CANCUN, Mexico – Police found three bodies at the bottom of a natural well near Cancun that are believed to be tied to a settling of accounts within a Cuban-American smuggling ring, officials said Friday.
Among those found was the Mexican girlfriend of Luis Lazaro Lara Morejon, a Cuban-American being investigated for smuggling Cubans through southern Mexico to the United States. His bullet-riddled body was found earlier this week along a rural road outside Cancun, said Attorney General Bello Melchor Rodriguez of Quintana Roo state.
Rodriguez said the bodies of Jesus Aguilar and Edwin Park, both Mexican citizens, also were found in the cenote, a sort of deep natural well common in the region. All three were handcuffed, blindfolded and gagged with duct tape.
Authorities said the victims appeared to have been shot before they were thrown into the cenote. Investigators found the shells of at least six bullets near the site.
Aguilar allegedly ran a safe house for arriving Cuban immigrants and Park allegedly arranged the transportation of Cubans to Mexico's Caribbean coast, Rodriguez said.
"We believe these people were executed by those who are part of a Cuban-American mafia," Rodriguez said. "They probably hired people to execute them. We don't know if the Cuban Americans themselves killed them."
Rodriguez said the killers painted a red arrow along a highway near the site, showing the way to the bodies.
Earlier this month, Mexican authorities arrested eight people outside Cancun — six of whom were Cuban-Americans or Cubans with U.S. residency — on suspicion of smuggling migrants.
Mexico, whose Caribbean coast is about 120 miles southwest of Cuba, is increasingly used by smugglers as a route to get Cuban migrants into the United States.
Migrants arriving here travel to the U.S. border, where they identify themselves as Cubans to American officials and are usually allowed to stay. Cuban migrants detained in Mexico are also often allowed to stay.
On Thursday, the Mexican navy detained 83 Cubans who were traveling in makeshift boats off the country's Caribbean coast and believed to be heading to the United States via Mexico.