TOPICS > World

Nearly 50 Headless Bodies Found in Mexico Amid Brutal Drug War

May 14, 2012 at 12:00 AM EDT

JEFFREY BROWN: Mexico is again gripped by horrific violence from its five-year-old drug war.

Ray Suarez has the story.

RAY SUAREZ: The gruesome discovery outside Monterrey, Mexico, produced the latest casualties in a brutal war between the country’s top two drug cartels.

ADRIAN DE LA GARZA, Nuevo Leon attorney general (through translator): The bodies show signs that they were transported to the site. They carry dirt, dust and those sorts of things.

RAY SUAREZ: The 49 bodies, 43 men and six women, were found without heads, hands or feet, making identification difficult. There was little doubt as to the identity of the murderers. A nearby white stone archway that ordinarily welcomes visitors was spray-painted 100 percent Z, or Zeta, a reference to the Zetas criminal organization.

JAVIER DEL REAL MAGALLANES, Nuevo Leon Security secretary (through translator): There’s no doubt in my mind that organized crime aims to grabs people’s attention, but most of all the attention from rival gangs.

RAY SUAREZ: The Zetas, based out of the Eastern Gulf Coast of Mexico, were founded by deserters from Mexico’s special forces. Just last week, police paraded an assassin linked to the Zetas, a woman named La Tosca, before cameras in Monterrey.

The Zetas are engaged in near constant warfare with the Sinaloa cartel, which largely controls drug smuggling in Western Mexico. Violence has exploded all along the U.S.-Mexico border, with flash points at the (SPEAKING SPANISH) or main entry points into the United States, like Ciudad Juarez, across the border from El Paso, Texas, and Nuevo Laredo, which sits on the Rio Grande across from Laredo, Texas.

The grisly find outside Monterrey came just days after 18 dismembered bodies were found in vans near Lake Chapala, a popular resort destination in Jalisco state. On May 4, in Nuevo Laredo, nine badly tortured bodies were discovered hanging from a bridge next to a lengthy, profane banner.

Hours later, 14 dismembered bodies turned up in a van. The heads were found in boxes outside city hall. That atrocity came ahead of a presidential debate last Sunday. Mexicans head to the polls July 1 to elect a replacement for Felipe Calderon, who escalated the war on the cartels in 2006.

Since then, an estimated 50,000 people have died in drug- and gang-related violence.