Inside Mexico's drug gangs who force members to eat human hearts and serve victims' buttocks on toast

MEXICAN drug gangsbehind years of brutal murders arenow suspected of taking the life of an innocent Brit last Tuesday.

Ben Crozer, 37, was shopping at a Mexican supermarket with two friends when all three were targeted by a gunman and shot dead in the Western city of Colima.


There has been an upsurge in violence in the area since a local drug gang switched allegiance to the powerful Sinaloa cartel.

His distraught parents said Ben, who had been living with a Mexican-American family, was in the " wrong place at the wrong time".

Innocent victim Ben is the second Brit to be murdered in Mexico in just three months, after property developer Chris Cleave, 54, was shot in front of his 14-year-old daughter in March.

But Mexico's drug wars are believed to be responsible for around 300,000 deaths since 2006, involving some of the most appalling torture and depravity imaginable.

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The former leader of the Los Zetas cartel, Heriberto Lazacano, is said to have eaten his victims' buttocks flesh in tamales – a Mexican dish of filled corn husks.

In twisted initiation rituals, young members of the Jalisco New Generation cartel were forced to eat the hearts of murder victims and new recruits of Familia Michoacana were forced to eat their rivals after torturing them and cutting them up alive.

Below we take a look at some of the main gangs that have terrorised Mexico since the inception of the state's war on the cartels in 2006.

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LOS ZETAS

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Heriberto Lazacano fed victims to lions and tigers – then ate the flesh from their buttocksCredit: Alamy
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A Mexican cop makes his way through a massive cannabis fieldCredit: Getty – Contributor

Los Zetas cocaine kingpin Heriberto Lazacano, who was killed in a shootout with Mexican Marines in 2012, was notorious for feeding victims to the lions and tigers he kept on his ranch.

But it was his practice of eating human flesh that thrust him into international headlines two years ago.

A reporter who spent time with him told El Blog del Narco: "After sentencing him (the victim) to death, he orders him to bathe, and even to shave his whole body and let him de-stress for two or three hours, even better sometimes he gave them a bottle of whisky to relax, then he ordered a very quick death so there is no adrenaline in the meat to prevent it getting bitter or hard."

He would then devour the man's buttock flesh in tamales after it had been cooked in lemon, or have it served on toast.

The Los Zetas is considered one of the most dangerous of the cartels and has dealt in drug trafficking since its inception in 1999.

At this time it only operated as a wing of the Gulf Cartel but officially formed as a standalone rival group in 2010.

In 2017, a former leader of the gang, Marciano 'Chano' Millan Vasquez, was jailed in San Antonio for 29 killings in Mexico while working for the group.

The most horrific was the brutal chopping to pieces of a six-year-old girl in front of her parents – a crime he believed would make them "remember him".

LA FAMILIA MICHOACANA


The La Familia Michoacana cartel emerged from the Los Zetas sub-group around 2006 following frustrations with the group's governance.

However, its roots date back to the 1980s when it was formed as a group of vigilantes looking to bring order to the state of Michoacan.

It found infamy for its unusually extreme brutality in 2006 when a group of gunmen stormed a nightclub and tossed five decapitated heads onto the dancefloor.

They also left a note warning that the family only kills those "who deserve to die", adding: "Know that this is divine justice."

Although the Mexican authorities claimed the group was crushed in 2011, it retains some power in the region.

It specialises in the production and trafficking of methamphetamine.

According to The Economist, during its heyday it also acted as a parallel governing body in the state, extorting "taxes" from businesses to fund community projects and its own kangaroo courts.

It was in 2015 reports first emerged of hopeful gang members being forced to devour rivals hearts as part of a twisted initiation ritual.

Alfredo Castillo, the federal security commissioner for gang-ravaged Mexican state Michoacan, claimed the practice was not widespread but did occur.

He said: "The ritual ranged from dismembering people they intended to kill to sometimes serving up the heart," MailOnline reported.

JALISCO NEW GENERATION



This group emerged from a power vacuum left after the death of former Sinaloa cartel chief Ignacio Coronel and the capture of friendly ally Oscar Orlando Nava Valencia.

At this point Valencia's cartel split into two factions, one of which eventually emerged around 2009 as the powerhouse cartel in Jalisco state.

They immediately went to war with the Los Zetas and proudly claimed responsibility for a swathe of mass killings, including the massacre of 15 Mexican cops in a single ambush.

During this time it went by the name MataZetas, or Zetas killers, and once dumped the bodies of 35 tortured dead Zetas on the side of a road.

For some time it was allied with El Chapo's Sinaloa, but since his capture his Sinaloa cartel has been usurped by New Generation as the most powerful in Mexico.

In mid-2015, members of the group even used a rocket-propelled grenade to shoot down an army Black Hawk helicopter, killing nine.

In 2016 his brother, said to be the financial brains behind the criminal empire, was captured.

Like La Familia Michoacana, this group is said to have forced new members to eat the hearts of murder victims to prove their loyalty.

This practice came to prominence when a 16-year-old and 17-year-old were captured by cops and admitted what they had done, according to El Pais.

Local prosecutors claimed two teenagers, aged 16 and 17, remained unrepentant after they were drugged with crack then forced to eat human flesh by senior cartel bosses.

SINALOA


The Sinaloa cartel found infamy after the exploits of its long-time leader Joaquin 'El Chapo' Guzman came to international prominence.

The accused drug lord, who is currently on trial in New York, was once considered the most powerful drug trafficker in the world.

He was first captured in 1993 and jailed for 20 years only to escape in 2001. He was later recaptured in 2014, then re-escaped the following year through a 1.5mile-long underground tunnel.

In 2016, he was caught for a third time and extradited to the US to face charges relating to his leadership of the cartel.

The Sinaloa group also formed in the late 80s and is believed to be the primary supplier of heroin, cocaine, meth, MDMA and fentanyl into the US.

It was the Sinaloa group which pioneered the use of tunnels dug underneath the Mexico-US border to send their drugs into America.

In 2021, the bodies of nine men were found hanging from an underpass amidst a battle for control between the Sinaloa and Jalisco cartels, in the Zacatecas region

Their first tunnel was constructed in 1989 – today the border has been likened to a "block of Swiss cheese" with hundreds of tunnels criss-crossing it.

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According to The New Yorker, the Sinaloa cartel specialises in "super-tunnels" beyond the basic "gopher holes" first discovered in the late 80s and early 90s.

These costs millions of dollars to construct, and feature elevators, lights and ventilation ducts reaching more than 70ft below ground.

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