Vestiges of the dark days of cartel warfare in Mexico have emerged in different parts of the country in recent months, particularly in areas where drug trafficking is heavy.
In Tijuana, one of the world’s busiest land-border crossings and ground zero for much of the drug smuggling in western North America, authorities have come across a grisly marker of cartel bloodshed: a narcomanta.
Late on Wednesday night, Mexican authorities found a man, feet and hands bound by black adhesive tape, hanging from a chain on a foot bridge in southwestern Tijuana, less than 10 miles from the US border.
A message on blue cardboard with black letters that was left with the body read, in part, “This is how all grasshoppers will be left,” using the Spanish word for grasshopper — “chapulines” — possibly in reference to cartel turncoats or to dealers who sell to the wrong groups or outside of a certain territory, according to Borderland Beat.
This is the second time in the last two months that this footbridge has been used as a signpost for the ongoing drug-related violence in Tijuana.
In early September, a dismembered body crashed through the windshield of a woman driving under the bridge, and authorities who arrived on the scene found several plastic bags containing the dismembered bodies of two other men.
According to the sign left on Wednesday, the body was deposited by members of the Jalisco New Generation cartel. In the September incident, the human remains were believed to be the handiwork of the Sinaloa cartel.
The CJNG has joined with remnants of the once powerful Arellano Felix Organisation, forming the Tijuana New Generation cartel (CTNG) to take on the Sinaloa cartel, which wrested control of the city away from the AFO in the 2000s and has dominated trafficking there in the years since.
Killings in Tijuana have risen steadily in recent years, with the city’s homicide rate increasing from 28 per 100,000 people in 2012 to 39 per 100,000 people in 2015, which made it the 35th-most-violent city in the world.
Narcomantas — grisly public displays of violence, usually involving large number of dismembered bodies, left as messages by criminal groups — appeared frequently during the major cartel clashes in the late 2000s and early 2010s.
Narcomantas attract a lot of attention, which is at times valuable for cartels and gangs. Moreover, according to Stratfor, since authorities usually do not verify who is responsible for a particular narcomanta, the displays have been used by Mexican cartels to attract law-enforcement attention to the turf of rivals.
Such acts also act as powerful messages to the public, telling them to support or avoid certain groups or areas.
The narcomantas found in Tijuana this month and in September are only the most recent ones. According to a US State Department report on crime and safety for Tijuana from March:
“In 2015, there was a noticeable increase in public announcements (normally done by placing banners in public places or near/on murdered bodies) by self-proclaimed members of rival cartels (AFO and CJNG) against the Sinaloa cartel and conversely boasts from the Sinaloa Cartel of their continued dominance over the ‘plaza.'”
And throughout this year, killings, whether public or more discreet, have been mounting.
Data gathered by the Mexican federal government indicates that there were 598 homicide cases through September this year, topping the 449 recorded over the same period last year.
According to numbers collected by the Baja California state security secretary, there were 497 homicide victims through September 2015 and 674 in all of last year.
Through September this year, there have been 635 homicide victims.
Those 635 killings put the city on pace for nearly 850 homicide victims this year, well exceeding the 688 homicide cases registered in 2010, the highest body count recorded since 2006.