By William Booth
Washington Post Foreign Service
Monday, December 22, 2008
MEXICO CITY, Dec. 21 -- The decapitated bodies of 12 men were discovered early Sunday scattered in and around a state capital in southern Mexico. Nine of the corpses were strewn along a busy street, where the Guerrero state governor later appeared for a religious procession. Authorities said some of the victims were Mexican soldiers.
The gruesome display comes as drug traffickers and their death squads fight law enforcement authorities as well as one another for control of prized routes into the United States, the world's most lucrative drug market.
Near some of the decapitated remains, authorities found a sign that read: "For every one of mine that you kill, I will kill 10." Dumping heads and bodies in public view is becoming a common tactic as the cartels wage a campaign of narco-terrorism.
More than 5,300 people have been killed this year in violence related to organized crime, a figure double that of last year, according to Mexico's attorney general.
The bodies of some of the men showed signs of torture. Nine heads, some gagged with tape, were stuffed in a plastic bag found outside a shopping center, according to state police officials quoted by Mexican news organizations and the Reuters news service. Nine corpses appeared in Chilpancingo, the capital of Guerrero, which is about an hour's drive north of Acapulco. Three were left in a village outside the capital. Several soldiers had disappeared from a nearby army base, according to state police.
On Friday, President Felipe Calderón vowed to continue to fight the powerful drug cartels, saying that the future of his country was at stake. "It is for this reason that my government has not and will never negotiate with organized crime, but instead will fight the enemies of Mexico with all the power of the state," he said.
Calderón's promise not to strike deals with the drug cartels followed comments from Rubén Aguilar, who served as chief spokesman for former president Vicente Fox, in which he suggested that the Calderón government ought to seek a de facto truce with traffickers to end the bloodshed. "The only way to win the war is negotiating," Aguilar told the Frontera newspaper in Tijuana.
Later, Aguilar pulled back from the statement, but it nevertheless struck a chord with many Mexicans, who are weary of the violence and remember the years when the government often looked the other way and allowed the smugglers to ply their trade.
The Mexican government has sent tens of thousands of troops to search for drugs and fight traffickers along the border and in other hot zones. On Saturday, soldiers arrested 15 alleged members of the Sinaloa drug cartel during a raid near Monterrey, at a mansion in one of the most wealthy enclaves in Mexico.
The war against the drug cartels is a top priority of the Calderón government. On Friday in Washington, Mexico's foreign affairs secretary, Patricia Espinosa, met with Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice to discuss the drug war and the need for the United States to reduce demand for illegal drugs and to slow the flow of illegal weapons south of the border. "We consider that part of our responsibility," Rice said about curbing demand for drugs.
But Rice said she saw no connection between a 2004 decision by the Bush administration to let a ban on assault weapons expire and the escalating violence in Mexico, which often involves assassinations by military-style commandos armed with automatic weapons. The Mexican government has repeatedly called for bans on automatic weapon sales in the United States. "I follow arms trafficking across the world, and I've never known illegal arms traffickers who cared very much about the law," Rice said.