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New Mexico carnage amid anti-violence protests

07 april 2011, 15:58
At least 59 bodies have been found on a ranch in Mexico's northern state of Tamaulipas on the US border, amid massive protests against drug violence the government has failed to stem, AFP reports.

Eight illegal mass graves filled with corpses were uncovered Tuesday in La Joya, a farming village in the San Fernando township, authorities said late Wednesday.

They feared the number of dead would rise as remains have only been counted in three of the eight pits.

Police and military staff learned March 25 that several buses had disappeared in the area, leading to their investigation which turned up the grisly find.

A military patrol located the mass graves. The Tamaulipas state prosecutor's office said 11 people had been arrested and another five kidnapping victims had been set free in the same operation.

"With our work that is under way, we are trying to establish if the remains are those of the people who went missing on the buses," the prosecutor's statement said.

The graves are in the same town of San Fernando where 72 migrants from El Salvador, Honduras, Guatemala, Ecuador and Brazil were killed in August 2010 for refusing to work for drug traffickers.

On Wednesday thousands of outraged citizens took to the streets of 38 Mexican cities, venting anger over widespread violence linked to the country's illegal drug trade.

Crowds swelled to about 10,000 in downtown Mexico City by the afternoon.

The protest marches were organized following the murder of a well-known author's son along with four close friends and two others on March 28.

Javier Sicilia, a poet and columnist for the daily La Jornada and the weekly Proceso -- two of the country's leading publications -- called for the protests following the killing of his son Juan Francisco, 24, near Cuernavaca, 90 kilometers (55 miles) south of Mexico City.

He met for two hours with President Felipe Calderon at Los Pinos, the presidential palace. A lawyer representing Sicilia said the Mexican president provided details about the investigation concerning his son's death.

"Calderon, assassin of the youth," read a large banner held up by protesters, who chanted "Enough blood!," "this government is driving us down to hell" or "this is not our war but these are our dead."

In the southern city of Cuernavaca, Sicilia lead a protest of some 5,000 people. Several hundred people also participated in a protest in the western city of Guadalajara, Mexico's second city.

Organizers said protesters had gathered in 38 cities across the country, and before Mexico's diplomatic missions in the United States, Britain, France, Argentina, Peru and Chile.

Seven major drug gangs are operating in Mexico whose bloody clashes have left over 34,600 people dead since December 2006, when Calderon's government launched a military crackdown that has so far failed to put a damper on the violence.

Over 3,000 people were killed this year alone, according to figures cited by the Mexican media.

Authorities said Saturday that 20 people were killed in under 24 hours in Mexico's Ciudad Juarez, which borders the US state of Texas.

Ciudad Juarez is considered the most violent city in Mexico, with more than 3,100 homicides last year. Most of the violence is blamed on drug cartels who fight for control of lucrative drug routes into the United States.

On Monday, the United States boosted security at its consulate in Mexico's drug war-rocked northern city of Monterrey, where it built a second protective ring wall.

Two other US consulates on the Mexican side of the shared border were temporarily closed last year. Security concerns forced the office in Ciudad Juarez to close for several days, while another in Nuevo Laredo was closed after an explosive device attack.

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