Bodies Of 35 People Dumped In Veracruz, Mexico

Gunmen in Mexico have dumped 35 bodies under an overpass on a main street in the Gulf Coast city of Veracruz. The victims showed signs of torture.

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The vicious brutality of the Mexican drug cartels is again in evidence, this time in the city of Veracruz, where gunmen blocked traffic at rush hour yesterday and dumped the bodies of 35 people beneath a busy overpass. Officials are reviewing surveillance tapes from nearby cameras.

NPR's Jason Beaubien reports.

JASON BEAUBIEN: The city of Veracruz, for the most part, had been on the sidelines of Mexico's brutal drug war. Most of the gruesome massacres were happening further north in the state of Tamaulipas or along the border or in Monterey. Veracruz was the sleepy, slightly gritty port on the Gulf Coast where Mexicans would go for an affordable weekend getaway.

Then yesterday, at the height of the afternoon rush hour, gunmen drove into the tourist zone of Veracruz and dumped two pickup truck loads of bodies on a major thoroughfare.

REYNALDO ESCOBAR PEREZ: (Speaking foreign language)

BEAUBIEN: Reynaldo Escobar Perez, the attorney general of Veracruz, said 23 of the victims were men and 12 were women. He said most of them were asphyxiated or beaten to death and only one had been shot. Among the dead were one police officer and two teenage boys, 15 and 17 years old. Authorities are still attempting to identify several of the bodies, but Escobar says most of the victims had criminal records.

ESCOBAR PEREZ: (Speaking foreign language)

BEAUBIEN: Most were involved in activities related to organized crime, Escobar said, such as kidnapping, extortion, murder, drug trafficking, among other offenses. The local press speculated that the killings were the work of the Gulf Cartel, but Escobar said it's too early to tell who carried out the shocking act.

More than 35,000 people have been killed in Mexico in drug-related violence since President Felipe Calderon declared war on the cartels in December of 2006. President Calderon, addressing the General Assembly of the United Nations today in New York, said violence in Mexico is being fueled by the insatiable global demand for narcotics.

FELIPE CALDERON: (Speaking foreign language)

BEAUBIEN: Calderon said drug-consuming countries have a moral obligation to reduce the huge profits criminal groups make each year on the narcotics trade. According to various estimates, the Mexican cartels generate between $15- and $30 billion a year smuggling drugs into the United States.

President Calderon stopped short of explicitly calling on the US to legalize drugs, but he said rich nations must consider all options to undermine the economic power of these brutal criminal organizations.

Jason Beaubien, NPR News, Mexico City.

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