Mexican drug lords are forcing new members of two drug cartels to eat the hearts of their murder victims as part of a vicious initiation rite.
New recruits of the La Familia Michoacana and the Knights Templar cartels were forced to eat human hearts during ritualistic ceremonies designed to weed out disloyal infiltrators, Reuters reported Tuesday.
The cannibalism is said to be a common practice among cartels in the mountainous, agricultural Michoacan state in western Mexico.
Fighting between rival gangs has erupted in recent months, and a mid-December shootout between two groups that left 11 people dead had reignited fears the government is failing to control the state after flooding it with federal troops and pressing vigilantes into a fledgling rural police force, Reuters reported.
Alfred Castillo, Michoacan’s federal security commissioner denied that the cannibalistic rituals were widespread, but he admitted that various witnesses had testified that gang members had eaten hearts during initiation ceremonies.
“The ritual ranged from dismembering people they intended to kill to sometimes serving up the heart,” Mr. Castillo said in a local television interview, Reuters reported.
More than 100,000 people have been killed in gang-related violence in Mexico since 2007.