MEXICO CITY -- Dismembered remains of 14 men were found in plastic bags in a vehicle near City Hall in the border city of Nuevo Laredo, authorities said Tuesday.
In a statement, the state prosecutor’s office in northern Tamaulipas state said a Chrysler Voyager minivan with 10 plastic bags stuffed with the remains was found downtown late Tuesday afternoon. The victims were men between the ages of 30 and 35, authorities said.
Nuevo Laredo, the busiest commercial crossing on the U.S.-Mexico border, and much of the rest of the state of Tamaulipas have been the scene of escalating violence between rival drug-trafficking gangs. The fighting, involving the Gulf cartel and its former allies, known as the Zetas, is believed to have swept in the powerful Sinaloa cartel, from northwestern Mexico, in opposition to the Zetas.
The months-long violence has spread into the neighboring state of Nuevo Leon and its largest city, Monterrey, a once-quiet industrial powerhouse that has been rocked by gun battles and an arson attack on a casino last year that left 52 people dead.
On Tuesday, officials said a “criminal group” had taken responsibility for killing the men in a message left with the bodies, but authorities did not identify the gang.
More than 50,000 people have died in drug-related violence in Mexico since President Felipe Calderon took office in December 2006 and launched what he called a frontal attack on traffickers. Most of the deaths are attributed to fighting among trafficking groups.
Nuevo Laredo, a scruffy, truck-choked city on the border with Texas, was among the first spots in Mexico to experience a rise in drug killings even before Calderon came to power. The violence later tailed off as the Zetas appeared to exert control over the city. Killings in Nuevo Laredo surged again in recent months, and the victims included several people who reportedly had used social media to draw attention to criminal activities.
In March, the Mexican army killed Gerardo Guerra Valdez, the reputed Zetas boss in Nuevo Laredo, during a shootout and then captured his alleged replacement, Carlos Alejandro Gutierrez Escobedo.
-- Ken Ellingwood