NUEVO LEON- Authorities in the Nuevo Leon town of San Juan made a gruesome discovery early Sunday morning as 49 mutilated and headless corpses were found strewn along the highway linking Monterrey and the Texas border. Every one of the bodies- 43 men and 6 women- also had their extremities hacked off while some of the corpses reportedly had tattoos of Santa Muerte [Holy Death], a venerated figure in Mexico's criminal underworld.
On a nearby archway, was graffiti that reportedly read '100% Zetas'. Cartels have been leaving mutilated corpses of slain rivals in public places in an attempt to intimidate competing cartels, police and the public. In September 2011, masked gunmen held up rush hour traffic outside of Veracruz as 35 corpses were pulled from a truck and dumped in the highway.
The bodies of the 43 men and six women were found in the town of San Juan on the non-toll highway to the border city of Reynosa at about 4 a.m. (5 a.m. EDT), forcing police and troops to close off the highway. Nuevo Leon state security spokesman Jorge Domene said at a news conference that a banner left at the site bore a message with the Zetas drug cartel taking responsibility for the massacre.
Domene said the fact the bodies were found with the heads, hands and feet cut off will make identification difficult. The bodies were being taken to Monterrey for DNA tests.
De la Garza said the victims could have been killed as long as two days ago at another location, then transported to San Juan, a town in Cadereyta municipality, about 105 miles west-southwest of McAllen, Texas, or 75 miles southwest of the Roma, Texas, border crossing.
The bloody scene in Nuevo Leon comes less than 10 days after 23 bodies were hung from overpasses or stuffed in garbage bags and iceboxes in the Tamaulipas border town of Nuevo Laredo, across the Rio Grande from Laredo, TX. Last month, fugitive billionaire Joaquin 'El Chapo' Guzman reportedly announced an agreement with the Gulf Cartel to go after the Zetas- themselves former paramilitary enforcers for the Gulf cartel- who were staedily encroaching on territory previously held by both the Gulf cartel and Guzman's Sinaloa cartel.
Some have speculated that the public will see an escalation of these gruesome narco-slayings and displays in the weeks leading up to the July 1st Mexican Presidential election in an attempt to affect the outcome. Since taking office in 2006, Mexican President Felipe Calderon has committed to using Mexico's military to go after the various drug cartels. However, with more than 50,000 casualties since he took office, public support for Calderon's campaign has waned and his PAN political party is currently trailing in polls.
TAMAULIPAS- The offices of Nuevo Laredo's El Mañana were raked by heavy caliber gunfire and a grenade on Friday night.
Since the escalation of Mexico's narcoinsurgency in the last decade, reporters and editors have been targeted by the cartel's sicarios in an attempt to silence them from reporting on any cartel activities.
Staffers at El Mañana in Nuevo Laredo were working late Friday night when gunmen sprayed the building with high-caliber ammunition and tossed a homemade grenade at the building. No injuries were reported, said co-owner Ramon Cantu Deandar, and the staff was able to finish the edition and returned to work Saturday, stoically though terrified.
"I'm honored to work alongside brave men and women who are an example of how we won't allow ourselves to be intimidated," he said.
In 2006, El Mañana made a public vow to censor itself following a similar attack on its building that partially paralyzed a reporter. Before that incident, the city editor was stabbed to death. The newspaper has largely kept its pledge not to report on cartel crime.
Mexico has become one of the world's most dangerous countries for journalists, with at least 51 killed in the past two years. Four were killed in the last two weeks, all in the state of Veracruz, including investigative journalist Regina Martinez of the newsmagazine Proceso.
COAHUILA- Mexican Marines arrested two suspected members of the Zetas cartel and rescured 18 migrants in the city of Piedras Negras.
Antonio Camacho Soria and Martin Molina Vazquez were arrested on May 5 on charges that they were holding the migrants hostage, the secretariat said.In recent years the Zetas have diversified their operations from drug trafficking to human trafficking and collecting fees from migrants and smugglers who operate through territory controlled by them. The Zetas are thought to be responsible for the August 2010 massacre of 72 migrants and the 2011 mass abduction and murder of bus passengers in the northeastern state of Tamaulipas.
Marines seized firearms, marijuana, a substance that could be cocaine, cash and communications gear in the operation.
Camacho Soria and Molina Vazquez confessed that they were holding several illegal immigrants at a house.
The marines went to the house and found the migrants there, the secretariat said.
The migrants, whose nationalities were not released, were handed over to federal prosecutors in Piedras Negras, the secretariat said.
Heriberto Lazcano Lazcano, known as “El Lazca,” deserted from the Mexican army in 1999 and formed Los Zetas with three other soldiers, all members of an elite special operations unit, becoming the armed wing of the Gulf drug cartel.
TEXAS- US Authorities have arrested a commander in the Tamaulipas State Police and cousin of the state's former governor. Gilberto Lerma Plata was named in a sealed indictment filed in Washington DC last year that accused him of consipiring to smuggle cocaine and marijuana into the USA.
