Drug Violence in Veracruz Leaves 35 Bodies Littered in Streets

On September 20, 2011, a shocking scene unfolded in front of civilians, as alleged drug traffickers emptied two truck-loads of bodies in downtown Boca del Rio in Veracruz. Thirty-five bodies in total were found lying on a main avenue running near the city’s biggest shopping mall while armed gunman stood guard at the corners surrounding the scene to prevent bystanders and law enforcement officials from approaching. 

Drug violence in Veracruz continues to escalate due to the fact that the state is a common, and rather important, site for drug trafficking and a prominent passage for Central American migrants. Currently, Los Zetas is considered by the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) to be the most violent and powerful drug cartel in Mexico. Los Zetas are said to be engaged in one of the bloodiest drug gang wars, vying for control of the region and therefore, are suspected to have a hand in this latest display of drug-related violence. 

So far, police have identified seven of the victims, all having been found to have prior convictions on their records for murder, kidnapping, drug dealing, and links to organized crime. Of the thirty-five victims, twelve were women. Some of the male victims were identified as prisoners who escaped from three Veracruz prisons on September 19. 

While other drug cartels are under investigation since Tuesday’s dumping, the number of victims claimed by drug-related violence continues to climb and is estimated to have reached at least 35,000 lives. Training camps for drug cartels are popping up in various towns within Veracruz, with a recruiting basis heavily concentrated toward minors. These camps have at their disposal weapons and military uniforms.

Drug cartels, like Los Zetas, have managed to make their way into the United States, specifically in Texas. However, most of the drug-related violence continues to take place south of the border, as rival drug cartels seek to gain regional control and combat the Mexican government’s efforts to suppress drug trafficking.

Original article from The New York Times


  1. I think there are a lot of factors that explain the current situation in Mexico. However, I think the most important fact, is the current US-led War on Drugs. There is a huge demand for drugs both in America and in Europe, but the fact that drugs are illegal has driven the business right into the hands of the cartels. As long as there is a market for illegal drugs, people will be trying to make money from it. I know people have been suggesting it for years, but it bears repeating; the best way to end this, is to legalize. If the market is out in the open (and subject to government regulation) then violence is no longer the only option for dealing with problems. I know many people are opposed to the idea of legalization because it sounds crazy, but it’s not exactly like the current method is working all that well. Maybe it’s time to try something new.

  2. The idea of seeing thirty-five dead bodies piled up on a main avenue is too gruesome for me to even fully comprehend. I do not know what I would have done if I were to drive by such a horrific scene. The part that makes this display even worse is that armed gunmen stood by to guard the bodies. As if they did not prove enough by dumping the dead bodies, they had to make a bigger statement by preventing anyone from approaching the bodies. It is a tough situation to deal with considering the fact that the victims were criminals themselves; however, there is always a sympathetic feeling when someone loses their life, especially when that persons’ death is then put on display.

    Drug-related violence is a growing concern in this area, and the police may need to take a more effective approach to the problem. I think the first step the police should take is to secure their prisons more efficiently. To have so many prisoners escape from various prisons is completely unacceptable. The first step to ending this problem is keeping those who have been caught, locked up by either hiring more guards, or updating their facilities. Both of these options would require financing, but they would be worth it in order to prevent more drug-related deaths. The next step would be to try and reach the population that is being raised to live these types of violent lifestyles. I am not sure how the police could do this, but the minors that are being recruited need to be reached by the police before they get too deep into the drug cartel training camps. The last step would be to figure out a way to prevent the cartels from obtaining weapons and military uniforms. An investigation should be launched to figure out where they are acquiring these items, and then the police can consider a way to prevent these acquisitions.

    There is no easy solution to this problem, but it is important that the police change their current approach in order to disrupt the growing problem of drug-related violence.

