BODIES are cut up and dumped in acid. Victims are stripped naked and hung from bridges. Others have their tongues cut out before being killed Mexican gangs are using horrifying tactics in an escalating drugs war.
Hitmen working for the cartels have massacred 70 people in the past ten days in
Tijuana on the US-Mexico border. Once a freewheeling city serving Americans tequila, cheap
medicines and sex, Tijuana is being devastated by the war.
The Mexican government says most of the recent victims belonged to the Arellano Felix family cartel that won notoriety in the 1990s for smuggling tonnes of cocaine into California and for its ruthless elimination of enemies.
But killings and arrests in recent years have weakened it, and other cartels are moving in to take control of the drugs trade in Tijuana and throughout the state of Baja California.
"The Arellano Felix cartel no longer has control of drug trafficking in Tijuana; rival gangs are coming into the plaza," said the state police chief, Daniel de la Rosa.
In one of the nastiest mass executions, hitmen dumped 16 bodies across Tijuana, some with their tongues cut out, late last month. Days later, police found a barrel thought to contain human remains in acid with a message from a gang threatening to make more "soup" of rivals.
The president, Felipe Calderon, has deployed thousands of troops in the city, but they have not stopped the killings and he is looking for new strategies.
Now the rival Gulf cartel and its feared armed wing, the Zetas, has joined the fight in Tijuana, fanning out from its home turf near the border with Texas.
Armed with grenades, automatic guns, dynamite and even rocket launchers, the Zetas are known for especially brutal methods, such as beheading their victims and cutting off body parts.
Mexico's most wanted man, Joaquin "Shorty" Guzman, a prison escapee who leads a cartel from the Pacific coast state of Sinaloa, also wants control of Tijuana and its smuggling corridor into California.
Guzman declared war on the Gulf cartel in 2006 and more than 3,000 people have died in turf wars so far this year.
Although under intense pressure from rival groups and the army, the Arellano Felix clan has refused to disappear. Enedina Arellano Felix, one of four sisters, is now believed to manage the family business after her brothers were arrested or shot by police.
"Enedina's sister Alicia has boosted the family operation with her son Fernando Sanchez Arellano, nicknamed The Engineer, around whom today's disputes in Tijuana resolve," said Miguel Angel Granados Chapa, a political analyst.
Sanchez Arellano has yet to unite the fractured cartel. Although Mexican officials say he has the support of Tijuana's corrupt police, his rivals are determined.
On a pile of corpses with their tongues cut out, dumped near a school, a message read: "This is what happens to those who work with the big mouth Engineer." (scotsman, 10.09.2008, Lizbeth Diaz) http://thescotsman.scotsman.com/world/Bodies-pile-up-in-Mexican.4573513.jp