Authorities close the highway upon arrival at the scene
Mexican authorities confirmed last month that the case files of the 2012 massacre in Cadereyta Jiménez, Nuevo Leon, were destroyed by the parcel delivery company responsible for sending the files to the Attorney General’s Office (FGR). The Foundation for Justice and the Democratic Rule of Law (FJEDD) filed a complaint with the National Human Rights Commission (CNDH) to investigate and determine who was behind the destruction of these files.
The Cadereyta Jiménez massacre was one of the bloodiest episodes in the ongoing drug war. On 12 May 2012, authorities discovered 49 decapitated corpses on a highway. All of the victims had their heads, feet, and hands cut off; they bore signs of torture and were stuffed in plastic bags. Officials stated that the victims were migrants heading to the U.S. and that they were killed by Los Zetas. As of 2020, only 17 of the 49 victims have been positively identified. The victims were from Honduras, Guatemala, Nicaragua and Mexico.
The FJEDD highlighted that in October 2017 the CNDH issued a recommendation to authorities in Tamaulipas and Nuevo León, and to the FGR, to share their investigation files on the case. The FGR reached out to the Nuevo León Prosecutor’s Office and asked them to provide them with the files. Nuevo León Prosecutor’s Office was the first government entity to arrive at the scene and gather the initial evidences.
However, Nuevo León authorities confirmed to the FGR last month that the files were destroyed. “After several reminders and official information requests, the FGR never received the files. We received a notification that the files had been destroyed by the parcel delivery company”, officials said. The FJEDD asked authorities to keep the case open until the 32 remaining victims are identified and those responsible are brought to justice.
In 2012, the two largest criminal groups in Mexico were Los Zetas and the Sinaloa Cartel. Los Zetas’ former allies, the Gulf Cartel, had joined forces with the Sinaloans and were pressuring the Zetas’ operations across Mexico and elsewhere. Much of the violence between Los Zetas and the Sinaloa Cartel that year was over the control of cocaine supplies from South America and turf disputes across Mexico. This triggered a series of tit-for-attack episodes that eventually resulted in the Cadereyta Jiménez mass murder.
According to investigators, the mass murder was carried out on orders of Zetas former leaders Heriberto Lazcano Lazcano (“Z-3”) and Miguel Angel Trevino Morales (“Z-40”). They carried out the attack to increase law enforcement efforts in the Monterrey metropolitan area, a territory where the Gulf Cartel held more influence. In the Mexican criminal underworld, the tactic of stoking law enforcement efforts in a rival turf is known as calentamiento de plaza (English: heating up the turf).
The ground that is won or lost is a plaza, or a geographical area of influence. When Cartel A loses a territory (plaza) from Cartel B, Cartel A can scorch the turf in two ways: by tipping authorities to hideouts own by Cartel B, or simply by committing random acts of violence in the turf and luring in some “heat” for Cartel B.
Though the Cadereyta Jiménez may be categorized as a senseless act of violence, it could have had the hidden agenda explained above. After all, cartels do not have much to lose in a turf they do not control.