Four severed heads were found at the foot of a statue of the President

On Wednesday four severed heads were found beneath a statue of the Mexican president in Apatzingan, Michoacan, the bodies have yet to be found.  Apatzingan in Western Mexico is where Mexican leaders once gathered to write the first constitution however now the city of about 100,000 is becoming famous for another reason; a gruesome spate of decapitations perpetrated by local drug cartels. The heads found on Wednesday make it 18 decapitations in 2010 for that city alone. The state of Michoacán is the home territory of La Familia Michoacána a quasi-religious drug cartel famous for their brutality. Their power is based on instilling fear into the population and leaving decapitated rivals on the side of the road has become their modus operandi. The decapitated bodies are usually left with notes warning rivals or justifying the killings as “divine justice”, the messages left at the latest lot of severed heads were signed by La Resistencia a group linked to La Familia.  One of the ways La Familia gain support from the local population is by claiming to be ridding the region of Los Zetas, another equally brutal cartel that have become unpopular because of their use of extortion. In January, six headless bodies with their heads lying nearby were found by the side of the road in Apatzingan, the letter Z had been carved into the heads and torsos of the victims.

This macabre form of gaining power is now commonplace in Mexico and noone seems to be safe from decapitation. Last week a police chief in Northern Mexico was decapitated and the initials of Cartel del Golfo (CDG) smeared in blood on the side of his patrol car. Two years ago in a brutal display of power from a drug cartel the corpses of nine soldiers were left hanging in a street in Southern Mexico 2008; their heads were found later in a bin liner.

Decapitation has been used for centuries as a form of execution as well as intimidation. It appeared again in the 21st Century as a trademark of Islamic fundamentalism. However in the last five years Mexican drug cartels have become the new leaders in this gruesome form of intimidation. Decapitated heads have been rolled on to nightclub dance floors, put on spikes or left on the doorsteps of politicians, police chiefs or the headquarters of newspapers. What levels of brutality will they reach before this war is over?