Authorities in Mexico discovered 32 more bodies this past week dumped in pits in the northeastern state of Tamaulipas. The most recent findings bring the body count up to 177 this month in Tamaulipas alone.
Graves have been found in the nearby states of Durango and Nuevo León, as well as the northwestern states of Sonora and Sinaloa, where so far this month authorities have found 68 bodies.
The discovery of this large number of bodies has prompted marches by angry citizens and a call by Roman Catholic Cardinal Norberto Rivera to end the “demented” levels of violence in the country. Mexico’s attorney general’s office has also offered a 15 million peso reward for information leading to the arrest of those responsible for planning and carrying out the killings.
As forensic teams sift through the graves, they have discovered that very few of the murders were committed with guns. Most of the bodies show signs of blunt force trauma and authorities found a sledgehammer on scene, which they believe was used in the killings.
It is also alleged that at least 122 people found in the pits were dragged off of buses when drug cartels set up road blocks in the area, which lays just 90 minutes south of the U.S. state of Texas.
The surge in violence in Tamaulipas is linked to an on-going war between the Gulf cartel and the Zetas drug gang, a former paramilitary wing of the Gulf cartel who broke away from their former bosses in 2010. The violence throughout Mexico led the U.S. State Department Friday to issue a travel warning to U.S. citizens, advising them on against any non-essential travel.
“You should defer non-essential travel to the state of Tamaulipas,” The State Department statement said. “While no highway routes through Tamaulipas are considered safe, many of the crimes reported to the U.S. Consulate General in Matamoros took place along the Matamoros-Tampico highway, particularly around San Fernando and the area north of Tampico.”
The violence and high body-count also have some experts calling Mexico, or at the least Tamaulipas and certain parts of northern Mexico, a failed state.
“It is one of the places where clearly state, federal and local authorities are not in control,” said Eric Olson, a security expert at the Woodrow Wilson International Center in Washington. “It’s tragic, it’s unfortunate, but it’s a reality.”
Since 2006, when Mexican President Felipe Calderón began the military battle against organized crime with $1.6 billion in U.S. support, 35,000 people have been killed and thousands more disappeared.
Photo: Gobierno Federal @ Flickr.