The attorney general of the Mexican state of Veracruz stepped down on Friday hours after the discovery of 32 bodies at three drug-gang “safe houses” in metropolitan Veracruz city.
Reynaldo Escobar Perez’s resignation came two days after the launch of the “Safe Veracruz” federal operation against organized crime-related violence in the Gulf coast state.
Gov. Javier Duarte accepted the prosecutor’s resignation and thanked Escobar Perez for his work during the nine months he served as attorney general.
Escobar Perez had been harshly criticized for stating – without concrete proof – that most of another group of 35 people found dead last month on a street in the Veracruz suburb of Boca del Rio had criminal records and links to drug trafficking.
Duarte named Escobar Perez’s deputy, Marco Antonio Lezama Moo, as acting attorney general.
State government spokeswoman Gina Dominguez denied that Escobar Perez’s resignation was related to the Safe Veracruz operation or to the massacres in recent weeks.
The latest bodies were found in three homes in Veracruz city’s metropolitan area. Authorities said eight suspected members of a new criminal organization known as Jalisco Nueva Generacion, who had been arrested earlier in the day, led them to those drug-gang “safe houses.”
A spokesman for the navy department said Friday there is evidence those same suspected members of that gang, which also goes by the name “Los Mata Zetas” (The Zetas Killers), are linked to the slayings of the 35 people who were dumped Sept. 20 on a busy road in the Veracruz suburb of Boca del Rio.
In a video released after the killings, purported Jalisco Nueva Generacion members said they were carrying out an extermination campaign against the Zetas, a notorious gang of special forces deserters turned outlaws.
Meanwhile, the navy department said marines deployed in Veracruz were carrying out actions that will lead “to the probable capture of criminal groups purportedly linked to recent homicides in the area,” adding that it will provide more information shortly.
The Veracruz state government, for its part, said in a statement that “numerous operations had been conducted over more than 18 hours,” leading to the discovery of the 32 bodies on Thursday.
Launched Wednesday, the Safe Veracruz operation involves deploying federal forces, cleaning up local police departments and strengthening intelligence efforts to bolster security across the state, which has been battered by a wave of drug-related violence.
The federal government said it is responding to the violence by improving coordination with local authorities “to protect the lives of all Mexicans and guarantee the security of families in every community.”
Mexico’s interior minister, Jose Francisco Blake, said of the operation that federal forces will be deployed across Veracruz state under a unified command to “regain (control of) the areas invaded by crime” and gather intelligence to dismantle the logistical, operational and financial networks of criminal organizations.