Photo: Mass grave in Mexico
Authorities in the Mexican Gulf coast state of Veracruz confirmed that some of the 31 bodies found this week in a clandestine grave are badly disfigured and said the victims had been killed recently.
In statements to MVS radio, Veracruz Attorney General Luis Angel Bravo Contreras said only seven bodies have been identified and that six of them have already been handed over to their family members.
Those four men and two women were area residents who had been reported missing, Bravo said, adding that the seventh identified victim has not yet been claimed by relatives.
The grave was discovered Tuesday at the El Diamante ranch in the municipality of Tres Valles, near the border with the southern state of Oaxaca.
“Some bodies were quite disfigured,” Bravo said when asked whether the bodies bore signs of torture or mutilation, as has been reported in the local press, although he did not provide further details.
The state attorney general said statements from the victims’ relatives and persons associated with the ranch had provided valuable leads in the case.
The owner of the ranch is Laura Cano Rojas, who inherited the property from her father, Jose Fernando Cano, the former president of Tres Valles’ municipal council.
Authorities in neighboring Oaxaca are collaborating in the effort to identify the bodies since investigators believe some of the victims were from other regions, Bravo said.
All of the bodies recovered from the grave were taken to the central forensic lab of the Veracruz state Attorney General’s Office.
Personnel at the lab are using dental records and DNA to identify the remaining victims.
Thousands of migrants headed for the United States pass through Veracruz each year, and drug traffickers use smuggling routes in the state to move narcotics into Mexico’s northern neighbor.
The federal government expanded its presence in neighboring Tamaulipas state in May to fight the Los Zetas and Gulf drug cartels, which have unleashed a wave of violence in the region.
Veracruz’s government has stepped up patrols along the border to prevent the cartels from moving into its territory.
The state government has been working with the army and marines to hunt down the members of criminal organizations, especially those involved in kidnappings, this year.
Veracruz, Mexico’s third most populous state, has been plagued by a turf war between rival drug cartels that has sent the murder rate skyrocketing in the past few years.
The Gulf, Los Zetas and Jalisco Nueva Generacion cartels, as well as breakaway members of the once-powerful Familia Michoacana organization, are fueling the violence in the state.
The port city of Veracruz will be the site of the 24th Ibero-American Summit of heads of state and government and will host the 22nd Central American and Caribbean Games later this year.