An infant was among more than a dozen people killed in a massacre during the heart of Holy Week in Mexico, underscoring the depth of the security challenges facing President Andrés Manuel López Obrador.
In a grisly scene reminiscent of the most striking violence of Mexico's drug war, gunmen killed 14 people -- including a one-year-old baby -- on April 19 during a family party in the town of Minatitlán in the state of Veracruz along Mexico’s Gulf coast, Milenio reported.
Before indiscriminately opening fire on those attending the birthday party, between five and six armed men allegedly asked for and tried to kidnap “La Beky,” the manager of a local gay bar known as "La Esquina del Cha-KL," who was among those killed in the attack.
“Those who were crouched were told to turn to see the dead … [If] you looked at them they told you to turn around. I think they were looking for someone, they aimed at your head or your back with long weapons,” one witness told Milenio.
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Authorities allege that two suspected regional drug trafficking leaders from the Jalisco Cartel New Generation (Cartel Jalisco Nueva Generación – CJNG) -- identified as alias “El Lagarto” or “El Jarocho” and alias “El Pelón” -- were among those responsible for the slaughter. The incident may have been a revenge attack relating to clashes between the CJNG and Zetas over control of local drug trafficking in the area, according to Animal Político.
Authorities in Veracruz announced in a press release that they are carrying out ballistics tests and pursuing other lines of investigation to apprehend those responsible. López Obrador stressed the urgent need to guarantee security in Veracruz following the attack, adding that the controversial National Guard would help restore calm.
Just last month, the CJNG declared war against the government of Veracruz, warning that “many are going to die.”
InSight Crime Analysis
The rise in homicides to begin 2019 and the latest massacre reaffirms that improving Mexico’s security situation won’t be an easy fix, even as López Obrador jumps the gun about security gains his administration has allegedly made so far.
Nearly 8,500 people in Mexico were murdered in just the first three months of 2019, marking a nine percent increase from the same period last year and the most violent start to a year in the country’s history, according to Animal Político.
As monolithic organized crime structures have dispersed and fragmentation has taken over Mexico’s criminal landscape, territorial disputes over drug trafficking, extortion, oil theft and other illicit activities have shown no signs of abating.
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This is particularly true in Veracruz. The CJNG and Zetas Old School (Zetas Vieja Escuela) -- one of the strongest splinter factions of the once-feared Zetas cartel -- are at war in the Gulf state after members of the Zetas Old School allegedly executed three suspected CJNG members there earlier this month.
To throw more fuel onto the fire, a splinter group linked to the Gulf Cartel and known as the Shadow Group (Grupo Sombra) recently left a dismembered corpse and a narco-banner to warn the CJNG and Zetas of what will happen if they enter territory already controlled by the group, not only in Veracruz, but also in Hidalgo, Tamaulipas and San Luis Potosí, according to La Opinión.
But there may be a method to their madness. Such barbaric acts as the Veracruz massacre are effective, according to security analyst Alejandro Hope. On top of the low risk of being captured or convicted by authorities, such violence “inhibits rivals, intimidates potential victims and helps preserve internal discipline,” Hope wrote April 22 in a column for El Universal.