Mexico City, Sept 15 (AP/UNB) — Police in the northern Mexico state of Sonora say six severed human heads have been found in a plastic cooler on a roadside.
A Sonora official who was not authorized to be quoted by name says the grisly artifact was reported to an emergency number.
There was no immediate information on the identity of the men, nor were their bodies immediately found.
The heads were discovered Friday near the city of Ciudad Obregon.
Drug gangs often leave severed heads as a warning to rivals or authorities.
Until now, Sonora has not seen as much drug violence as other northern states.
Los Angeles, Sept 15 (AP/UNB) — A Colombian drug kingpin who participated in a violent ring that used planes, speedboats and submarines to smuggle hundreds of millions of dollars in cocaine faced federal trafficking charges Friday in a Los Angeles courtroom, prosecutors said.
Victor Hugo Cuellar-Silva is among nearly four dozen defendants charged in a vast conspiracy to ship tons of cocaine from South America through Mexico to the U.S.
The indictment unsealed Thursday was unique in targeting people throughout the drug distribution chain from the source of where the coke was produced in Colombia to investors in Mexico, transportation coordinators, houses where the drugs were stashed and to large scale distributors in the U.S., federal prosecutors said.
Cuellar-Silva, who was extradited Thursday from Colombia, was a high-ranking member of the drug ring headed by Mexican fugitive Angel Humberto Chavez-Gastelum, who is one of the most-wanted drug traffickers in the world, prosecutors said.
Chavez-Gastelum and his son, Alonso Jaime Gastelum-Salazar, are also charged in the indictment with two counts of murder in Mexico. One of the victims was tortured and dismembered, and the grisly act was shot on video obtained by investigators, prosecutors said.
"This drug ring has spread death and misery across the Americas and to other parts of the world, which makes this case among the most significant drug trafficking cases ever brought in this district," U.S. Attorney Nick Hanna said.
Authorities seized more than 7,700 pounds (3,500 kilograms) of cocaine with a street value over $500 million during the three-year investigation.
The seizures included cocaine recovered after a plane was shot down by the Venezuelan military and crashed in the Caribbean, Assistant U.S. Attorney Benjamin Barron said.
Other drugs seized included nearly a ton of cocaine (833 kilograms) floating in bales off the coast of Tumaco, Colombia, and more than 1,500 pounds (700 kilograms) of cocaine and over 60 pounds (30 kilograms) of methamphetamine seized in a Tijuana, Mexico, house.
The indictment charged 47 people in the drug operation. Seven defendants were arrested in the U.S. on Thursday, four were in custody in Thailand and about a half-dozen were facing extradition from Colombia. The others remained at large.
Cuellar-Silva pleaded not guilty and was held in custody, Barron said. A defense lawyer representing him said he had no comment.
If convicted of the charges, Cuellar-Silva and Chavez-Gastelum face up to life in prison, prosecutors said.
Mexico City, Sept 15 (AP/UNB) — Mexico's president-elect faced the toughest, angriest crowd yet since winning the July 1 election, going before relatives of crime victims and disappeared people Friday to try to convince them of his amnesty proposal.
Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador has proposed investigations and truth commissions to find out the fate of missing people, but also says some offenders should be pardoned.
Some of the relatives who attended the forum in Mexico City reacted angrily, shouting "Justice! Justice!" and "Don't forgive, don't forget!"
Lopez Obrador has often said that "you cannot fight violence with violence." Amnesty is needed to "pacify" Mexico, he says.
He staunchly defended his position Friday, telling relatives: "I'm telling you: 'Don't forget, but do forgive' — that is my proposal."
Lopez Obrador suggested he would lead by example.
"As soon as I am president I am going to ask forgiveness. I am going to ask forgiveness from all the victims of violence," he said. "I am going to commit myself to doing as much as I humanly can to ensure there will be justice."
Victims' advocates complain they cannot be expected to pardon people who have never been convicted for killing or kidnapping their relatives, and who have never revealed the location of their bodies.
There are over 30,000 people listed as missing during Mexico's drug war, and authorities continue to find mass graves with hundreds of bodies at clandestine burial sites. Few of those bodies are ever identified.
