When the Colombian Calli and Medellin cartels were taken down in the 1990s lawmakers rejoiced, but what their absence created was a flux of more violence than ever before. Where the existing cartels had held peace there was now chaos as competing cartels fought to be on the top of the food chain. In 2006 the Mexican military began to intervene in the cartels’ business which only inflamed their rage. These cartels control 90% of the cocaine that is sold in the United States. By 2012, the end of Felipe Calderon’s reign as President, the death toll in the drug war reached 60,000. The estimated number had doubled one year later, and that’s not counting the almost 30,000 missing persons in the country.
Cocaine trafficking is mostly handled by the Sinaloa cartel and the Gulf Cartel until El Chapo was arrested and other gangs including Los Zetas started to vie for the Sinaloa’s territory and trafficking avenues. Mexico is not only a production company for heroin and marijuana it is also a prime location for trafficking cocaine up from South America. This paired with the fact that it is 50/50 whether or not a Mexican official has been bought by cartels, the death toll continues to rise.
15. Morelia Grenade Attacks
On the anniversary of Mexican Independence, thousands gathered to celebrate in the Plaza Melchor Ocampo which is the main square of Morelia, Michoacan. Traditionally during this celebration the governor, at the time it was Leonel Godoy, will shout ceremonial ‘Viva!’s into the crowd to celebrate the heroes of the nation. During this portion of the celebrations on the day of the attack, two grenades were thrown into the crowd of citizens.
Eight people died from the random act of violence and 11 were injured. Immediately after these grenades went off two other explosions erupted across the city. La Familia Michoacana was blamed for the attack, a cartel that has been accused of acting as a religious cult. La Familia turned the finger of blame at Los Zetas gang members and weeks later three Los Zetas were arrested regarding the attacks. The grenades were taken as a warning against the local government from the drug cartels, a warning that is meant to show that the cartels hold all of the real power.
14. Apodaca Prison Riot
In 2012 Apodaca prison guards let members of the Zetas drug cartel into the neighboring cell block that happened to contain members of opposing Gulf cartel. It was a complete ambush and prisoners were mutilated, stabbed and murdered with everything that could be imagined. Guards allowed prisoners in the Zeta cell block to run up on the Gulf cartel cell block at 2am when the prisoners were sleeping.
One guard was taken hostage in the melee and all of the mattresses were lit on fire. Almost 30 prison guards were questioned and arrested in alignment with the attack. To add on to this tragedy the prison was doubled over in capacity at the time and almost 50 prisoners were killed during the ambush. To this day the Apodaca prison riot is the most deadly to happen in a Mexican prison. The riot was also one of the first times that the world shone a light on the corrupt prison system of Mexico.
13. Puebla Oil Pipeline Explosion
On December 19, 2010 the Zetas cartel was siphoning oil off of the oil pipeline from Tabasco to Hidalgo. The pipe exploded in the process and killed 29 people including 13 children. A total of 52 people were injured. Flames in the fire measured up to 10 meters into the air which engulfed the surrounding city in smoke.
After firefighters put out the flames the military was eventually dispatched out because the electricity and water had been cut off from the blast. The explosion completely destroyed 32 homes and damaged a total of 115 homes. Some of the oil might have even polluted the water in the nearby Atoyac River. The level of the blast was the deadliest in the history of Mexico. On the day of the incident Felipe Calderon, president of Mexico, flew onsite to console families of the victims. Much of the stolen oil in these instances is trafficked to the United States, Pemex reported 9.3 billion pesos of oil lost to thieves in 2008.
12. La Barca Mass Grave
A search for two missing police officers in 2013 led Mexican officials to a local park where they uncovered 67 bodies from a mass grave. All of the bodies, two of which were women and one a minor, were marked with a red cross which is a sign of the Knights Templar cartel. The bodies showed signs of being gagged and tortured before their death. Death came by blunt force trauma or a gunshot wound from the Knights Templar who have been in ongoing battles with the New Generation for some time in the Jalisco area. In the exceedingly more dangerous area of Jalisco and after an excessive gang attack, 11 different cities were left without power for an unknown amount of time. In that same time period the entire police force of the border town of Michoacan was dismissed. We hope that these towns can find peace soon.
