A search for seven kidnapped youths in the north-central Mexico state of Zacatecas ended in a horrific way on Wednesday, when searchers found six bodies and one survivor in a remote area. The survivor was found with serious head wounds and was taken to a hospital. The authorities have not yet confirmed the identities of the six dead young men, but they are believed to be the ones who were abducted from a farm on Sunday.
A wave of violence and kidnappings in Zacatecas
Zacatecas is one of the most violent states in Mexico, with a high rate of homicides and disappearances. It is a key transit point for drugs, especially the powerful synthetic painkiller fentanyl, moving north to the U.S. border. Zacatecas has been the scene of bloody turf battles between the Jalisco and Sinaloa drug cartels, which are behind the influx of fentanyl in the U.S. that’s killing tens of thousands of Americans.
The kidnapping of the seven youths was not believed to be connected to forced recruitment by criminal groups, according to state prosecutors. However, it was the latest tragic outcome to mass abductions of young people this year in Mexico.
Gruesome video shows kidnapped youths killing each other
In August, a gruesome video circulated on social media recorded the last moments of five young men kidnapped in the neighboring state of Jalisco. In the video, a pair of bound, inert bodies are seen lying in the foreground. A youth seen bludgeoning and apparently decapitating another victim appears to be himself the fourth member of the kidnapped group of friends.
At the height of Mexico’s drug cartel brutality in the 2010s, gangs sometimes forced kidnap victims to kill each other. In 2010, one Mexican cartel abducted men from passenger buses and forced them to fight each other to death with sledgehammers.
Young workers killed after quitting cartel-operated call center
In May, as many as eight young workers were killed in Jalisco after they apparently tried to quit jobs at a call center operated by a violent drug cartel that targeted Americans in a real estate scam. The victims were lured by online ads offering high salaries and benefits, but soon realized they were working for a criminal organization that extorted money from unsuspecting buyers.
The workers decided to leave their jobs, but were intercepted by armed men who took them to a ranch and executed them. Their bodies were found with signs of torture and bullet wounds.
Relatives demand justice and security
The relatives of the seven kidnapped youths in Zacatecas had carried out protests earlier this week in the violence-plagued state to demand authorities find them. They blocked roads and highways, holding banners and photos of their loved ones. They also called for more security and protection from the government.
Two suspects were arrested in Villanueva and “there is a high probability that they are linked” to the crime, senior Zacatecas state official Rodrigo Reyes told the press. The bodies will have to be removed from the roadless site and brought to the state capital for identification.