49 Decapitated Bodies: Mexico’s Drug War and P.R. Nightmares Continue
The news that 49 decapitated bodies were found dumped near highway in Mexico continues Mexico’s double-pronged nightmare. One is a law and order nightmare: the war raging between drug cartels themselves and with law enforcement continues unabated. The other is a p.r. nightmare: news of a large number of headless bodies isn’t the kind of publicity that attracts tourists — or investors.
Forty-nine bodies have been dumped on a highway in northern Mexico – and by the time the world wakes up Monday morning, the harrowing image will have been beamed across the globe.
Mexico’s drug violence has been a public relations nightmare for President Felipe Calderon. The crime scenes inevitably make world news, scaring off would-be tourists and causing foreign investors to think twice.
But imagine being a resident of one of the cities where violence is playing out, with the misfortune to witness the mayhem not on a television set but firsthand.
That is what happened to Carolina Gomez, a young teacher who happened to drive past a similar scenario in her home of Veracruz, in eastern Mexico, when 35 bodies were left under a highway overpass in the middle of rush hour traffic last September. She had been on her way to a tutoring job after school.
The Monitor profiled her family in a cover story about the ways that violence is impacting Mexicans not directly swept up in it.
The dumping of the bodies was a tipping point for the city of Veracruz, but also in the personal story of Ms. Gomez. As a teacher, she had heard cases of parents kidnapped, and even seen a corpse left outside of her school. She had to take security training on what to do in the case of a shootout. And she never left home – including on this day – without checking Twitter first to map out safe routes.
But this scene caught her off guard. And it forever changed the way she viewed her city. It was the afternoon. It was on a heavily trafficked thoroughfare. It was next to an upscale mall and movie theater. “It made me feel like no place was safe,” she told the Monitor.
The remains were left along the road in Nuevo Leon state, between the cities of Monterrey and Reynosa.
A message written on a wall nearby appeared to refer to the Zetas drug cartel.
“This continues to be violence between criminal groups. This is not an attack against the civilian population,” said Jorge Domene, Nuevo Leon’s state security spokesman.
He said it appeared as though the victims were killed a day or two ago, somewhere else, and that their bodies were then dropped off.
Officials said they had not ruled out the possibility that the victims could be Central American immigrants or residents of another state, telling reporters Sunday that there had not been many local missing persons reports in recent days.
But the area has become a battleground for a brutal conflict between the Zetas and the Gulf cartel, and reports of forced disappearances have become increasingly common in recent years.
Police and troops were combing the area and set up checkpoints after authorities received a report of the remains around 3 a.m. Sunday, police said.
The remains were found in the municipality of Cadereyta Jimenez, near the industrial city of Monterrey and about 80 miles southwest of the U.S. border, police said.
FOOTNOTE: One of the jobs I held on the San Diego Union in the 1980s was covering the city of Tijuana and the border. When you see stories like this it’s important to keep in mind the millions and millions of dollars Mexican businessmen and the government have invested in trying to attract tourists to their country by building world class facilities for tourists and in advertising. Events like this have huge consequences in terms of society, the rule of law and the economy.