11/19/13 — Mexican authorities have discovered a number of mass graves this month in Jalisco and Guerrero containing more than 30 bodies, and more are expected as investigations continue. These add to the list of mass graves discovered in Mexico in recent years, including the 2011 discovery of 193 migrants in Tamaulipas, the 2012 finding of 49 victims in Nuevo León, and the 2013 discovery of 13 youth connected to the Heaven’s nightclub case in a grave outside of Mexico City, among others.
The Attorney General’s Office (Procuraduría General de la República (PGR) first reported graves being found on November 15 in La Barca, Jalisco, which borders the town of Vista Hermosa, Michoacán. At least 18 bodies, including two women, have been excavated, many of which showed signs of torture and mutilation, and four of which were nothing but skeletons. Authorities were led to the graves after they received information from some of the 22 detained police officers that had been brought in as suspects in the disappearance of two PGR investigators in early November. The detained officers confessed to their involvement in the investigators’ disappearance, having turned them over to the New Generation Jalisco Cartel (Cartel de Jalisco Nueva Generación, CJNG) operating in the area. They also admitted to colluding with the cartel and serving as a source of useful information. Although the missing officials’ vehicles were found burned after their disappearance was reported, authorities confirmed that their bodies were not among those discovered in the mass graves. The Mexican government has sent armed forces to Michoacán in October in an effort to both increase security and combat such “acts of corruption and collusion.”
Meanwhile, in the state of Guerrero, authorities found at least 13 more bodies in mass graves in the cities of El Salto and El Cayaco. Six bodies, including one female, were unearthed on November 14 in El Salto, which is just outside the popular resort city of Acapulco. Three days later, officials received an anonymous tip that led them to find seven more bodies in El Cayaco spread throughout five graves. The discovery of the Guerrero graves was not in connection with those found days before in Jalisco, nor have authorities confirmed if and which organized crime group may be behind them.
Jalisco, Michoacán, and Guerrero are notorious hotspots for organized crime violence and drug cartel activity. Reports indicate the presence of the Knights Templar (Los Caballeros Templarios), La Familia Michoacana, and the New Generation Jalisco Cartel all vying for territory and control in these states. Not only have their clashes led to an increase in violence, it has also fueled the emergence of the self-defense groups (grupos de autodefensa) and community police forces.