CANCUN, Mexico – Police in Cancun found 12 decomposing bodies in four caverns and were searching for more cadavers in violence blamed on drug gangs in the popular resort city, officials said Friday.
Earlier this month, police discovered six other bodies, three of them cut open and their hearts removed, in a similar cavern near the Mexican resort. Three of the bodies had the letter “Z” carved on their abdomens – a possible reference to the Zeta drug gang.
Police say detained gunmen have led them to all the clandestine graves – dried up sinkhole caves, known as cenotes.
Quintana Roo state Attorney General Francisco Alor said Friday that nine alleged hit men detained three days earlier led police to the 12 bodies. None of the bodies have been identified.
Quintana Roo state, where Cancun is located, is a transshipment point for cocaine being smuggled from Colombia to the United States.
In 2009, prosecutors arrested Cancun’s police chief, Francisco Velasco, to investigate whether he protected the Zetas drug gang. A former governor of the state was sentenced to 36 years for money laundering and helping a cartel smuggle narcotics.
More than 22,700 people have died nationwide in drug violence since late 2006, when President Felipe Calderon sent soldiers and federal police to battle the cartels.
Cartel hit men have been known to use mass dumping sites to dispose of their victims. In late May, police in the colonial tourist town of Taxco discovered 55 bodies in an abandoned silver mine.
Meanwhile, Mexican soldiers seized more than $1million in cash from a house in a northern state that is the home of the country’s most powerful cartel, authorities said Friday.
Soldiers acting on an anonymous tip raided three houses Thursday in Culiacan, the capital of Sinaloa, the Defense Department said in a statement.
The department did not say what cartel might have owned the money. There were no arrests.