MEXICO CITY – Mexicans long accustomed to violent crime have been shocked by the assault of a family in the central state of Puebla in which attackers raped the woman and girl in the group and killed a 3-year-old child before leaving them on the darkened side of a main highway in the central state of Puebla.
A state official speaking on condition of anonymity said Wednesday that the family had stopped briefly on a trip to Mexico City when they were assaulted in the pre-dawn hours of Tuesday by eight men, some of them armed. The official was not authorized to be quoted by name.
The father, mother, their nearly 3-year-old son and a 14-year-old niece had parked their truck by the side of the highway apparently so the father could urinate, something not uncommon in an area where there are few public bathrooms.
The assailants, traveling in two cars, blocked the family's vehicle on the shoulder of the road, beat the father, and raped both the mother and the young niece.
Among the most horrifying aspects was the killing of the toddler, who was either shot by the assailants or killed by a piece of flying glass when the attackers shot out one of the truck's windows.
Left in the dark by the side of the highway, the family had to walk about a mile (1 ½ kilometers) to the nearest toll booth to seek help with the dead boy in their arms.
The Puebla state prosecutor, Víctor Carranca, confirmed only the rapes. He said the crime occurred on a federal highway, but said state investigators were looking into the case and expressed hope that video cameras at the toll booths might help identify the attackers.
States such as Puebla had largely been spared the high profile, violent crimes that plagued neighboring states like Veracruz, where drug cartels have been more active.
But recently Puebla has become one of the states where fuel-theft rings — often linked to other crimes such as those involving drugs — have become more active, tapping into government pipelines at a high rate.
Mexico is struggling with the reality that some states once viewed as 'safe havens' from violence have turned bloody. Recent shootings have marred the tranquility of resorts such as Cancun, and the twin resorts of Los Cabos in Baja California Sur state.
Baja California Sur saw 133 slayings during the first quarter of this year, the largest annual percentage increase in all of Mexico. Homicides were up 682 percent from the 17 the state saw during the same period in 2016.
Also on Wednesday, authorities reported a series of violent confrontations had hit the Mexican city of Reynosa, across the border from McAllen, Texas. Reynosa has long been the scene of bloody shootouts between rival faction of the Gulf cartel and authorities.
The security spokesman for Tamaulipas state said the string of shootings and road blockades broke out around midnight and lasted into the pre-dawn hours.
The spokesman's office said in a statement that gunmen in several vehicles opened fire on military patrols.
It was not immediately clear if there were injuries or damage. The office said it would issue a more complete report later.
Nine vehicles, an unspecified number of rifles and "a large amount of ammunition" were seized by the military and state police.
The office said drug gangs blocked roads at 10 points in Reynosa. The gangs frequently hijack and burn vehicles to block roads.