MEXICO CITY — Investigators this week have been pulling bodies from two clandestine mass graves in western Mexico, underscoring ongoing gangland wars whose details have themselves been buried under pressure from criminals and officials alike.
At least 19 bodies so far have been recovered from a grave on the Michoacan-Jalisco state line at the eastern shore of Lake Chapala, a resort area that's popular with American retirees, Mexico’s Milenio newspaper reported.
Far to the south, officials so far have recovered the bodies of five men and woman from a tomb tucked into in a lime grove on the edge of Acapulco. The faded Pacific coast resort has become one of Mexico’s most violent corners in recent years. Some 600 people have been killed in the city of 1 million so far this year, police say.
The authorities are investigating the circumstances around the deaths. The bodies were badly decomposed, but they showed signs of gunshot wounds, investigators said.
News of mass graves and massacres was a constant during the first six years of the endemic criminal bloodshed sweeping Mexico. More than 70,000 people have been killed and another 26,000 have gone missing since then-President Felipe Calderon unleashed federal security forces against well-armed narcotics gangs in December 2006.
But President Enrique Pena Nieto, who completes the first of a six-year term on Dec. 1, has instituted a policy of playing down the savagery in favor of promoting Mexico’s economic potential.
At the same time, death threats have silenced reporting of the violence in the provincial media.
Officials say the killing has decreased by as much as 20 percent nationwide. And former crisis points Ciudad Juarez, which borders El Paso, Texas, and the northeastern city of Monterrey indeed have calmed considerably.
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But the bloodletting continues elsewhere. That mayhem now frequently gets relegated to back pages and briefs in the national media. Or it’s ignored altogether.
“We regret that these events still occur but they cause alarm because they are isolated incidents,” Interior Secretary Miguel Angel Osorio Chong commented to reporters. His remarks came after gangster battles that killed at least 13 people two weeks ago in the city of Matamoros, bordering South Texas, made national news.
“We are striking the heart of the criminal groups and this makes them fight increasingly more violent for control of territory.”
Activists have filled the void in mainstream media by chronicling the bloodshed via Facebook, Twitter and text messaging. Internet sites, including Borderland Beat, Insight Crime, Grillonautas and El Blog del Narco, frequently post credible accounts of the carnage. Some of them regularly include gruesome photos and videos of the butchery.
Michoacan’s Knights Templar gang and the Guadalajara-based Cartel de Jalisco-New Generation have been warring along the shores of Lake Chapala for several years now, with battles punctuated by massacres. The area is an important narcotics transit point that’s known for illicit methamphetamine labs that produce for both US and Mexican consumers.
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Soldiers last week detained the entire 24-man police force in the Michoacan town of Vista Hermosa, following the disappearance of two federal detectives there. Those arrests reportedly led to the discovery of the grave in the nearby the Jalisco community of La Barca.
It's unclear if the agents are among the victims discovered in the grave.
Gangs linked to feuding factions of the criminal Sinaloa Federation of Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman, as well as the Zetas and La Familia organizations, have been battling for control of illicit drug production, sales and smuggling routes in Acapulco and all the Pacific coast state of Guerrero.
The area’s violence has spiked in the four years since the killing by Mexican navy special forces of Arturo Beltran Leyva, the Sinaloa-born kingpin whose organization had control there. Beltran Leyva’s brother, Hector, is said to be rebuilding the family’s criminal network, which extends into Mexico City and its industrial suburbs.
At the same time, investigators last month charged 13 federal police officers with operating a kidnap-murder ring in Acapulco.
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