MEXICO CITY -- The army charged 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, then had banners hung around the country denying responsibility in an effort to have their enemies blamed for the massacre.
The allegation came during a news conference to present the alleged Zetas local leader detained in the killings, Daniel Jesus Elizondo Ramirez. He 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 Elizondo Ramirez, despite his nickname of "El Loco," or the Crazy One, apparently got nervous about dumping the hacked-up bodies in the town and instead dumped them on a highway outside Cadereyta. The bodies with their heads, hands and feet hacked off were found May 13.
A video posted later on a Mexican website 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 made the videotape.
In the days after the bodies were found, banners appeared on freeway overpasses in other Mexican states denying that the Zetas were responsible.
Villegas said the denials were part of a Zetas strategy to "cause confusion among authorities and the public" and put the blame on the cartel's rivals.
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, the general said. He is being held without charge at a special detention facility while prosecutors build their case against him.
Villegas said Elizondo Ramirez had confessed to killing members of the Gulf cartel and burning or burying their bodies in another area of Nuevo Leon.
He said Elizondo Ramirez also acknowledged accompanying Zetas second-in-command Miguel-Angel Trevino Morales to Guatemala in 2008 to assassinate a rival drug capo, Juan Jose "Juancho" Leon. Leon was killed in an ambush that year in the neighboring country, where the Zetas have expanded their operations in recent years.