A horrifying video appears to confirm the murders of at least three of five young men who disappeared in Jalisco last Friday. The two other men are also presumably dead.
Five friends aged between 19 and 22 were apparently abducted Friday in Lagos de Moreno, a municipality in northeastern Jalisco that borders both Guanajuato and Aguascalientes. The abduction is believed to have occurred after they attended a local fair.
On Monday, a photograph appeared on social media showing five men kneeling on the ground with tape over their mouths and their hands tied. Two of them had obvious facial injuries, indicating they had been beaten.
A video shows one of the young men – presumably under coercion – beating another of the apparent abductees. Two bloody and lifeless bodies are seen in the foreground of the macabre footage, over which the message “PURO MZ” is superimposed.
The “pure MZ” message is apparently a reference to Ismael “El Mayo” Zambada, a leader of the Sinaloa Cartel, which is engaged in a turf war with the Jalisco New Generation Cartel in the region where the murders occurred.
Blanca Trujillo Cuevas, a state government prosecutor who focuses on missing persons cases, said Tuesday that the families of the five men have seen the photograph and video and told authorities that there is a “high probability” that those who appear are their loved ones.
Given that they are clearly identifiable in the photo, there would appear to be no doubt that the young men are those who disappeared on Friday: Dante Cedillo Hernández, Roberto Carlos Olmeda, Diego Alberto Lara Santoyo, Jaime Adolfo Martínez Miranda and Uriel Galván. There is no evidence that they had any involvement in organized crime.
Early Tuesday, Jalisco authorities located a burnt-out vehicle that belonged to one of the five men. The remains of at least one person were found in the vehicle, which was abandoned on a road between Lagos de Moreno and the neighboring municipality of Encarnación de Díaz. Authorities said that the remains will undergo testing to determine the number of victims and who they correspond to. Another vehicle used by the men last Friday was located on Sunday.
Jalisco Attorney General Luis Joaquín Méndez told a press conference Tuesday that a blood stain was found at a lookout in Lagos de Moreno to which the men traveled after attending the fair. He also said that authorities had secured a property near where the second vehicle was found. Méndez said that weapons, drugs and license plates of vehicles reported as stolen were found at the property, which may have been used by people involved in the crimes committed against the young men.
Jalisco authorities said they would ask the Federal Attorney General’s Office (FGR) to investigate the case given the likely involvement of organized crime. Méndez said that the search for the missing men will continue as forensic testing of the remains takes place.
Jalisco Governor Enrique Alfaro said on Wednesday that he had met with the mayor of Lagos de Moreno and his security cabinet to review the progress in the search for the men.
“At this time that’s the priority and hundreds of officers … are deployed in the region to find them,” he wrote on the social media site X, formerly Twitter.
“The State Attorney General’s Office continues to make progress in the investigation to understand what is behind this brutal event and find the culprits,” Alfaro said.
While the crime is “clearly linked to organized crime, which is a matter of federal purview, we’re going to continue doing our part,” he wrote.
“I hope the FGR and the federal government will do the same,” Alfaro said, adding that the crime has “profoundly hurt Jalisco.”
The case – which triggered a protest in Lagos de Moreno on Sunday – comes after a spate of other heinous crimes in the state, including the murder of eight call center workers in June and a bomb attack in July that killed four police officers and two other people.
Jalisco was the fourth most violent state in the first six months of 2023 with 1,095 homicides, the federal government reported last month.