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At least 20 bodies dumped in Mexico's Guadalajara

Authorities found at least 20 bodies dumped in three vehicles near a busy intersection in Mexico's second city of Guadalajara, the state prosecutor's office said today.

world Updated: Nov 24, 2011 23:04 IST

Authorities found at least 20 bodies dumped in three vehicles near a busy intersection in Mexico's second city of Guadalajara, the state prosecutor's office said on Thursday.

The macabre discovery came just ahead of a major international book fair in the western city and a day after 17 charred bodies were found in two vehicles in the city of Culiacan, in Sinaloa state, further north on the Pacific coast.

"The first reports are of at least 20" cadavers," said Lino Gonzalez, spokesperson for the prosecutor's office Jalisco state, of which Guadalajara is the capital.

The victims had been tied and gagged, senior Jalisco state official Luis Carlos Najera told the Televisa network, speaking of "more than 20" victims.

Police found a message from an alleged criminal gang inside one of the vehicles but Najera declined to comment.

The Guadalajara cartel was the country's most powerful drug trafficking network in the 1980s but has since divided and the city of 4.4 million has seen little of the spectacular drug violence currently shaking parts of Mexico.

In February, however, suspected drug traffickers threw grenades, fired shots and burned cars in the city following the detention of two local gang members.

The Sinaloa cartel of fugitive billionaire druglord Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman and its allies, as well as gangs such as La Familia, based in neighboring Michoacan state, are known to act in the area.

The spectacular act of dumping bodies on a busy highway echoed another incident in September in which 35 bodies were tipped out of trucks under a busy underpass in the eastern port of Veracruz, on the Gulf of Mexico.

Authorities blamed those killings on the New Generation drug gang, which has suspected ties to the Sinaloa gang and also calls itself the Zeta Killers.

The Zetas -- set up by ex-army officers turned hitmen in the 1990s -- are blamed for spreading extortion and murders, often in eastern areas.

The vehicles found on Thursday lay close to the city's convention center, which will host the Guadalajara International Book Fair, the most important in the Spanish-speaking world, starting this weekend.

Scores of authors, including Nobel laureates in literature Mario Vargas Llosa and Herta Muller, were expected at the event.

A survey released Wednesday found few Mexicans believe the government can defeat drug cartels, as the military crackdown on organized crime of President Felipe Calderon enters its sixth year.

The poll, by the Mitofsky agency, showed 14% believed Calderon's strategy was succeeding, compared to 23% in a poll in March 2010.

The latest poll, of 1,000 people interviewed in October, showed 44% thought the situation would not improve during Calderon's last year in government, which ends in December 2012.