Mexico drug war’s latest toll: 49 headless bodies

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The Zetas are a transient gang without real territory or a secure stream of income, unlike Sinaloa, with its lucrative cocaine trade and control of smuggling routes and territory, Mr. Benitez said. But the Zetas are heavily armed while Sinaloa has a weak enforcement arm, he said.

The government’s success in killing or arresting cartel leaders has fractured other once big cartels into weaker, quarreling bands that in many cases are lining up with either the Zetas or Sinaloa. At least one of those two cartels is present in nearly all of Mexico‘s 32 states.

A year ago this month, more than two dozen people — most of them Zetas — were killed when they tried to infiltrate the Sinaloa’s territory in the Pacific Coast state of Nayarit.

But their war started in earnest last fall in Veracruz, a strategic smuggling state with a giant Gulf port.

A drug gang allied with Sinaloa left 35 bodies on a main boulevard in the city of Veracruz in September, and police found 32 other bodies, apparently killed by the same gang, a few days after that. The goal apparently was to take over territory that had been dominated by the Zetas.

Twenty-six bodies were found in November in Guadalajara, another territory being disputed by the Zetas and Sinaloa.

Drug violence has killed more than 47,500 people since Mr. Calderon launched a stepped-up offensive when he took office in December 2006.

Mexico is now in the midst of presidential race to replace Mr. Calderon, who by law can’t run for re-election. Drug violence seems to be escalating, but none of the major candidates has referred directly to mass killings. All say they will stop the violence and make Mexico a more secure place, but offer few details on how their plans would differ from Mr. Calderon‘s.

Mr. Benitez said the wave of violence has nothing to do with the presidential election.

“It has the dynamic of a war between cartels,” he said.

Associated Press writer Porfirio Ibarra Ramirez in Monterrey contributed to this report.

Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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