49 headless bodies dumped along road in Mexico

Even for the drug gangs, this seems a little over the top.


The mutilated corpses of 43 men and 6 women, whose hands and feet had also been cut off, were found in a pile on a highway in the municipality of Cadereyta Jimenez in the early hours of Sunday, officials from the state of Nuevo Leon said.

"What's complicating the identification of all the people was that they were all headless," said Jorge Domene, the Nuevo Leon government's spokesman for public security, who said the other body parts were missing.

Domene said the brutal Zetas drug gang claimed responsibility for the murders in a message found at the scene.

The massacre was the latest in a string of mass slayings that have convulsed Mexico in recent months, many of them in the north of the country, where the Zetas have waged a war against rival groups for control of smuggling routes.

The Zetas gang was founded by deserters from the Mexican army who became enforcers for the Gulf cartel, which once dominated the drug trade in northeastern Mexico. Leaders of the Zetas later split from their employers and the two gangs have since fought for control of trafficking routes.

The Zetas have also been at war with the powerful Sinaloa cartel on the other side of the country.

President Felipe Calderon has staked his reputation on bringing Mexico's drug gangs to heel, sending in the army to fight them shortly after taking office in December 2006.

But the violence has spiraled since, and more than 50,000 people have fallen victim to the conflict, eroding support for Calderon's conservative National Action Party (PAN), which looks likely to lose power in presidential elections on July 1.

We only hear about this war when an American is unfortunate enough to get caught in the crossfire. But 50,000 dead in 6 years is a frightening reminder that the violence, already spilling over the border, might spread even further and engulf border states in the mayhem.

So far, the drug gangs have been somewhat careful in provoking a response from the US. That may change as they are pushed out of their sanctuaries in northern Mexican states and seek refuge across the easily violated borders of the US.

One way or another, the US is going to get more involved in this conflict in the coming years.

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