Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Nine Slain in Southern Mexico

Chilpancingo – Nine people were killed over the weekend in the southern Mexican state of Guerrero, including two high-ranking cops whose dismembered bodies were deposited here, authorities said Monday.

Eight black garbage bags containing the remains of the two officers appeared around 3:00 a.m. Monday outside state police headquarters in Chilpancingo, the state capital.

Predix Luna Simon and Cristobal Luna Garcia had been missing since March 20, the Guerrero Public Safety Office said.

Also found alongside the bodies were several posters signed by “El ausente” (The Absent One) and bearing threatening messages directed at the Guerrero police chief.

Five other people were killed Saturday night at a wedding in the town of Cuirindialito, near the border with the neighboring state of Michoacan.

The Public Safety Office described the incident as a dispute that degenerated into a shootout in which three brothers, ages 25, 28 and 33, and two other people were killed, but area residents told El Universal newspaper that an armed group burst into the ceremony and killed the five wedding guests.

Finally, the dismembered bodies of two youths were found at the door of the house of municipal transit official Armando Gonzalez Valeriano in the Pacific resort of Acapulco.

They had been left there sometime early Monday in four bags and have still not been identified.

The Beltran Leyva drug organization and rival Edgar Valdes Villarreal have been locked in a recent all-out battle for control of key smuggling turf in the state of Guerrero, with 35 people, including six municipal police officers, killed in three days of fighting last week in different parts of the state.

At the other end of the country, a group of armed assailants attacked the police chief of a suburb of the northern city of Monterrey on Sunday, killing one of his bodyguards.

The attack on Rene Castillo Sanchez, a former military man who is currently the public safety secretary of the city of Santa Catarina, occurred on a highway in the western part of the Monterrey metropolitan area, a municipal police spokesperson said.

The police chief was reportedly traveling in a convoy when several gunmen fired at him with rifles, killing the bodyguard.

Castillo Sanchez, another bodyguard and a woman who was caught in the gunfire were wounded.

The spokesperson said one of the gunmen was arrested following the attack, while the Santa Catarina police chief was taken by navy helicopter to a nearby hospital.

A few hours before that incident, a police officer in the town of Santiago, south of Monterrey, was found riddled with bullets at a ranch.

Elsewhere, Chihuahua state prosecutors said eight people were killed – most of them shot to death – Saturday in the northern border city of Ciudad Juarez, Mexico’s murder capital.

The Mexican navy, meanwhile, said eight people were found dead Friday near the northwestern town of Rosendo Niela, with three suspected cartel enforcers among the dead.

The latest deaths bring to nearly 2,200 the number of drug-related homicides thus far in 2010, according to an unofficial tally kept by El Universal.

Another daily, Reforma, said that the week of March 13-19 was the deadliest so far this year with 251 murders, most of them attributed to organized crime.

Turf battles among drug cartels and the security forces’s struggle against the illegal trade have claimed nearly 19,000 lives in Mexico since December 2006, when current President Felipe Calderon took office.

Vowing to crush the cartels, Calderon has deployed 50,000 soldiers and 20,000 federal police to the country’s most conflictive areas, yet the pace of drug-related killings has only accelerated, from 2,700 people in 2007 to 7,724 fatalities last year.

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