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Mexico violence: Alarming parallels to previous brutalities

August 30, 2019
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Mourners carry the coffin that contain the remains of Erick Hernandez Enriquez, also known as DJ Bengala, who was killed in an attack on the White Horse nightclub where he was DJ'ing, as they bring him for burial at the municipal cemetery in Coatzacoalcos, Veracruz state, Mexico, Thursday, Aug. 29, 2019. At least seven of the more than two dozen victims were laid to rest in the municipal cemetery Thursday afternoon, in overlapping burials two days after gang members blocked the club's exits and set it on fire. (AP Photo/Rebecca Blackwell)
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Mourners carry the coffin that contain the remains of Erick Hernandez Enriquez, also known as DJ Bengala, who was killed in an attack on the White Horse nightclub where he was DJ'ing, as they bring him for burial at the municipal cemetery in Coatzacoalcos, Veracruz state, Mexico, Thursday, Aug. 29, 2019. At least seven of the more than two dozen victims were laid to rest in the municipal cemetery Thursday afternoon, in overlapping burials two days after gang members blocked the club's exits and set it on fire. (AP Photo/Rebecca Blackwell)

MEXICO CITY (AP) — The large-scale offensive against drug cartels that began in 2006 touched off a wave of violence unprecedented since the Mexican Revolution, marked by homicides of immense brutality as gangs seemingly sought to one-up each other. Events this year bear a disturbing similarity to crimes committed at what was the bloodiest period of the drug war.

Here’s a look at moments from the drug war that shocked the country:

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NIGHTSPOT MASSACRES

August 2011: Armed attackers carrying fuel canisters enter the Casino Royale in the northern industrial city of Monterrey, shoot some patrons, douse the place and set it alight before fleeing. Fifty-two people are killed in the inferno, most of them women. Authorities attribute the attack to the Zetas cartel enforcing demands for extortion payments.

August 2019: Gangsters burst into the Caballo Blanco bar in the oil city of Coatzacoalcos, Veracruz, block all the exits and set the place ablaze. Twenty-eight are killed. Authorities are still investigating, but the attack late Tuesday may have arisen out of a dispute over local drug dealing.

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BEHEADINGS

September 2006: Armed, masked men burst into a bar in Uruapan in the southwestern state of Michoacan. They fire into the air, order patrons to lie down and toss five severed heads onto the dance floor. A note left behind says “Those who die are those who must die” and “Everyone should know that this is divine justice,” an apparent warning to a rival gang.

August 2019: A gruesome video surfaces online of the decapitation of two men who say they are from Coatzacoalcos, site of the massacre at the Caballo Blanco club. Hands bound and blindfolded, the men are made to acknowledge being “grasshoppers” — narco-speak for those who switch loyalties or strike out on their own — before they are killed on camera. One of the attackers is heard warning this will be the fate of all “grasshoppers,” and that “All of the south now has a master.” Some Mexican media reports link one of the victims to the Caballo Blanco bar, but authorities have not confirmed that.

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MASS BODY DUMPS

May 2012: Forty-nine torsos with their heads, hands and feet hacked off are dumped along a highway in the northern municipality of Cadereyta, Nuevo Leon state. Some of the remains are badly decomposed. On a white stone arch, the words “100% Zeta” are scrawled in black, a reference to the formerly dominant and hyper-violent Zetas.

August 2019: Nine bodies are found hanging from a highway overpass in Uruapan, half-naked, shot to death. Nearby seven more hacked-up corpses are discovered dumped along a roadside, and three other bodies are just up the road for a total of 19. A banner hung next to the overpass bodies bears the initials of the Jalisco New Generation cartel and threatens the rival Viagras gang: “Be a patriot, kill a Viagra.”

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PARTY KILLINGS

January 2010: Gunmen burst into a home and open fire on dozens of high school students celebrating in the Villas de Salvarcar neighborhood of the border city of Ciudad Juarez, across from Texas. Fifteen are killed in what authorities say appears to be a case of mistaken identity.

April 2019: Armed assailants shoot up a family party in Minatitlan, Veracruz, killing 14 people. The state prosecutor says the attack appears to have been revenge as part of a dispute between two rival gangs.

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MIGRANTS AT RISK

August 2010: Zetas cartel members stop two tractor-trailers carrying dozens of mostly Central American migrants and take them to a ranch in San Fernando, in the Gulf coast border state of Tamaulipas. After the migrants refuse to work for the cartel, they are blindfolded, tied up on the floor and shot dead. Authorities find 72 corpses at the ranch.

2019: Thankfully there has been no recent incident paralleling the carnage of San Fernando, but President Andrés Manuel López Obrador has acknowledged that one of his biggest fears is a possible repeat. Recently the U.S. has added two cities in Tamaulipas to its program that forces asylum seekers to wait in Mexico for months as their cases are processed, raising concerns about their vulnerability in a state where gangs control large swaths of territory. In March 2019, as many as 25 Central Americans were pulled from a bus between San Fernando and Reynosa by armed, hooded men, put into vehicles and driven away. It’s not clear what happened to the migrants, though officials said they may have hired smugglers to be taken into the United States. The gunmen had a list of names of those they took away.

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