CULIACAN, Mexico – Mexico saw a wave of killings over the weekend, despite what the government says is a drop in the number of deaths related to drug violence.
In the northern state of Sinaloa, 17 bodies were found over the weekend, including six dumped in a pile along a highway. The Sinaloa state prosecutors' office said two of the men were decapitated.
The discovery on Sunday came just over two weeks after another pile of six bodies was found in another Sinaloa town.
State Attorney General Marco Antonio Higuera called the two sets of killings "very different," but said officials would hold an urgent meeting to discuss the apparent upswing in killings.
In a northern suburb of Mexico City, officials said Monday that seven bodies were found on a street near two cars in the city of Ecatepec. Most of the seven men were found bound, gagged and had been shot to death, state prosecutors' spokesman Claudio Barrera said.
In the same suburb in October, police found the bullet-ridden bodies of eight people dumped on streets, including five men and one woman between the ages of 20 and 25 who weren't wearing clothes.
Mexico City has largely been spared the drug violence afflicting some parts of the country, but in recent years there have been a spate of gang-style killings in the suburbs of the capital, including multiple bodies dumped in one spot, often bound, mutilated or shot to death. Since the larger Beltran Leyva and La Familia cartels were broken up by government attacks on the leadership, smaller gangs have been fighting over turf. Attacks on La Familia in its home state of Michoacan have pushed the gang eastward into the state of Mexico and the capital's biggest suburbs.
On Saturday, officials in Michoacan said they discovered the bodies of three men and three women buried in a clandestine grave in a rural area. All of the victims were gagged, had their feet tied at the ankles and apparently were tortured.
The Michoacan state prosecutors' office said the shallow grave was found after neighbors noticed dogs digging at the spot, uncovering human remains. The bodies were apparently buried about a month ago.
The office said three of the men and one woman found in the grave had their hands cut off. Drug cartels sometimes mutilate corpses' hands or heads to make identification difficult.
Mexico's Interior Department reported in April that drug-related deaths have fallen 14 percent from December into March, as compared to the same period a year earlier. But non-drug-related deaths actually rose by 6.8 percent during the same period, raising the question of whether some deaths have been reclassified to improve the country's image and to help President Enrique Pena Nieto appear to meet one of his key campaign pledges: to reduce drug-related violence.
"Does this mean that the narcos are killing less, but that all other possible forms of violence are growing? Has there been some kind of explosion in domestic violence, bar fights, land disputes?" wrote security analyst Alejandro Hope in a column for the news site Animal Politico. "Or it could it be that they have changed the standards to reclassify drug-related killings?"
"To me, it is very suspicious that the numbers show everybody killing more, except the narcos," Hope wrote.
The Interior Department said it would not comment on the allegations.
Associated Press writer Mark Stevenson in Mexico City contributed to this report.