The Mexican Cartels’ Christmas Slaughter
Extraordinary violence has become perfectly ordinary in Mexico, and it takes no break for the holidays.
“Merry Christmas,” the note added.
’Tis the season to be jolly, but for many in Mexico, fear still outweighs joy this week, as violence proves to be a sinister gift that just won’t stop giving.
For a country now celebrating its 10th year embroiled in a brutal militarized drug war, the best present this season, greatest regalo de Navidad, would be a few days of rest from unending violence and horror.
But as millions of children in Mexico hope and wait for piles of colorfully wrapped presents to be delivered this weekend, some of the grown-ups have delivered less joyous packages:
Six nude male corpses wrapped in garbage bags were discovered on Sunday in Jalisco, on their way to be publicly abandoned by 10 men traveling in two pickup trucks. Among the near-dozen men who were arrested, authorities found an investigator with the state attorney general’s office, a former state official tasked with assisting in missing women’s cases, and the local leader of an organized crime cell, in addition to seven other criminals, and the half-dozen dead men.
Hours later, in Sinaloa, three men were found murdered execution-style outside a children’s day care center, in the sort of killing that has become mundane in Mexico. The following day, two more were found executed in a taxicab—an example of the sort of killing that barely makes the news in Mexico these days.
Just in the cartel-rattled border state of Chihuahua, at least 16 people were murdered in similar violent fashion in less than 24 hours between Sunday and Monday—some bodies showing signs of torture and mutilation.
In Guerrero, a state known for its heroin production and as the site of the disappearance and probable mass-execution of 43 teaching students, authorities confirmed on Tuesday that seven alleged poppy growers were killed in gun battles over the weekend, but the bodies were retrieved by family members before the authorities arrived.
In the coastal state of Oaxaca, an elderly woman was hacked to death on Tuesday with a machete inside her home in Xoxocotlán—another in a string of murdered women across the state, and country at large.
A 40-minute drive down the road takes you to Ocotlán de Morelos, where Mayor José Villanueva was assassinated on Sunday while eating outside with his brother, who has been hospitalized for gunshot wounds.
He is just one more Mexican politician taken out by cartel violence. But it isn’t just the bad guys putting influential people out of commission.
Just two weeks after assuming his position as city councilman in the border city of Tijuana, local politician Luis Torres Santillán was arrested at the San Diego crossing on 10 counts of money laundering a week ago Friday. At his arraignment Wednesday, he pleaded not guilty.
Although U.S. authorities accuse the politician of participating in a scheme to send dirty money north across the border, before wiring the funds back into Mexico, his lawyer told the San Diego Union Tribune that there is nothing illicit about the money, which he claims his client, who also manages a grain import business, sent to “distributors of rice, lentils and beans.”
The state’s complaint against Torres Santillán remains sealed, and he will remain jailed over Christmas with a $5 million bail set until a January reduction hearing. Things could be worse for him. As anyone who has ever played Monopoly can attest, sometimes it is safer in jail than it is to try to pass GO.
But not always.
A shootout early Thursday morning during a prison transfer in Tamaulipas was caught on video. Gunmen with the Zetas cartel attempted to regain custody of one of their men as authorities moved 12 inmates to a federal prison. One of the prisoners, Victor “El Karate” Becerra García, is thought to control the Ciudad Victoria jail, ordering hits from within the confines of the facility.
The escape attempt was unsuccessful, and no deaths have been reported so far. But for those still playing the game this week, Christmas-time has brought no mercy.
On Wednesday, the same day as the handless “extortionists” turned up with season’s greetings in Mexico State, a corpse was discovered wrapped in a blood-soaked blanket there. With it was a narcomanta allegedly signed by the Jalisco New Generation Cartel.
Proving more reliable than postal workers, criminal groups in Mexico keep delivering through the holidays, come rain or shine—Christmas be damned.
But while crime does not let up, this season does bring festive overtones to its typical displays of cartel violence, and criminals—who are known to play the part of do-gooders on occasion—show a penchant for spreading holiday cheer in unlikely places.
In 2012, then just six years into the drug war, messages directed to then-President Felipe Calderon, the intellectual father of Mexico’s cartel crackdown, repeatedly wished him a “Merry Christmas,” and said the president could “count on” these “well-meaning” criminals in their fight toward a common goal.
Today, this seasonal trend has not ended. A dead man was found with his body parts strewn around him in Boca del Rio, Veracruz, on Wednesday. The young man, whose ears and other extremities were removed, was sitting on a colorful blanket, under a sign that read: “This happened to me for robbing banks and stealing cars […] Merry Christmas.”
He is one of at least three young men found under similar circumstances this week in Veracruz. In the case of another such murder, a disembodied hand belonging to a partially skinned man held down a sign calling for a safer “rat free” Veracruz, and featured a drawing of a broom, indicating that his death had been a form of housekeeping. These victims’ signs also displayed holiday greetings.
A star-shaped piñata full of candy was discovered in Acapulco a week ago Friday, along with a sign: “This is what will happen to all of those who switch to the Progreso gang.”
“Merry Christmas, prosperous New Year,” the sign added, with a nudge to look inside the piñata. Buried in the candy, a bloody heart.
One could wish for a prosperous New Year. One might pray for it in this violence-rattled country, now winding down its most violent year since President Enrique Peña Nieto took office, following Calderón in 2012.
Hopes run thin, however, as—following the election of Donald Trump as president of the United States—2017 promises economic uncertainty in Mexico, stagnant growth, and a weaker peso, which does nothing to help curb the poverty that encourages organized crime and furthers violence.
Already the hope of “prosperity” is out the window, before the year has even begun. As for the “new year,” pundits have already begun predicting that violence in 2017 may surpass this year’s gruesome tally—which is more than 20,000 dead, so far, and counting.