OFFICIALLY, nearly 35,000 people have been killed since Mexico’s president, Felipe Calderón, began an assault on his country’s drug-trafficking “cartels” at the end of 2006. But the true body count will never be known. On April 6th police discovered mass graves near San Fernando, a town in Tamaulipas state near the border with the United States, which so far have yielded 183 bodies. Two weeks later hidden tombs were discovered in the north-western city of Durango from which 100 corpses have so far been extracted.
The Tamaulipas victims were apparently killed with sledgehammers or burned alive. They included a car salesman, a social worker and a Guatemalan migrant. Investigators believe they were kidnapped from buses to be robbed and raped by the Zetas cartel. The authorities’ failure to stop the slaughter, even as unclaimed luggage mounted at bus terminals, is stunning: only last summer, 72 migrants were found murdered near San Fernando, supposedly by the same cartel. However, police did free two groups of kidnapped migrants elsewhere in the state this month.