11. House of Death in Juarez
Members of the Juarez cartel are known for going to this house to carry out executions ordered by the gang. Undercover informant known as “Lalo” infiltrated the Juarez cartel and became involved in multiple acts of violence that he claims he told the US Department of Homeland Security and the DEA about the violent acts before committing them. Once the Mexican government became aware of the murders at the “House of Death” they uncovered a mass grave of 12 bodies underneath the structure. While the leader of the cartel got off on his charges the US informant and former Mexico Highway Patrol officer sits in jail waiting to be extradited to Mexico where he will likely get the death penalty. Torture and execution of possible informants and enemies by Narcos took place under the roof of the house of death in the seedy border town of Juarez. Families of the victims sued for “wrongful death” with Juanita Fielden, Assistant US Attorney, on their side but have yet to see reparations.
10. Cadereyta Jimenez Massacre
This show of power in the town of Jiminez took place in 2012 when dangerous cartel Los Zetas took out to send a message to other gangs. About 49 citizens were decapitated and dumped by the roadside in Monterrey, Mexico. This town is well known for being a common stop for drug trafficking through purchased border patrols and natural gas pipelines. The bodies from this horrible event were found in the town of San Juan in the municipality of Cadereyta Jiminez, Nuevo Leon. The men and women found that day had their hands and feet removed in order to make identifying them a challenge. Victim’s remains were all shoved into plastic bags and showed signs of torture. The authorities released that these bodies were Gulf Cartel members but said that it’s possible they’re also US migrants. This was an act carried out by Los Zetas drug cartel in response to the battle for turf in a country that is attempting to crack down on the drug war.
9. Torreon Birthday Party Turns Bloody
A man identified only as “Mota” held his birthday party in a private location called the “Italia Inn”. At about 1:30 that morning a convoy of about 5 to 8 trucks carrying armed men surrounded the party. These men killed about 15 party goers within moments, five of these victims were women. Some survivors lived to tell the tale of what happened that fateful night. Gunmen blocked the door during the siege and yelled “Kill them all!” as partygoers tried to flee. The Italia Inn is a party venue with gardens and pools that is popular with the local youth, but the Inn had already been targeted by the cartels earlier in the year. People believe that it could be an attack from Los Zetas or the bar could be associated with Los Zetas and the attack was by the Sinaloa cartel, either way the act of violence turned a fiesta into a major bummer.
8. Taxco Guerrero Mine Burial
Taxco is a common tourist destination due to their famous silver markets. The Mina la Concha used to be a silver mine until it was abandoned. In 2010 almost 40 bodies were exhumed from the mine in a surprise uncovering of a mass grave in the small town. The victims were clearly bound and blindfolded using duct tape. The killers left visible evidence of torture and bullet wounds. With most of the bodies in advanced states of decomposition by the time they were recovered the mine had filled with very noxious gasses that put the experts recovering bodies in grave danger. Because of their horrible state it took hours to remove the bodies from the abandoned mine. Dental records, clothing and tattoos were used to identify victims whose bodies had completely shattered with the time that they’d been left to rot. All of the three released names of identified victims are from the drug war torn town of Guerrero, one of which ran the jail in town.
7. Hundreds Disappear in Allende
During the height of Mexican drug cartels striking back on innocents the town of Allende, Coahuila was under heavy heat from Los Zetas. Allende locals Hector Moreno and Mario Alfonso Cuellar stole $5 million in drug trafficking profits from Los Zetas. Miguel Angel Trevino (Z40) was leader of the Zetas at the time and ordered them to return the money or everyone that they knew and loved would be killed. The Zetas carried out their threat and seized the towns of Nava and Allende. Using heavy machinery the vicious cartel destroyed more than 80 homes and kidnapped around 80 families who were never seen again. Using various ranch land around Allende the Zetas buried bodies in mass graves. Many of the bodies were dissolved in diesel fuel before being buried. It wasn’t until 2014 that the Army, Navy, Federal and State police got involved in looking for the lost people of Allende. The number of lives lost ranges around 300, although an official death toll was never reached.
6. Monterrey Casino Attack
The city of Monterrey became exceedingly dangerous in 2011 when los Zetas and the Gulf cartel blew up in the area. Previous to the huge narco terrorist attack the casino, Grupo Royale, had been subject to many organized crime attacks. One of these attacks was by a group of delinquents, they detonated firearms and stole from customers of the establishment. In August of 2011 “El Gran Pastor”, leader of the Zetas, was followed by 12 members of the criminal cartel met at a restaurant just blocks away from the casino to plan the attack. Almost two hours after their meeting the cartel arrived at the casino with barrels of gasoline in a convoy of four vehicles, their intention was to send a message to the casino owner who had refused to pay out their extortion. Several armed men stormed the casino yelling at patrons to exit but out of fear many of them hid inside of the building, a man then struck the receptionist and the others began pouring the gasoline out. Many were hurt in a stampede to escape while others were hurt from the fire that burned the establishment in only three minutes. Fifty two people died that day, mostly from carbon monoxide poisoning as they hid from the terrorists. Most of these victims were women.
