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Puerto Vallarta News NetworkNews Around the Republic of Mexico 

Cartels Get Inventive at Disposing Bodies
email this pageprint this pageemail usDudley Althaus - Houston Chronicle
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July 24, 2010

Guadalupe, Mexico — The brutality done amid the stacks of rusting cars might unnerve even the meanest junkyard dog.

Mexican soldiers recently raided a salvage yard — tucked down a rutted dirt road flanked by scrap heaps and truck repair shops on the east side of Monterrey — to discover the fragmented remains of as many as 14 people in shallow graves and 55-gallon drums.

The bodies had been burned, perhaps dissolved in acid, beyond recognition. More victims of Mexico's gangland wars, investigators said.

Little wonder.

Cartel clashes have killed scores across northern Mexico over the past 10 days: a car bombing in Ciudad Juárez, across from El Paso; gunfights with troops in Nuevo Laredo, across from Laredo; an attack on a birthday party in Torreón; gunbattles in Sinaloa, the Pacific Coast state considered the cradle of Mexico's mobsters.

But with the underworld violence killing some 25,000 Mexicans in less than four years, assassins have become nearly as inventive at disposing of their victims as in dispatching them.

Bodies get dumped in empty lots and roadsides, heaped together in cases of massacre, or laid out alone if that's how the victim died.

Police recover corpses stuffed in cars, tumbled into clandestine tombs, laid out like Scrabble pieces to form letters.

The detached head, legs and trunk of a man's body were found strewn through Ciudad Juárez on Tuesday evening, the local newspaper El Diario reported, one of seven people killed in the city that day.

With decapitations becoming almost cliché, now arms and legs frequently get severed, too. One victim in Ciudad Juárez was found crucified on a chain-link fence with a pig's head attached to his torso. Another reportedly had his face stitched to a soccer ball.

Videos of torture interrogations and gruesome executions appear online for anyone to see.

“This is narco-terrorism. The criminals are seeking a reaction in the public,” said Eduardo Gallo, president of Mexico United Against Crime. “They want the public to doubt that government is doing well in the fight.

“We aren't addressing the psychological damage this is causing. We are becoming so accustomed to such violence that we incorporate it into our daily lives.”

The macabre itself usually serves as the killers' message.

Three men were found hanging from bridges on busy roads this month in Cuernavaca, the oasis 50 miles south of Mexico City once known mostly for its flowering gardens and springlike weather.

“You'll have to find another lover, I've killed this one for you,” sneered a placard addressed to Laredo-born Edgar “La Barbie” Valdez, one of Mexico's most-wanted cartel suspects. “The authorities can't do it, but we can.

“Let it be clear: all the pushers, thieves, extortionists and kidnappers are going to end up like this,” the note warned.

Dying far from their homes, many of the fallen are neither claimed by families nor fully identified by authorities, and so they are buried nameless in common graves of municipal cemeteries.

Other victims simply vanish, swallowed by the earth or disintegrated in a chemical stew.

Officials in early June pulled 56 bodies from an abandoned mine shaft south of Cuernavaca.

Clandestine plots, called narco graves, and makeshift crematoriums turn up from Cancún to the Baja California coast.

The scrap yard holding some of the latest discoveries hunkers on the frayed edge of Monterrey, the wealthy city 130 miles south of the border that is Mexico's industrial motor. Many of the scruffy businesses along the lane leading to the yard seem abandoned.

A river flanks the high-fenced yard, as do empty lots, shipping containers and a garbage dump. Steam shovels and trucks were noisily depositing the rubble wrought by last month's Hurricane Alex into the dump.

“This is the perfect place to do this sort of thing,” Heriberto Enriquez, who was directing the trucks bringing debris to the dump, said of the narco graves. “We're no longer shocked by any of this; it's happening all the time now.”

With only some teeth and bone fragments to work with, investigators say it will take quite a while even to identify how many people were found in the junkyard. Putting names to the remains will take even longer.

“We have to do it scientifically,” Adrian de la Garza, head of the Nuevo León state detective force, said at a news conference. “We still have to figure out if they were human.”

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