VERACRUZ, Mexico – The drug-war death toll in the Mexican Gulf coast state of Veracruz has risen by 14 over the past 48 hours, authorities said.
Six bodies, all bearing signs of torture, were found dumped in the Santa Fe district near the port of Veracruz, spokespersons for the state’s Attorney General’s Office said in a statement Friday.
The bodies were in an advanced state of decay, leading forensics personnel to conclude they had been dead for between six and eight weeks.
Meanwhile, the Defense Secretariat said in a pair of statements Friday that eight suspected drug traffickers were killed in two separate clashes with army soldiers in the towns of Panuco and Ixhuacan de los Reyes.
The clashes occurred Thursday when military personnel came under attack from the purported cartel hit men, the secretariat said.
The security forces seized eight automatic rifles, 800 rounds of ammunition of different calibers, 37 ammunition clips for different weapons and the two vehicles carrying the assailants, it added.
Violence in the state has surged in the past two-and-a-half months, leaving nearly 200 dead and prompting President Felipe Calderon’s administration to deploy federal forces under “Operation Safe Veracruz.”
The operation also seeks to clean up local police departments and strengthen intelligence efforts to bolster security across the state.
The wave of violence in Veracruz state, a strategic corridor coveted by drug- and people-trafficking gangs, has been marked by several massacres.
The bodies of 35 people were dumped Sept. 20 on a busy road in the Veracruz-Boca del Rio metropolitan area in an apparent challenge to the violent Los Zetas drug cartel; on Oct. 6, another 32 corpses were found at drug-gang “safe houses” in the metro area.
The mass dumping of bodies in September was the first such incident in Veracruz city, indicating that the violence in the northern part of the state along the borders with Tamaulipas, San Luis Potosi and Hidalgo states had spilled over into its largest metropolis, officials said.
Calderon militarized the struggle against Mexico’s heavily armed, well-funded drug mobs shortly after taking office in December 2006, deploying tens of thousands of troops to drug-war flashpoints.
The strategy has led to headline-grabbing captures of cartel kingpins, but drug-related violence has skyrocketed and claimed nearly 50,000 lives nationwide over the five-year period.