Families complain that Lopez Obrador has the cart before the horse: They say authorities should do a far better job identifying bodies and searching for victims, before considering an amnesty.
The victims' group Movement for Our Disappeared in Mexico said in a statement, "Our primary need is for searches to be carried out, but truth and justice are also essential."
"Truth and justice are not negotiable," the group wrote.
Lopez Obrador has promised to consult victims' groups on any decision he makes, and he held a similar but somewhat quieter "pacification and reconciliation" forum in the border city of Ciudad Juarez in August.
Arbolillo, Sept 8 (AP/UNB) — A day after authorities in the Mexican state of Veracruz announced the recovery of at least 166 skulls in mass clandestine graves, journalists who arrived at the site Friday discovered it was the same location where officials reported finding 47 bodies in 2017.
Veracruz state prosecutor Jorge Winckler had said Thursday that authorities had been working at the site for 30 days and in that time found 32 burial pits containing 166 skulls. He said the burials were at least two years old, but made no mention that he had announced previous discoveries at the very same site in March 2017.
An Associated Press photographer walked to the site with other journalists thinking they would be stopped at a security perimeter, but instead they found themselves in the middle of active excavations. All around them 40 to 50 people worked at grave sites, setting remains on white sheets and eventually placing them in red plastic bags. Many other still unopened graves were taped off.
The site is on a narrow isthmus between the Gulf of Mexico and the Alvarado Lagoon about an hour southeast of the port city of Veracruz. The nearest community is Arbolillo, a tiny fishing village.
Access required a 20-minute walk through tropical vegetation and mangroves. The graves were spread out under palm trees in a site that was possibly accessed by boat by those burying the victims.
Only days before his 2017 announcement of the discovery of 47 skulls, Winckler said at another mass grave site, "There are pits where we are not working because we don't have space to put the bodies that we might find."
It was not immediately clear if that was why authorities did not return to Arbolillo until last month. The state prosecutor's office did not respond to The Associated Press' request for comment.
Under pressure from collectives of relatives of the state's disappeared, authorities began Friday afternoon to show families the photo albums of clothing, IDs and other items recovered from the site to see if they recognized something belonging to a loved one. Such access had originally been offered for next week.
Mexico's National Human Rights Commission said Friday that the latest Veracruz discovery brought to 696 the number of corpses found in mass graves since the beginning of 2017. The government agency said 163 clandestine burial pits had been found, mainly concentrated in states like Veracruz, Chihuahua, Sinaloa, Zacatecas and Jalisco.
The commission said the existence of such burial pits shows the lack of effective law enforcement. The mass graves are often dug by drug and kidnapping gangs to dispose of the bodies of their victims or rivals.
The pace of such discoveries does not appear to have slowed much since the height of Mexico's drug war. The commission said that between 2007 and 2016, 3,230 bodies were found in mass graves.
On Friday, as the journalists were shooed from the grave site authorities began taping off a security perimeter.
Rio De Janeiro, Sep 7 (AP/UNB) — Jair Bolsonaro, a leading presidential candidate whose heated rhetoric has electrified some voters and angered others in a deeply polarized Brazil, was stabbed at a campaign event Thursday and suffered serious abdominal injuries.
Police said the suspected attacker was in custody.
Dr. Luiz Henrique Borsato, who performed emergency surgery, said Thursday night that the right-wing candidate was in serious but stable condition and would remain in intensive care for at least seven days. The first round of Brazil's presidential election is Oct. 7.
The doctor said the two-hour procedure stopped serious internal bleeding and repaired most of the damage from the knifing. The candidate will need further surgery within months for a part of his intestines that was temporarily fixed with a colostomy, the surgeon said.
"We can't say when he will be able to leave hospital," Borsato said. "But in the first hours after the surgery his recovery has been very satisfactory."
Numerous videos on social media showed Bolsonaro, who has promised to crack down on crime in Latin America's largest nation, being stabbed with a knife to the lower part of his stomach while campaigning in Juiz de Fora, a city about 125 miles (200 kilometers) north of Rio de Janeiro.
