18 Murdered Bodies Discovered

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Drug cartel violence in Zacatecas, Mexico claimed 18 lives this week as authorities found the bodies in Morelos and Fresnillo over two consecutive days. These incidents were believed to be direct responses to the death of a Sinaloa cartel leader and the arrest of 26 cartel members.

Morlelos and Fresnillo are in the state of Zacatecas, located in north-central Mexico, about 340 miles south of Eagle Pass, Texas. 

The Discovery
Nine bodies were discovered in the town of Morelos on Wednesday, May 8, 2024, sparking a homicide investigation by the state prosecutor’s office. 

Just a day earlier, another nine bodies were found on an avenue in the city of Fresnillo. The bodies were left with messages addressed to a rival criminal group, and surveillance footage captured members of the Sinaloa Cartel dumping some of the victims. The bodies in Fresnillo were found near a market, wrapped in blankets and covered with duct tape.

The violence erupted after the killing of a Sinaloa cartel leader known as “El Gordo,” responsible for abductions and homicides in Zacatecas. Following his death, gang members blocked roads, burned vehicles, and left the bodies of victims as a gruesome warning. According to Oscar Alberto Aparicio, Zacatecas Deputy Public Safety Secretary, “The officers responded to the aggression and eliminated the presumptive leader of the cartel in Zacatecas.”

A Hub of Drug Cartel Violence
Zacatecas is a strategic drug trafficking point due to its proximity to the U.S. border and has one of the highest per capita homicide rates in Mexico. The Jalisco and Sinaloa cartels have been waging bloody turf battles in the region. The DEA linked these cartels to the fentanyl influx affecting the United States.

The U.S. State Department issued a “Do Not Travel” advisory for Zacatecas due to widespread violent crime, extortion, and gang activity. The advisory cautioned Americans about the kidnapping risks in the state.

Past Incidents in Zacatecas
Last year, a search team looking for seven kidnapped youths in Zacatecas found six bodies and one survivor. In Christmas 2022, a U.S. resident was among four people killed. Earlier that year, five men and one woman were found abandoned on a roadside, and the bodies of eight men and two women were crammed into a pickup truck near a Christmas tree in the state capital.

A Growing Challenge
The violence hasn’t stopped in 2024. Zacatecas saw 203 homicides in the first quarter alone, and 1,336 murders were recorded in 2023. Despite these figures, Governor David Monreal deployed 1,000 National Guard and army troops to Zacatecas and insisted traffic was flowing smoothly. He described the violence as “a reaction, a consequence of police activity against the cartel leadership.”

Addressing the Crisis
The recent killings underscore the challenges faced by Mexican authorities in curbing cartel violence. While Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador has pushed a “hugs, not bullets” approach, Zacatecas remains entangled in deadly conflicts between warring cartels.

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