MEXICO CITY — Mexican authorities responding to an anonymous tip on Sunday discovered about 50 mostly mutilated bodies dumped on the side of a highway between Monterrey, Mexico's wealthiest city, and the U.S. border.
The bodies of at least 43 men and half a dozen women were found in plastic garbage bags near the town of Cadereyta Jimenez, the location of a large state-run oil refinery, officials in the state prosecutor's office told The Times. The exact number of dead was being sorted out, confused by the condition of the bodies.
Army and police troops descended on the site and temporarily closed the highway, a major thoroughfare from Monterrey to the border city of Nuevo Laredo.
Sunday's discovery apparently was linked to a string of increasingly violent attacks as rival drug-trafficking gangs battle for control of the lucrative northeastern corridor of Mexico. Gangs often leave their victims in public venues as a warning to their enemies.
Earlier this month, 15 bodies were discovered on the road to Chapala, Mexico, a popular retirement community for U.S. citizens in Jalisco state. And on May 4, 23 bodies — nine hanging from a highway overpass and the other 14 decapitated — were discovered in Nuevo Laredo.
More than 50,000 people have been killed since President Felipe Calderon launched a military-led assault on powerful drug cartels in December 2006. Mexicans on July 1 will vote for Calderon's replacement. Election news has largely eclipsed reports on drug-war violence, but in recent weeks the mounting death toll has once again earned front-page coverage.
The fight among drug cartels has boiled down largely to a battle between the Sinaloa group, the oldest and largest drug-trafficking network in Mexico, and the vicious Zetas paramilitary force. The Zetas once controlled much of northeastern Mexico, but Sinaloa loyalists have steadily moved into the region.
Also over the weekend, gunmen attacked the offices of a newspaper in Nuevo Laredo. No one was hurt in the Friday evening assault; the newspaper, El Manaña, long ago stopped reporting on cartel violence out of fear.
Four current and former journalists were killed in a week's time this month in the coastal state of Veracruz, including a well-respected investigative reporter who specialized in writing about police corruption and drug-trafficking.
— Tracy Wilkinson
Photo: Federal police guard a forensic truck recovering bodies found on a highway near the northern Mexican city of Monterrey on Sunday. Credit: Christian Palma / Associated Press.