VERACRUZ, Mexico – The bodies of 11 people were found in a tourist city of the Mexican Gulf coast state of Veracruz shortly after the federal and state governments announced a special operation targeting organized crime in the area, authorities said Wednesday.
Police said a message was found next to the bodies that warned, “If you want a war, you’ll have a war.”
The bodies of 11 people – nine men and two women – were found shortly before midnight Tuesday inside an SUV hours after federal and state authorities announced the launch of the operation in nine municipalities of Veracruz state’s mountainous central region.
The bodies were discovered in the Graciano Sanchez neighborhood of the tourist city of Boca del Rio.
The surrounding like-named municipality of Boca del Rio is a political stronghold of Veracruz Gov. Miguel Angel Yunes, a member of the opposition conservative National Action Party, and is governed by his son, Miguel Angel Yunes Marquez.
The governor on Wednesday attributed the 11 deaths to clashes between rival gangs.
“It’s not a war on the state government, but rather a clash between organized crime cartels,” Yunes told reporters.
Government Secretary Miguel Angel Osorio said Tuesday in announcing the launch of the operation that the Gendarmerie, a division of Mexico’s Federal Police, and army soldiers would operate in nine municipalities that are home to nearly 500,000 inhabitants and that account for 50 percent of the state’s violent homicides.
Veracruz is one of Mexico’s most violence-ridden states.
While violent crime has risen in much of Veracruz state since the start of the year, until Tuesday night Veracruz city and the neighboring municipality of Boca del Rio had been free of homicides and kidnappings in recent months.
The uptick in violence in recent years is due to the encroachment in 2012 of the Cartel Jalisco Nueva Generacion into territory once firmly controlled by the Los Zetas cartel, as well as to internal power struggles within the latter organization, according to security force documents.