Mexico official fired over odyssey of truck with nearly 300 bodies

GUADALAJARA: A trailer carrying more than 100 bodies of unidentified people is driven through the streets of Guadalajara after being taken from the winery of the prosecutor’s in Guadalajara and transferred to the Jaliscience Institute of Forensic Sciences in Tlaquepaque. — AFP

GUADALAJARA: A state government in Mexico has fired a prosecutor over a spectacle in which a fetid-smelling tractor trailer carrying 273 bodies was driven around aimlessly for lack of room in the morgue. “I am not willing to tolerate this kind of mistake, which shocks and horrifies public opinion,” said the governor of western Jalisco state, Aristoteles Sandoval, as he fired prosecutor Raul Sanchez.

The state’s chief coroner was fired earlier in the week over the sad drama in the state capital, Guadalajara. The bodies were in the refrigerated truck because the morgue in Mexico’s second-largest city was full. Officials originally put the number of bodies at 157 but on Wednesday they raised it to 273. The truck was parked for two weeks at a warehouse in a downtrodden neighborhood on the city outskirts until residents complained of the stench and the flies it attracted.

The authorities then moved the truck to an empty lot in another poor neighborhood far from the city center, until residents there protested Saturday. Officials then moved it to a prosecution storage facility in the city center, where it remains parked for now. News outlets broadcast footage Wednesday of the open trailer of the truck, with piles of bodies in black bags and a man in white boots stepping on the bags.

Officials have said the bodies were of victims of violent crime, so under Mexican law they cannot be cremated. Authorities said they were looking for a longer-term solution. The coroner who was fired over this case, Luis Octavio Cotero, said the state government was working on a site to bury 800 bodies outside Guadalajara. The number of murder victims in Mexico has exploded in recent years. Since the government deployed the army to fight the country’s powerful drug cartels in 2006, Mexico has been hit by a wave of violence that has resulted in more than 200,000 murders. Last year, the country registered a record 28,702 homicides.

Mass graves are regularly discovered containing dozens or even hundreds of unidentified bodies. Nearly 4,000 such corpses have been found since 2007, according to the National Human Rights Commission. Some of the highest-profile violence has been in Jalisco, home to the brutal Jalisco New Generation Cartel. Other states hit hard by cartel violence have also struggled with overflowing morgues in recent years, including Veracruz in the east, Guerrero in the south and Chihuahua in the north. – AFP

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