Mexican authorities report 20 dismembered bodies found in the state of Jalisco, presumed to be the latest victims of the country’s escalating drug war.
At first, reports said there were 12 bodies, then 18, left in two vans on a road in the Lake Chapala region, popular with US retirees and tourists.
Now, on a road in Jalisco, officials have spotted two more bodies and Mexico's attorney general suspects those killings could be connected to the other corpses, Europa Press reports.
Grim stats like these might be falling on numb eyes by now, sadly. More than 47,000 people have been killed in drug-related violence since Felipe Calderon became president in December 2006.
The Mexican elections are near — July 1 — and the candidates will be hard up for a better idea than Calderon’s tack of launching a risky military assault on drug cartels. It’s difficult not to see that approach as a catalyst for the spike in violence that has torn states like Jalisco, and spilled over to Central America.
No wonder Latin America’s “legalize it” camp has gained such momentum, with debate among presidents for a long-term rethink on drug policy.
But in the short term, Mexico has a serious PR problem. Officials had hoped that a recent visit by Barack Obama’s 13-year-old daughter Malia would boost tourism to the country rapidly losing face among fun-in-the-sun seeking gringos.
Read more: Malia Obama could revive Mexico's flagging tourism
Grotesque details are emerging from Jalisco: Bodies appeared to have been refrigerated, and some so badly mutilated that authorities could not decipher the bodies' sex. Handwritten messages found in the van were signed by the deadly Los Zetas cartel, according to an ABC News report. The report added that Los Zetas are battling Jalisco New Generation, a small gang allied with the powerful Sinaloa cartel.
The LA Times' World Now blog paints the backdrop:
The Chapala Lake region, home to thousands of U.S. retirees and mecca for seasonal tourists, has seen Mexico's drug war slowly encroach at the edges of the heretofore placid community. In 2007, The Times' Marla Dickerson reported that the area's perfect climate, laid-back outdoor-indoor lifestyle and affordability were attracting unprecedented numbers of new arrivals.
The challenge remains for Mexico to prove that this kind of violence is only targeting gang members in specific places in the country — not all at once across its massive territory. Mexican authorities would have to act fast, summer break is around the corner and Malia probably won't be heading back soon.