Mexico: Mass grave toll climbs; government defends itself
The number of bodies pulled from two sets of clandestine graves -- one in the border state of Tamaulipas and the other in Durango state to the southwest -- is climbing toward 300 as violence in Mexico takes an often mind-numbing toll.
In a meeting with the media -- in which questions were not allowed -- federal Atty. Gen. Marisela Morales on Tuesday upped the toll around the Tamaulipas city of San Fernando to 183. Separately, officials in Durango said the corpses there total 96 as of Wednesday.
The Times reported earlier this week that many of the Tamaulipas-area victims were passengers pulled from buses and slaughtered in the last couple of months. Many of the Durango bodies are older and none have been identified, officials say. While the San Fernando graves are in a fairly remote zone, the Durango burials are in the state's capital of the same name.
The horrific discovery of the mass graves has renewed pressure on the government of President Felipe Calderon, who has been blasted by the public and in the media for failing to stem bloodshed in the ongoing war with drug cartels. Morales, who is new to the job, was joined by Alejandro Poire, the government's main spokesman on security issues, and the two sought to deflect criticisms. Poire asserted that Tamaulipas "is under the control of the Mexican state," a response to the widely held perception that authorities have lost out to vicious drug cartels in the area.
(You can read the statements from Morales and Poire and see a video of the officials delivering them -- all in Spanish -- on this government website.)
Later Wednesday, Poire went before the media for the second time in two days and this time answered questions. He said the "great majority" of the suspected killers in the Tamaulipas case have been arrested, and that a purge of local authorities was necessary to restore the public trust, complaining that local officials had failed to inform federal officials of the kidnappings and killings. (See comments -- in Spanish -- here.)
Meanwhile, civic groups led by Mexican poet Javier Sicilia, whose son was killed last month, called for another round of large street demonstrations starting next week to protest the violence.
-- Tracy Wilkinson in Mexico City
Photo: A worker takes a body from the morgue in the Tamaulipas city of Matamoros, Mexico, earlier in April. Credit: Associated Press