Rule of law seems to have completely broken down in the southern Mexican state of Guerrero, with the back-country really run by competing murderous narco-gangs. On Nov. 25, a Mixed Operations force of army and state police troops discovered over 30 bodies buried in mass graves in the municipality of Zitlala, in the rugged highlands where hidden canyons produce copious crops of opium and cannabis. The remains—including 32 corpses and nine severed heads—were found in a series of 20 hidden graves. Several men were detained, and cars and weapons seized. Such finds have become alarmingly common in Mexico in recent years, and are dubbed "narco-fosas" (narco-graves).
It isn't yet known if the victims were local peasants who were slain by one gang for dealing with another, or kidnap victims whose families could not afford to pay. The drug gangs use abduction as a means of enforcement, but have also moved into the practice as an economic sideline in its own right. In late August, miners at the Minerales Temixco facility in Arcelia village were subject to a mass abduction when gunmen from the Tequilleros gang took over the mine.
Workers immediately walked off the job, shutting the silver and gold operation, to protest lack of security. They also took up an emergency drive to raise ransom money. Already impoverished villagers shelled out, and most of the workers were released. The state's Gov. Héctor Astudillo was called in to negotiate with Los Tequilleros.
The mining industry in Guerrero is also being colonized by the narco-gangs. Nearly throughout Mexico, the cartels are moving beyond their mainstays of illicit substances to contraband control of legal commodities like oil and minerals, establishing a virtual parallel economy.