12/20/11– On December 14, the Ministry of National Defense (Secretaría de la Defensa Nacional, Sedena) discovered a clandestine gravesite containing ten bodies in Cristobal Colon in the state of Durango. Authorities found the grave after local residents reported an unusual smell coming from the site at least a week before the grave was discovered. All ten bodies were immediately sent for an autopsy to determine identification, although details on the circumstances of the deaths have not yet been released to the public.
With last week’s discovery, there have now been 14 mass graves unearthed in Durango so far this year, with 287 bodies found between them. The first grave was discovered on April 11 in the town of Las Fuentes and a number of smaller graves were then found in the ensuing weeks in the nearby towns of Vicente Suárez and Santiago Papasquiaro. On May 12, eight decapitated bodies were found buried outside of the capital city of Durango, which brought the body count at that point to nearly 200. At the end of May, two more bodies were found in the town of El Consuelo, at which point reports suggested that perhaps the bodies, originally thought to be innocent victims, drug cartel members, migrants, etc., were actually those of splinter group members who had broken off from the notorious Sinaloa cartel to form their own group. Since then, a number of other graves have been discovered in the state, bringing the total to 14 since April.
Clandestine graves are not unique to the state of Durango. Nearly 200 victims were discovered in mass graves in Tamaulipas in April 2011, and two graves containing a total of twelve bodies were found in Chihuahua just days apart at the end of August 2011. Just last week, a grave was found in Guadalajara, Jalisco containing the bodies of four students and one of the student’s father. The investigation has attracted public attention as the Federation of Guadalajara Students (Federación de Estudiantes de Guadalajara, FEG) is being accused by some for the killings, though the investigation is ongoing.