said that Mexico has made progress in detaining top drug traffickers, but that street-level violence between lower-ranking gang members continues.

This week's killings in Cuernavaca bore the hallmarks of gang-on-gang violence, as do many of the killings in Cuernavaca, where victims' bodies have been hung from overpasses and left with hand-lettered signs.

In Guadalajara, officials said drug criminals set 25 city buses and other vehicles on fire in 16 different places, spreading fear Friday afternoon throughout Mexico's second-largest city.

The burning road blockades came after an army operation in a Guadalajara suburb that the military later said resulted in the capture of the leader of the New Generation drug gang, which is believed allied with Mexico's most wanted drug lord, Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman.

The army said its soldiers came under fire while arresting Erick Valencia Salazar, the presumed leader of New Generation, and a lieutenant whose name was not released.

Guadalajara has become a new front in the war between the country's two main drug cartels, Guzman's Sinaloa gang and the Zetas.

In November the bodies of 26 young men were found stuffed in two vans and a pickup truck abandoned on an expressway in the city, an attack officials have attributed to the Zetas.

  • Wendy - 2012-03-10 13:21

    The wonderful world of drugs!

      Malcolm - 2012-03-10 15:02

      Don't even try to shirk your responsibility in this Wendy; this is the 'wonderful' world of your beloved policy, prohibition; you have the blood of thousands of people on your hands my dear! * Just as it was impossible to prevent alcohol from being produced and used in the U.S. in the 1920s, so too, it is equally impossible to prevent any of the aforementioned drugs from being produced, distributed and widely used by those who desire to do so. * Due to Prohibition (historically proven to be an utter failure at every level), the availability of most of these mood-altering drugs has become so universal and unfettered that in any city of the civilized world, any one of us would be able to procure practically any drug we wish within an hour. * Throughout history, the prohibition of any mind-altering substance has always exploded usage rates, overcrowded jails, fueled organized crime, created rampant corruption of law-enforcement, while inducing an incalculable amount of suffering and death. * The future depends on whether or not enough of us are willing to take a long look at the tragic results of prohibition. If we continue to skirt the primary issue while refusing to address the root problem then we can expect no other result than a worsening of the current dire situation. - Good intentions, wishful thinking and pseudoscience are no match for the immutable realities of human nature. Never have so many been endangered and impoverished by so few so quickly!

      paullombard17 - 2012-03-10 15:10

      agreed but why stop there - wonderful world of Alcohol and all the carnage it causes worldwide..we can even go as far as to say Politics & seperate views on Religion even play a part in murder & mayhem as well a$ Money..

  • Robert - 2012-03-10 22:00

    I see no difference here in SA. Mexico has been a country swarmed with controversy for decades. Our Government's buddies are making the same deals and will bite them soon enough or when it's too late - The only difference there is no land claims from the Spanish or whomever invaded them, they are strangled by the same thing. F#$#$% the poor and lets just see how far we can ride this train.

      Robert - 2012-03-10 22:01

      Zetas - sounds like the ANC

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