MEXICO CITY – Mexican police found nine bodies hanging from an overpass Thursday alongside a drug cartel banner threatening rivals, and seven more corpses hacked up and dumped by the road nearby. Just down the road were three more bodies, for a total of 19.
The killing spree in the western city of Uruapan marked a return to the grisly massacres carried out by drug cartels at the height of Mexico’s 2006-2012 drug war, when piles of bodies were dumped on roadways as a message to authorities and rival gangs.
Two of the bodies hung by ropes from the overpass by their necks, half naked, were women, as was one of the dismembered bodies.
While the banner was not completely legible, it bore the initials of the notoriously violent Jalisco drug cartel, and mentioned the Viagras, a rival gang. “Be a patriot, kill a Viagra,” the banner read in part.
Adrian Lopez, the attorney general for the western state of Michoacan, said the killings appeared to be part of a turf war.
“Certain criminal gangs are fighting over territory, to control activities related to drug production distribution and consumption,” Lopez said. “Unfortunately, this conflict results in these kinds of acts that justifiably alarm the public.”
For years, Mexican cartels had seemed loath to draw attention to themselves with mass public displays of bodies. Instead, the gangs went to great lengths to hide bodies, by creating clandestine burial pits or dissolving corpses in caustic chemicals.
But the Jalisco gang, which has gained a reputation for directly challenging authorities, appears to have returned to showy killings as a way to intimidate rivals.
In 2011, the then-smaller Jalisco cartel dumped 35 bodies on an expressway in the Gulf coast state of Veracruz. In 2012, the Zetas drug cartel dumped 49 decapitated bodies on a highway in northern Mexico, and that same year they strung nine bodies from an overpass and left 14 severed heads near the city hall.
Meanwhile, in another part of Mexico, an angry crowd beat and hung five suspected kidnappers, leaving some of their bodies dangling from trees.
The suspects had been detained by about 180 villagers in the central state of Puebla. The state government said police and soldiers were sent to the area to try to stop the attack, but villagers from the hamlets of Tepexco and Cohuecan wouldn’t let them.