MEXICO CITY — The Mexican army said Monday that the top leaders of the hyper-violent Zetas drug cartel ordered underlings to leave 49 mutilated bodies in a northern Mexico town square, and then hung banners around the country denying responsibility.
The announcement came at a news conference to present suspect Daniel Jesus Elizondo Ramirez, who allegedly got orders from Zetas leaders Miguel-Angel Trevino Morales and Heriberto Lazcano to dump the bodies in the town square of Cadereyta, in the border state of Nuevo Leon.
Brig. Gen. Edgar Luis Villegas said that Elizondo Ramirez, despite his nickname of “El Loco,” or the Crazy One, apparently got nervous about dumping the hacked-up bodies in town and dumped them on a highway outside of Cadereyta instead. The bodies with their heads, hands and feet hacked off were found May 13.
A video posted later on a Mexican web site that covers drug crimes showed gunmen in the dark dumping the bodies, and unfurling a banner claiming responsibility for the killings signed by the Zetas, who are locked in a battle with the rival Gulf and Sinaloa cartels. Villegas said another suspect who is still at large had made that videotape.
In following days, banners appeared hanging from freeway overpasses in northern San Luis Potosi and other states denying the Zetas were responsible.
Villegas said the denials were part of a Zetas strategy to “cause confusion among authorities and the public.”
Elizondo Ramirez tried to escape arrest Friday by tossing a hand grenade at troops before they captured him in a suburb of the northern city of Monterrey, Villegas said. He is now being held under a form of house arrest while prosecutors build their case against him.
Villegas said Elizondo Ramirez had acknowledged accompanying Zetas second-in-command Miguel-Angel Trevino Morales to Guatemala in 2008 to assassinate a rival drug capo, Juan Jose “Juancho” Leon, who was killed in 2008 in an ambush.
The Zetas have expanded their territory in recent years into neighboring Guatemala.
Villegas said Elizondo Ramirez had also confessed to killing members of the Gulf cartel and burning or burying their bodies in another area of Nuevo Leon state.