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Police Hunt Bodies of 30 People Believed Slain by Drug Cult

July 26, 1990

TEPIC, Mexico (AP) _ Police said Wednesday they were searching for bodies of about 30 people reported killed by a marijuana-growing cult that sacrificed humans and animals to a satanic god called ″El Amigo″ - ″The Friend.″

The group sacrificed its victims before a clay monkey 16 inches high to win protection for their drug-cultivating activities, said Juan Granados Martinez, commander of Federal Judicial Police in Tepic.

Judicial police on Tuesday arrested 14 people as cult members, including the man they described as ″head sorcerer,″ Olayo Soto Soto.

They said they had not yet unearthed any bodies. But they said they found a dagger and bloodstains in caves of remote Horse Hill on the border between Nayarit and Durango states, about 400 miles northwest of Mexico City.

A judicial police source in Mexico City, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said villagers in Santa Maria near Horse Hill claimed ″more than 30 people were sacrificed and they were buried near the cemetery of Santa Maria.″

Residents said Soto sacrificed two of his own sons in 1988, the source said.

Granados told reporters Soto confessed to killing two people, one of them his brother, on orders from the god. He said at least one had failed to cultivate marijuana.

Police also discovered other apparent cult material, including a statuette of the Virgin Mary with her face replaced by a skull.

Police said the group was being held for homcide, arms possession, criminal association and drug charges.

The Mexico City source said it was not clear if the group was trafficking in drugs or just growing marijuana.

Granados said the group claimed to be practicing a version of Palo Mayombe, a religion that originated in the Congo and sometimes uses human skulls in its rituals.

The Mexico City daily newspaper El Universal said police found six large marijuana fields, pistols and a dagger.

Granados led the operation against the group, which he said carried out its rites in caves in the remote Horse Hill area on the Durango side of the state border.

In an earlier drug-cult case, police in April 1989 found 15 bodies buried on a ranch near the northern city of Matamoros across the U.S.-Mexico border from Brownsville, Texas.

They claimed the victims were slain by drug smugglers who also believed human sacrifices would protect them from police.

Four members of that group are on trial in Mexico City and Matamoros. Group leader Adolfo de Jesus Constanzo and his bodyguard died of gunshot wounds as police closed in on them in a Mexico City apartment in May 1989.

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