MEXICO CITY – The bodies of four men bearing signs of having been tortured were found inside a vehicle in the western Mexican state of Michoacan, home to La Familia Michoacana cartel, local prosecutors said.
“Wednesday morning, a pickup was found and in the rear cargo area there were four dead bodies covered with a blanket,” sources with the state Attorney General’s Office, or PGJE, said on Wednesday.
The discovery was made in Uruapan, a city 417 kilometers (260 miles) west of Mexico City that is known as the “world’s avocado capital.”
The victims bore signs of having been beaten and were tied up.
Three of the victims also had the letter “Z” carved in their stomachs, apparently in allusion to the drug-trafficking organization Los Zetas, a band of army veterans and deserters who act as the enforcement arm of the Gulf cartel and are bitter enemies of La Familia in that area of the country.
Sources with the PGJE said it is believed that one of the victims was an avocado farmer and the others his workers, adding that two of the men were aged 28 and 33.
Although authorities have not yet determined a motive or the identities of the perpetrators of the crime, the initial suspicion is that the killings were a settling of scores among rival drug gangs.
Michoacan is the home turf of one of Mexico’s most feared criminal organizations, La Familia Michoacana, which in addition to fighting its rivals has also carried out brazen attacks on security forces in retaliations for arrests of its members.
In addition to drug trafficking, La Familia also engages in kidnapping, extortion and migrant-trafficking. A significant number of politicians, officials and law enforcement personnel in Michoacan have been arrested on charges of links to La Familia.
Elsewhere Wednesday, a group of organized crime hit men in the violent northern border city of Ciudad Juarez staged an attack with firearms and a grenade on a police chief, who was not injured, although one of his bodyguards was killed and one of the gunmen was wounded but managed to flee, authorities said.
The attack occurred inside the El Potrero restaurant, located on one of the main streets in the northern part of the city, which lies across the Rio Grande from El Paso, Texas.
Ciudad Juarez is the most violent city in Mexico with 1,600 murders attributed to organized crime during 2008 and more than 2,000 killings so far this year.
Mexico has been plagued in recent years by drug-related violence, with powerful cartels battering each other and the security forces amid a scramble for control of smuggling and distribution.
The annual death toll has risen from 1,500 people in 2006 to more than 6,000 last year. Upwards of 5,600 people have died so far in 2009.
Since taking office in December 2006, President Felipe Calderon has deployed more than 50,000 soldiers and 20,000 federal police officers across Mexico in a bid to crush the cartels, yet the pace of gangland killings has only accelerated. EFE