At the moment of the attack, Bolsonaro was on the shoulders of a supporter, looking out at the crowd and giving a thumbs up with his left hand.
After the attack, he is seen flinching and then goes out of view. Other videos show supporters carrying him to a car and hitting a man who was apparently the suspect.
Police spokesman Flavio Santiago confirmed to The Associated Press that 40-year-old Adelio Bispo de Oliveira had been arrested in connection with the incident.
De Oliveira was beaten badly by Bolsonaro supporters after the attack. The man was arrested in 2013 for another assault, police said.
Luis Boudens, president of the National Federation of Federal Police, told AP that the assailant appeared to be mentally disturbed.
"Our agents there said the attacker said he was 'on a mission from God,'" Boudens reported. "Their impression is that they were not dealing with a mentally stable person. He didn't expect to be arrested so quickly; agents reacted in seconds."
Bolsonaro's son, Flavio Bolsonaro, initially posted on Twitter that the injury was superficial and his father was fine. However, an hour later he posted another tweet saying the wound was "worse than we thought."
He arrived at the hospital "almost dead," Flavio wrote. "His condition now seems stabilized. Please pray."
A statement from federal police said the candidate had bodyguards. In the videos, Bolsonaro does not appear to be wearing a protective vest. Such measures are rare for candidates in Brazil.
"This episode is sad," President Michel Temer told reporters in Brasilia. "We won't have a rule of law if we have intolerance."
Bolsonaro, a former army captain, is second in the polls to jailed ex-President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, who has been barred from running but continues to appeal.
Despite being a congressman since 1991, Bolsonaro is running as an outsider ready to upend the establishment by cracking down on corruption in politics and reducing crime, in part by giving police a freer hand to shoot and kill while on duty.
While Bolsonaro has a strong following, he is also a deeply polarizing figure. He has been fined, and even faced charges, for derogatory statements toward women, blacks and gays.
He speaks nostalgically about the country's 1964-1985 military dictatorship and has promised to fill his government with current and former military leaders.
Earlier this week, Bolsonaro said during a campaign event that he would like to shoot corrupt members of the leftist Workers' Party, which made da Silva its candidate. The comment prompted an immediate rebuke from the attorney general, who asked Bolsonaro to explain that comment.
His vice presidential running mate, Hamilton Mourao, is a retired general who blamed leftists for the knife attack.
Underling Brazil's divisions, people took to Twitter to either to decry the stabbing and ask for prayers for Bolsonaro or to say the candidate had brought it upon himself and even may have staged it.
The top five trending topics in Brazil were related to the stabbing.
Other presidential candidates quickly denounced the stabbing and many of them decided to suspend their campaign events Friday.
"Politics is done through dialogue and by convincing, never with hate," tweeted Geraldo Alckmin, former governor of Sao Paulo who has focused negative ads on Bolsonaro.
Fernando Haddad, who is expected to take da Silva's place on the Workers' Party ticket, called the attack "absurd and regrettable."
The attack comes at a time of increasingly heated rhetoric, and sometimes violence, related to campaigns and candidates.
In March, while da Silva was on a campaign tour in southern Brazil before his imprisonment, gunshots hit buses in his caravan. No one was hurt, and da Silva, who is in jail on a corruption conviction, was not in the vehicles that were hit.
Also in March, Marielle Franco, a left-leaning black councilwoman in Rio de Janeiro, was shot to death along with her driver after attending an event on empowering black women.
It wasn't immediately clear how the attack on Bolsonaro might reshape a presidential race very much up in the air with the front-runner, da Silva, in jail. In many ways, the incident feeds Bolsonaro's narrative that Brazil is in chaos and needs a strong hand to steady it.
"It's likely that Bolsonaro will use the attack to argue his opponents are desperate, that they had no other way to stop him," said Mauricio Santoro, a political science professor at Rio de Janeiro's state university.
A handful of Bolsonaro supporters held a vigil in São Paulo on Thursday night, and briefly exchanged insults with leftists. 'They made Bolsonaro a martyr,' said Jonatan Valente, a student. 'I think the left shot itself in the foot because with this attack they will end up electing Bolsonaro.'"