Grim Mexican cartel tactics – acid baths, mummification and ISIS-style execution

For millions of people in Mexico, news of dismembered body parts or a brutally tortured corspses being found is not as shocking as you would expect.

The Congressional Research Service estimates 150,000 homicides in Mexico between 2006 and 2018 were related to drug cartels, with tens of thousands of other people having "disappeared".

As shocking as those numbers are, the sadistic nature of some of the killings makes it all the more horrifying.

READ MORE: Inside the wild lives of El Chapo's sons from brutal lieutenant to brother killed at 21

Here, the Daily Star details the deadly methods of Mexico's drug cartels.

ISIS-style beheadings

ISIS-style execution videos have become increasingly common, with one of Los Zetas' leaders – Iván Velázquez Caballero – earning himself the nickname 'El Talibano' for carrying them out.

Los Zetas, set up by former Mexican Army commandos who deserted their ranks after being trained by US forces, is one of the cartels most linked to the increase in stomach-churning violence.

Other cartels have picked up on their techniques. In July last year, members of the Jalisco New Generation Cartel (CJNG) filmed themselves chopping the heads off three men in a stark warning to a rival group.

"This will be the fate of every Pájaros Sierra b***h. You sons of b***hes we’re coming after you," one man said in the clip, while another struggled to hack through their victim's neck.

Acid baths

Given the sheer amount of people being killed, cartels have had to work out how to get rid of victims.

Some opt for mass graves (and thousands have been found including one earlier this month) but those who want to leave no trace tend to go one step further.

The practice of dissolving bodies in acid baths was pioneered by Santiago Meza Lopez aka El Polozero, 'The Soup Maker', who is thought to have dissolved at least 300.

Court documents revealed Meza Lopez was chosen for the job while working on a farm in 1996, where senior cartel members asked him to carry out an "experiment" with water and acid.

They dropped a leg of meat into the solution and let it sit for two hours where it dissolved.

Lopez always insisted that he was forced into the work by cartel bosses. He was sentenced to a decade in prison in 2012, so it is thought he is now a free man.

Mutilation and dumping

Often drug cartels will want their victims to be found, with mutilated corpses dumped alongside messages known as 'narcomantas', either threatening rivals or law enforcement.

In one example, the Santa Rosa de Lima Cartel left a decapitated head and body at the side of the San José del Llano bridge in Apaseo El Grande in March last year.

The sign they left had a grave warning for the CJNG. It read: "You piece of sh*t b***h a** Jaliscas. This is so that you can see how our d**k feels here. The state of Guanajuato is a territory that belongs to the Santa Rosa de Lima Cartel."

The banners don't always contain violent threats. In March last year the CJNG in Colima used one to accuse a rival boss of of being "too busy looking for t*ts".

Sometimes, it's the location of the bodies that sends the message – as was the case in August last year, also in Colima, when two mummified bodies were left next to a school.

Hearts and minds

Not all of the methods used by Mexico's drug cartels involved extreme violence, as often the hearts and minds of local people can be an important tool for criminal gangs.

Some drug lords, such as the infamous Joaquín 'El Chapo' Guzmán, have gone as far as to build hospitals and schools.

Gunmen from several cartels were spotted handing out supplies, often emblazoned with their gang's emblem, at the start of the Covid-19 pandemic.

More recently, the CJNG gave branded footballs and fake Gucci bags to children. They were also spotted dispensing Christmas presents to crowds in Guadalajara this December.

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