  3. I disagree that legalization would help the drug problem. Maybe in regards to marijuana but marijuana is not the root of the problem. These cartels are bringing in heroin, cocain and other highly addictive life destroying drugs. The U.S. Is suffering from a huge perscription (legal) drug problem and efforts to control the persription pill problem has lead to stricter FDA regulations. When people addicted to perscription drugs can no longer obtain them, due to the new regulations, they turn to illegal drugs like Heroin. What do we do as a county when people are caught with drugs? Often we put them in jail. We do not really have a great support system for getting people off of drugs. State funded rehab facilities are abysmal and unless you have between 30 and 50k private rehab is not a possibility. I’m not positive but I am sure a lot of drug users would rather not be on these hard drugs, but without support they have little options but to continue their habit. Maybe reforming our rehab facilities and helping people kick there habits would lead to a reduction in the U.S. demand?

  4. In response to Gianna’s point that one thing that should be done is to try to reach out to the youth that are being recruited into these drug gangs. The teacher in me always tends to believe the solution to problems can begin with bettering the lives of the children. There are high levels of poverty in these regions so there are few prospects for people. This is how drug trafficking, although so dangerous, can be an appealing option even to youth. Perhaps one part of what would have to be a multifaceted approach would be to increase the educational opportunities for these youth and to have support programs in place to keep them in school, hopefully thereby increasing their options for employment as adults. However, clearly another prong would have to be bringing lawful industries to the area. But there is so much more that would have to be done. And as people who have posted above point out, the problems there are created by the demand for drugs here in the US.

  5. To pick up on Gianna’s point, I think what we can say definitively is that the current strategy utilized by Mexico, the United States, and the collective international community in combating drug-related violence is not working. How could it be if the cartels are able to commit such heinous acts as the September 20th massacre? This then begs the question: what should we do to fix the problem? I am by no means qualified to answer this question, but I do believe there needs to be a drastic overhaul of strategy. These cartels are way too powerful, and act with complete disregard for domestic and international law. I believe all serious suggestions (including the legalization of illicit drugs) are at least worth listening to as drug-related violence has reached an untenable level.

  6. I do not think that the demand of drugs within the US could be considered the main cause of the violence by drug cartels abroad. While it is true that there is a demand for drugs within the US, high demand for drugs already exists within the country where such drug violence already exists. What is the violence about? Where does it stem from?
    In part, this violence exists due to a limited supply of drugs where its dealers can make an abundance of money. With all money schemes comes greed and competition. Rather than compete, kill? Rather than involve the police, take care of it yourself?
    To suggest that an updated rehab program in the US would fix this problem is not a realistic solution. In fact, just the opposite would be logical. Instead of a program that treats people after their addition already exists, a program that prevents addiction from the beginning would be a better approach to combat any drug demand in the US. Yet, even this suggestion has a very limited relation to where the issue stems from. We must not forget about greed, competition, money and a lack of a belief in law enforcement.

  7. The drug cartels have likely risen to this level of power due to the failure of authorities to properly address the situation when it was less of problem. Such was the case in Colombia in the 1970’s and 80’s that allowed Pablo Escobar to rise to power. Enlisting minors to work for the cartels is emblematic of the problem. The cartels throw money at poor kids who have nothing and buy their loyalty. Colombia was only able to break free of Escobar when they invited the assistance of the DEA and US Army and that never happened until airplanes started getting blown up. In this instance, I would have to imagine 9/11 was the greatest thing that ever happened to the cartels as the US began to devote the overwhelming majority of its resourced to antiterrorism, much of it funneled away from drug enforcement and the agencies that support it. Mexico’s only option at this point might be to LITERALLY declare war on the cartels by inviting a foreign military task force to address the issue. As unpopular and extreme as that may sound, it is clear that the intimidation tactics and associated level of violence being utilized by the cartels has reached an unmanageable level.

  8. It certainly seems as though Mexico cannot stand alone in this fight against the cartels. These cartels are not fearful of government backlash and force as they post their men on street corners with weapons for intimidation purposes. Yet, what could prove problematic is discovering the cartels’ source of soldiers – it could be inferred that if the cartels target children as traffickers, they could just as easily enlist the same children as soldiers. While the United States could be a great resource and support system to use in engaging these cartels in armed force, this problem truly deserves international attention on a much larger scale. The treatment of children by the cartels, along with the merciless killings such as that in September, is unacceptable. Yet, left alone long enough and the cartels will only gain more and more power and resilience, leaving the Mexican government weaker than ever against “the drug kings”.

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