Mexican Drug Cartels Using Increasingly Brutal Tactics to Shock Rivals and Authorities

A decapitated body found with a placard referring to drugs and crime at the Santa Fe neighbordhood in Mexico City, on August 26, 2011. Some 40,000 people have been killed in mostly drug-related violence in Mexico since 2006, when the government launched a massive military crackdown on the powerful cartels, which also battle each other over territory. AFP PHOTO

Killings grow more gruesome as Mexican drug cartels try to out-shock (AP):

Masked gunmen dump the bodies of 35 murder victims during rush hour as terrified motorists watch and tweet friends to avoid the avenue in a coastal city. A couple of weeks later, 32 more corpses are found nearby in three houses.

A woman’s decapitated body is left at a border city’s monument to Columbus, the head atop a computer keyboard with a sign saying she was killed for blogging about drug traffickers.

The severed heads of five men are dumped outside an elementary school in Acapulco, and two more near a military base in Mexico City days later.

That was just in the past three weeks.

The brutal public killings that began about five years ago have worsened as Mexican drug cartels try to outdo each other in their quest to scare off rivals, authorities and would-be informers – and still stun Mexicans increasingly numbed to the gory spectacles.

Clark McCauley, a psychology professor at Bryn Mawr College in Pennsylvania and an expert on terrorism, said: “These gangs have to keep escalating because they want the shock value, but the shock value wears off. Now, to get a headline you have to get more heads, or more bodies or do something more horrific.”

Latin American drug lords have long turned to grisly killings and torture. At the height of its powers in the 1990s, the Juarez cartel used to cut off the fingers of snitches and shove them down their throats, a practice that other cartels soon followed.

The current show of savagery began in April 2006 when two police officers were decapitated; their heads dripping blood were left in Acapulco, where four alleged members of the Zetas drug cartel had been killed in a shoot-out with police. Along with the heads was a sign that warned, “So that you learn to respect”. The Zetas are a gang of drug smugglers and hit men led by deserters from a Mexican army unit, who for many years were assassins for the cartel.

Five months later, the La Familia cartel rolled five human heads purportedly belonging to Zetas across a dance floor in the state of Michoacán. An attached note said La Familia “doesn’t kill for money, doesn’t kill women, doesn’t kill innocents, just those who should die,” an apparent warning for the particularly violent group.

Since then, drug traffickers have plunged into even more gruesome tactics. They have tied victims to overpasses and shot them to death during rush hour as sickened motorists watched. Some have decapitated people and then posted videos of it on the internet.

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