Mexico: Bodies hang from bridge, may be linked to CJNG avocado cartel

Nineteen dead bodies have been found displayed in a Mexican city in what appears to be a scare tactic by a local cartel.

Officials found nine bodies hanging from a bridge in Uruapan, in the western Michoacán state, around 5:30 a.m. Thursday local time, Mexico News Daily reported, citing Michoacán Attorney General Adrián López Solís.

While this kind of cartel-linked violence in Mexico has historically been related to the drugs trade, some experts have pointed to the trend of criminal gangs increasingly fighting for control of the avocado trade as well.

The corpses of six men and one woman were found underneath a pedestrian overpass nearby, Mexico News Daily reported.

Three more bodies were found further down the road in the residentia Ampliación Revolución neighborhood, The Associated Press (AP) reported, also citing López.

Many of those bodies had been dismembered, Mexico News Daily reported. All 19 victims had been shot to death.

Map showing the approximate location of Uruapan, Michoacán state, where 19 bodies seemingly linked to the CJNG cartel were found on Thursday.
Google Maps/INSIDER

Gruesome images on local media, which INSIDER has decided not to republish, showed some of the victims hanging by their necks from the bridge with their pants pulled down.

They were displayed next to a banner that showing the initials of the Jalisco New Generation Cartel (CJNG), a group based in the nearby Jalisco state. The banner contained a threat to their rivals.

“We want to make clear that whoever helps La Chatarra, Ronal, Ratón, Moto, Mono Verde, Maniaco or Filos will end up like this,” the message said, according to Mexico News Daily.

“Kind people, go on with your routine. Be patriotic, and kill a Viagra,” it continued, referring to the CJNG’s rival gang in Michoacán, named Los Viagras.

Workers press avocados to make guacamole at the Aguamich packing plant in Uruapan in February 1997. Michoacán state is Mexico’s largest producer of avocados.
Saba Press, Keith Dannemiller/AP

López blamed the killings on a “turf war” between the local branches of various cartels around the country, adding that the latest spate of violence appeared to be linked to the drug trade.

“There is a turf war between the [local] cells of different criminal groups,” he said, according to Al Jazeera. “They are fighting for territorial control over the production, distribution and consumption of drugs.”

“That leads to this type of incident, which alarms the population, and rightfully so,” he added.

Experts believe that another factor driving inter-cartel violence is a struggle over avocado production.

As the global demand for avocados grows, so too has the fight over the fruit’s production and distribution.

Mexico produces almost half of the world’s avocados, and Michoacán is the country’s top producer, Business Insider’s Christopher Woody previously reported.

Read more: Farmers in Mexico’s avocado heartland are relying on vigilantes to protect their ‘green gold’

A man selling avocados in Mexico City, Mexico, in February 2018.
Edgard Garrido/Reuters

The avocado industry is worth $1.5 billion in Michoacán alone, the International Crisis Group reported in June. CJNG has also taken part in it.

Falko Ernst, a Mexico-based analyst for the think tank, told the Guardian that this week’s killings were partly to control Uruapan’s local drug trade, but “the big magnet here is avocados.”

Some local communities in Michoacán have even deployed paramilitary forces to protect themselves from the cartels.

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