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72 Killed in Drug Cartel Violence Near the U.S. Border

Disturbing news from along the border: Bodies of 72 people presumed to be trying to cross to the U.S. were found Tuesday in a mass grave in northern Mexico. Initial reports indicate the 58 men and 14 women were killed by members of a drug cartel, with one survivor telling authorities they were shot after refusing to work for the cartel. It’s not the first mass killing by drug cartels, but it may be the largest. Mexican authorities discovered 51 bodies in mass graves in July, and uncovered 55 bodies in a mine in May.

As cartels become more desperate for money, experts say cartel leaders are more likely to kidnap and extort migrants trying to get to the U.S. Mexican President Felipe Calderon alluded to this in a statement late Wednesday condemning the killings: “This is a result of the activity of the state against them, which has significantly weakened the operational capacity of criminal groups.”

Migrants are often prime subjects for kidnapping because many of them have ties to the U.S., Christian Science Monitor’s Sara Miller Llana reported today:

The journey through Mexico has become more and more treacherous as suspected drug traffickers branch out into other businesses, including human trafficking. They are increasingly targeting migrants in a variety of ways, say analysts, authorities, and migrants.

Migrants are often victims not only because they are presumed to have cash on hand, but because many have relatives with cash in the US. This was confirmed to the Monitor during interviews with migrants at Tultitlan in central Mexico, a crossing ground for many heading to America.

At a shelter in Tultitlan, migrants say they are victims both of Mexican authorities seeking bribes and Mexican gangs who beat them for their cash, and worse, kidnap them in hopes of getting ransom from relatives in the US.

There is one potential silver lining to the phenomenon: Experts argue cartels become easier to catch when they become more violent because they can leave more trails for law enforcement.

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