MEXICO CITY — Mexican army officials on Monday said top leaders of the Zetas gang ordered the killing of 49 people whose bodies were mutilated and dumped in northern Mexico on May 13, and that they then sought to throw off authorities by hanging banners elsewhere around the country disavowing the incident.
Army officials paraded suspect Daniel de Jesus Elizondo Ramirez before the news media, saying he was one of those assigned by Zeta bosses Heriberto Lazcano and Miguel Angel Treviño Morales to kill the 43 men and six women and dump them in the northern state of Nuevo Leon.
Army Brig. Gen. Edgar Villegas Melendez said henchmen were ordered to leave the bodies — with heads, hands and feet missing — in the main plaza of the town of Cadereyta. But he said Elizondo Ramirez, known as "The Crazy One," apparently lost his nerve and instead left the bodies next to a nearby highway.
The assailants apparently recorded the deed in a video that was later posted on the Internet. In the video, figures can be seen moving in darkness as they pile bodies next to a banner claiming responsibility for the killings. Off-camera, a voice asks urgently, “How many are left?”
Villegas said that despite banners hung at the site that pointed toward the Zetas, the gang sought to confuse authorities by putting up banners in other states that denied a role in the Cadereyta episode while accepting responsibility for other recent cases where bodies have been left in public places in western and northern Mexico. Drug hit men often leave messages or banners at crime scenes taking credit for killings.
The cut-up bodies in Cadereyta have not been identified.
The Zetas are locked in a vicious turf war in northern Mexico with the Gulf cartel, which was once an ally. The Zetas are also at war elsewhere with the Sinaloa cartel, which is led by Joaquin “Chapo” Guzman, a struggle that has escalated the bloodshed around Mexico in recent weeks.
-- Ken Ellingwood
Photo: A Mexican soldier stands next to Daniel de Jesus Elizondo Ramirez, who officials say was involved in the killing of 49 people whose bodies were dumped in the northern state of Nuevo Leon. Credit: Alexandre Meneghini / Associated Press