Gilberto Lerma Plata, 50, was arrested as he attempted to cross the Hidalgo-Reynosa International Bridge late Friday night, a former federal agent confirmed Tuesday.Three of Tamaulipas' former governors are being investigated for corruption and aiding and abetting drug cartels in the state.
Lerma, who has U.S. citizenship, is not formally tied to any Mexican drug cartel in a federal indictment unsealed Monday. But he reportedly has had ties to the Gulf Cartel at least since 2002, when a Mexican newspaper quoted Mexican intelligence reports that stated he provided criminals with information on police movements.
Lerma had been serving as the Tamaulipas State Police commander in Miguel Alemán, across the Rio Grande from Roma, upon his arrest, the former agent said. Lerma previously served in the same capacity in Reynosa.
Lerma is the cousin of former Tamaulipas governor Manuel Cavazos Lerma, an Institutional Revolutionary Party, or PRI, politician who served from 1993 to 1999 and candidate for senator from Tamaulipas in Mexico's upcoming federal elections.
Lerma joined the Tamaulipas State Police after his cousin was first elected governor in the state.
A 2002 report in El Universal newspaper named Lerma as a Gulf Cartel member who used his police ties to provide information on police movements against the cartel. The report outlined how Osiel Cárdenas Guillén, the former Gulf Cartel leader now serving a federal prison sentence in the U.S., had direct contact with commanders of state and federal law enforcement in many of Tamaulipas’ major municipalities.
Lerma's arrest comes less than two months after another person linked to a former Tamaulipas governor has been the focus of a federal investigation in the United States.
Federal authorities arrested Antonio Peña Arguelles in February in Laredo. In a criminal complaint filed in federal court in San Antonio, Peña is accused of funneling cash from the Zetas drug cartel to former Tamaulipas governor Tomas Yarrington, a PRI member who served from 1999 to 2004.
ELSEWHERE IN TEXAS- Thanks to a guilty plea for extortion and money laundering in federal court, the US Government may become stakeholders in a proposed prequel to Mel Gibson's 2004 blockbuster The Passion of the Christ.
In a real-life case of drugs and extortion that could itself make a pretty good screenplay, federal prosecutors have forced a Mexican drug trafficker to turn over his stake in a planned prequel to Mel Gibson's 2004 blockbuster "The Passion of the Christ."The film Mary, Mother of Christ is already listed on the Internet Movie Database as having a 2013 release date.
If the movie gets made, the U.S. government will receive a cut of the profits.
Some of the big names behind the Hollywood project include megachurch pastor Joel Osteen, who had no idea about the script's unsavory backstory.
"When you get a script, you just don't think to say 'Hey, was this script ever tied to a Mexican cartel?'" said Donald Iloff, a spokesman for Osteen's Lakewood Church in Houston. The script was already being handled by a legitimate production company when Osteen got involved.
Jorge Vazquez Sanchez pleaded guilty this week in federal court to extortion and money laundering in a deal that required him to give up a 10 percent stake in future profits of "Mary, Mother of Christ," which is scheduled to begin production this year and includes Osteen as an executive producer.
The script was written by the same person behind "The Passion of the Christ," which became a worldwide smash and earned more than $611 million.
Aloe Entertainment, the Los Angeles-based production company that paid more than $900,000 for the script, said it knew nothing about Vazquez, who was sentenced to seven years in prison.
Had Vazquez kept his stake, "we don't know what would have happened," the company said in a statement. "We have assembled an amazing team to bring it to the big screen. Now the American taxpayers can be part of this incredible project."
The screenwriter, Benedict Fitzgerald, had to give control of the script to a company called Macri Inc. after it foreclosed on a loan to Fitzgerald, said Richard Rosenthal, attorney for Aloe.
Then Vazquez and one of his co-defendants extorted Macri's owner, a San Antonio businessman named Arturo Madrigal, to wrest the script away. At one point, the conspirators even kidnapped Madrigal's brother in Guadalajara, Mexico, according to court documents.
Vazquez, a Mexican citizen identified in court documents as a drug trafficker who laundered money, acquired the screenplay in 2008.
Aloe, known at the time as Proud Mary Entertainment, then paid one of Vazquez's co-defendants $925,000 for the script, believing it was held by a San Antonio real estate mogul.
Before the company issued a payment, Aloe executives hired an entertainment copyright attorney who spent more than three months researching the screenplay's origins. Federal prosecutors contacted them last year seeking documents for the transaction.
When prosecutors moved to seize Vazquez's assets, the stake he had retained in the film's profits was included. Vazquez's lawyer, Donald Flanary, said his client did not contest the forfeiture.
If the movie becomes a reality, it will probably be "the first time that a major motion picture was made in which 10 percent of the profits went to the American taxpayers," Rosenthal said. "It would be an incredibly unique story."