by Jeannie DeAngelis
Clash Daily Guest Contributor
The “place of eternal formation and fertility of flower buds,” also known as Uruapan, is located in the Mexican state of Michoacán and is home to avocado farms, a monarch butterfly sanctuary, and a Pepsi bottling plant. That is why having to pass seven corpses propped up on plastic picnic chairs in the middle of a traffic circle would definitely put a damper on anyone’s day.
That’s right. Dropped in the center of the city, seven men aged 15 to 40 who had been tortured and shot in the head were neatly positioned in lawn chairs with notes anchored to their chests – not with a safety pin, but with ice picks! The Post-Its did not say “Note to self: bring home a quart of milk.” Quite the contrary – all seven messages read: “Warning! This will happen to thieves”, except for the one that said “Warning! This will happen to thieves, kidnappers, sex offenders and extortionists.”
All of the alleged car washers were shot execution-style, but only some of the victims had their hands and feet bound. Those victims were probably the ones who were refusing to cooperate before having their brains blown out. Nonetheless, it goes without saying – Pepsi or no Pepsi, it looks like these fellows made either the La Familia Michoacana or the Los Caballeros Templarios very, very angry.
Although quite a sight, the Pepsi Seven weren’t the only murders in Mexico in recent days. In a neighboring town called Guerrero, the body count climbed to 14 when seven more people were shot to death in the Hotel Restorants Vegas bar in the Ciudad Altamirano region of Tierra Caliente.
According to authorities, “Fast and Furious” masked men armed with AK-47s arrived in trucks, burst into the bar and opened fire, gunning down nine people, leaving two alive in critical condition. Although the stories vary as to the identity of those killed, most agree that among the dead were four civilians and three off-duty federal agents. That time, no notes were left behind.
The noncombatant patrons were likely innocent victims of a confrontation between armed gunmen and federal agents who, after being followed to a bank, sought refuge in the bar of the nearby hotel. The assassins followed them in and shot up the place, messing up the bar, shattering bottles of Mexican beer, and ruining everyone’s evening.
Over the last seven years, about 70,000 people have been killed in drug-related violence attributed to drug cartels. The Mexican government “estimates that at least another 26,000 have ‘disappeared’ in that same period.”
Abductions and fatal gunshot wounds aside, the mode of execution that garners the most attention is beheading. The fine art of head removal, sometimes with a steak knife and sometimes with a chainsaw, made its debut and picked up speed in Uruapan, Michoacán, home of the Pepsi Seven, after armed men in masks rolled five heads onto the dance floor of a bar as a warning to a rival gang. That special delivery also came with a note that said the act was “divine justice” on behalf of “the family.”
If you think finding seven dead bodies in an intersection is disturbing, try having your line dancing interrupted by heads rolling across the dance floor right in the middle of a well-executed synchronized dance step.
Decapitations increased during Felipe Calderon’s presidency. In 2011 between January and November, there were 493 beheadings and dismemberments directly attributed to the Zetas, who got the idea to remove heads from bodies after they mimicked al-Qaeda and received training from Kaibiles, a Guatemalan Special Forces squad.
While a gory sight to see, at least the Pepsi Seven didn’t have their faces peeled off, sewn onto soccer balls, and delivered to city hall in plastic bags. That’s what happened in Sinaloa in 2010 to Hugo Hernandez. Poor Hugo gave new meaning to the concept of being unable to “hold it together.” The deceased man’s torso was “found in a plastic container in a separate location from another box that contained his arms, legs and skull” and was also accompanied by a note that said “Happy New Year, because this will be your last.”
After Enrique Pena Nieto replaced Felipe Calderon as Mexico’s new president, he vowed to quell the chaos and carnage. Yet by mid-February of this year the bodies were really beginning to pile up, as 2,243 individuals had already been murdered in cartel-related incidents.
Granted, the lawn chair lineup was a shocking thing to discover, especially at 5:30 in the morning. However, in the overall scheme of things, intact corpses with their heads and faces still attached is a vast improvement over the bloodshed and butchery that Mexico has endured for the past six years. As for those seven bodies found outside the Pepsi plant in Uruapan, well, unfortunately for them that ‘Pepsi Day’ they had hoped for didn’t turn out quite like they expected.