5. Nuevo Laredo Massacres
There was a series of murderous attacks between the Gulf Cartel and Sinaloa Cartel in 2012 named the Nuevo Laredo attacks because they took place in Nuevo Laredo, Tamaulipas. Since over 40% of cargo from Mexico to the United States goes through Nuevo Laredo and some of it’s ports are easily compromised the town has been under siege by multiple cartels for decades. The Gulf Cartel ruled the town until 2003 when their leader was arrested. The Sinaloa Cartel attempted to rise up at this time but Los Zetas eventually won the bloody war and took over the town. They ruled with fear until El Chapo came to town on a mission to clear out the Zetas. The first killings featured a 14 dead men inside of an abandoned car. Less than a month later 23 more bodies were discovered, 14 of them were decapitated and 9 were hung from a bridge, this was done by the Zetas to send a message back to the Gulf Cartel. Only hours later El Chapo answered by leaving 14 decapitated bodies in an abandoned car with all of the heads placed in coolers in front of the municipal palace calling for action and honesty from local government. Attacks in the area continue to be frequent due to the town’s prime location on the US border.
4. Second Massacre of San Fernando
In total 193 people were murdered by the Los Zetas drug cartel at La Joya ranch in the municipality of San Fernando. Various passenger busses were hijacked on Mexican Federal Highway 101 and the victims of the random killings were buried in 47 different mass graves around Tamaulipas, Mexico. Reports taken of the incident showed that women were raped and that male victims were forced to fight each other. These men were given knives, machetes and hammers to see which men might be recruited to the cartel. This massacre caused thousands to flee the city which caused the government to take action. A military base was established in the municipality and troops took over all police duties. Eventually the city was under control and the citizens that fled came back home. Police are still puzzled as to why Los Zetas would do this, the only decision so far is that they did it to recruit new members.
3. Durango Massacres
There was a series of murders in 2011 that have since been given the moniker the Durango massacres. As of February of 2012 there were a total of 340 bodies found in mass graves around the Mexican city Durango. Since April 2011 there were a total of seven mass graves found around the city of Durango, this was the third time that mass graves had been found in various cities around Mexico. One grave harbored 89 bodies and was nestled into an abandoned auto repair lot. Among the bodies was the former mayor of Tepehuanes Municipality, Durango Alfonso Pena. The bodies found were a mixture of innocents and mafiosos and all of them were victims of murder at the very least. At this point in the drug war the world couldn’t look away from the over 40,000 dead bodies that had stacked up against the Mexican drug war and human rights advocates started to get involved.
2. Boca Del Rio Massacre
Boca Del Rio is a suburb of Veracruz in Mexico and in 2011 23 male and 12 female bodies were left scattered off of two flatbed trucks in the road near Plaza Americas commercial building. The pickup trucks were left on Manuel Avila Camacho Blvd. during rush hour traffic at 5pm. Army units and state police both arrived at the scene where a banner displayed the message “This will happen to all the Zeta shit that stay in Veracruz, the plaza has a new owner…G.N. (Gente Nueva). Here is el ferras and his royal court.” The gruesome display of power was a message from the Gulf Cartel to Loz Zetas. The bodies were bound, gagged and tortured. All of their hands and feet had been cut off in an effort to make sure that they couldn’t be identified. Some of the bodies had been shot execution style in the head. After the bodies were identified it was noted that each victim had priors in kidnapping, murder and organized crime.
1. Hugo Hernandez
In Los Mochis in 2010 a body was discovered – well, 7 pieces of a person’s body were discovered in separate plastic containers in various places. His face was discovered right in the heart of Sinaloa by the Los Mochis City Hall stitched onto a soccer ball and placed in a plastic bag. The gruesome quality of his murder is not fully explained but Sinaloa is a known area for growing cannabis. In fact Sinaloa is the birthplace of four out of the six major drug cartels ruling Mexico at the moment. Although the released details are still hazy it is thought that his murder was a message from the Juarez drug cartel. Found with the head of Hernandez was a note that read “Happy New Year, because this will be your last.” President Felipe Calderon had cracked down on the drug war at the time but in return the violence had only escalated.