REPORTING FROM MEXICO CITY — Killers dumped the bodies of more than 20 men near a well-known monument in the western city of Guadalajara, reports said Thursday. The city last month hosted the Pan-American Games amid tight security because of recent drug-related fighting.
Mexican media said 23 victims were found in three vehicles at a traffic circle that is the site of the 150-foot Arches of the Third Millennium, a series of yellow arcs arrayed in a curving pattern above the intersection of two major avenues.
Authorities in the state of Jalisco, where Guadalajara is located, confirmed the discovery of 23 black bags appearing to contain human remains, but did not immediately confirm the number of bodies.
Jalisco state prosecutor Tomas Coronado said a folded banner bearing a message was found at the scene but he did not disclose its contents. Some media accounts described it as a so-called narco-banner — a handwritten message directed by hit men against rivals, which is often left next to victims.
Jalisco state has been rocked by drug violence in recent months involving several groups, including the Zetas and Jalisco-based rivals said to be allied with trafficker Joaquin “Chapo” Guzman, the country’s most-wanted suspect, who is based in the northwestern state of Sinaloa.
The fighting picked up after Mexican troops last year killed Guzman ally Ignacio Coronel during a raid in Zapopan, a suburb of Guadalajara. Coronel controlled drug smuggling and manufacturing along a wide stretch of western Mexico that includes Jalisco.
Because of the drug feuding, Mexican authorities blanketed Guadalajara, a colonial-era city that is Mexico’s third biggest, in tight security for the Pan-Am Games, a quadrennial athletic event. The two-week event went off without incident.
Jalisco Gov. Emilio Gonzalez used his Twitter feed Thursday to say he was “dismayed and outraged” by the discovery and called for an investigation, though such killings are seldom solved in Mexico.
The dumping of large numbers of bodies has become a familiar feature of the 5-year-old drug war, which has claimed at least 43,000 victims. On Wednesday, authorities in Sinaloa’s capital, Culiacan, found charred bodies of 17 people in a pair of vehicles parked in the downtown district. Seven other victims were found elsewhere in the state.
In September, gunmen dumped 35 bodies, many of them reportedly marked with a “Z” for Zetas, on a busy boulevard in the port city of Veracruz. Masked men appeared on an Internet video claiming responsibility for the killings, saying they were seeking to cleanse Veracruz state of the Zetas. They called themselves the “Zeta killers” and claimed to be part of the Jalisco Cartel-New Generation, the Jalisco group believed to be allied with Guzman.
-- Ken Ellingwood
Photo: Coroner's workers cover the window of a van containing bodies in the Mexican city of Guadalajara. More than 20 bodies were dumped in three vehicles near a prominent monument, media reported. Credit: Reuters/Alejandro Acosta.