Inside the Mexican drug gangs that force members to eat human hearts and serve victims’ butts on toast

The MEXICAN drug gangs behind years of brutal murders are now believed to have killed an innocent Briton last Tuesday.

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

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Ben Corser appears to be an innocent victim caught up in the violence in Colima1 credit
Various drug cartels vie for power in Mexico, with port cities and borders with the United States seen as prime territory for drug trafficking

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Various drug cartels vie for power in Mexico, with port cities and borders with the United States seen as prime territory for drug trafficking

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 lived with a Mexican-American family, was in the “wrong place at the wrong time”.

Innocent victim Ben is the second Briton to be murdered in Mexico in just three months, after property developer Chris Cleave, 54, was shot dead 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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Former Los Zetas cartel leader Heriberto Lazacano allegedly ate flesh from his victims’ buttocks in tamales – a Mexican dish of stuffed 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 to 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 major gangs that have terrorized Mexico since the state’s war against the cartels began in 2006.

LOS ZETAS

Heriberto Lazacano fed the victims lions and tigers - then ate the flesh from their bottoms

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Heriberto Lazacano fed the victims lions and tigers – then ate the flesh from their bottomsCredit: Alamy
A Mexican cop makes his way through a huge cannabis field

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A Mexican cop makes his way through a huge cannabis fieldCredit: Getty – Contributor

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

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

A journalist 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 gives them a bottle of whiskey to relax and then orders a very quick death so there’s no adrenaline in the meat to keep him from become bitter or harsh.”

He then devoured the flesh of the man’s buttocks in tamales after having cooked it with lemon, or had it served on toast.

The Los Zetas are considered one of the most dangerous cartels and have been involved in drug trafficking since its inception in 1999.

At that 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 murders in Mexico while working for the group.

Most gruesome was the brutal cutting to pieces of a six-year-old girl in front of her parents – a crime he said would make them “remember him”.

THE MICHOACANA FAMILY

Mexican police officers escort suspected members of the La Familia Michoacana drug cartel in Mexico City

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Mexican police officers escort suspected members of the La Familia Michoacana drug cartel in Mexico CityCredit: EPA
Pictured is a 14-year-old charged with acting as a hitman for a Mexican drug cartel

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Pictured is a 14-year-old charged with acting as a hitman for a Mexican drug cartelCredit: AFP-Getty

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 seeking to bring order to the state of Michoacan.

He found infamy for his unusually extreme brutality in 2006 when a group of gunmen stormed a nightclub and threw five decapitated heads onto the dance floor.

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

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

It specializes in the production and trafficking of methamphetamine.

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

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

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

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

NEW GENERATION JALISCO

Radillo Peza, alleged leader of Jalisco's new generation, marches in front of the press in 2012

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Radillo Peza, alleged leader of Jalisco’s new generation, marches in front of the press in 2012Credit: Reuters
Black panther seized by cops in raid on Mexico City drug boss's residence

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Black panther seized by cops in raid on Mexico City drug boss’s residenceCredit: AFP
A Jalisco Cartel training camp where recruits are put through their paces

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A Jalisco Cartel training camp where recruits are put through their paces

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

At this point, the Valencia Cartel split into two factions, one of which eventually emerged around 2009 as the central cartel of Jalisco State.

They immediately went to war with the Los Zetas and proudly claimed responsibility for a series of massacres, including the killing of 15 Mexican cops in a single ambush.

During this time he called himself MataZetas, or Zeta Slayers, and once dumped the bodies of 35 tortured dead Zetas on the side of a road.

For a time he 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 people.

In 2016, his brother, considered the financial mastermind of the criminal empire, was captured.

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

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

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

SINALOA

El Chapo, pictured during his arrest, once rivaled Pablo Escobar for his power and control of international drug trafficking

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El Chapo, pictured during his arrest, once rivaled Pablo Escobar for his power and control of international drug trafficking
Pictured are banknotes that are part of a seizure of over US$15 million belonging to the Sinaloa Cartel

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Pictured are banknotes that are part of a seizure of over US$15 million belonging to the Sinaloa CartelCredit: AFP-Getty

The Sinaloa Cartel found infamy after the exploits of its longtime leader Joaquin ‘El Chapo’ Guzman rose 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 imprisoned for 20 years only to escape in 2001. He was later recaptured in 2014 and then escaped again the following year through a 2, 5 km long.

In 2016, he was arrested a third time and extradited to the United States to face charges related to his leadership of the cartel.

The Sinaloa Group also formed in the late 1980s and is believed to be the main supplier of heroin, cocaine, methamphetamine, MDMA and fentanyl in the United States.

It was the Sinaloa group that was the first to use tunnels dug under the border between Mexico and the United States to send their drugs to America.

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

Their first tunnel was built in 1989 – today the border has been compared to a “block of Swiss cheese” with hundreds of tunnels crossing it.

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According to The New Yorker, the Sinaloa Cartel specializes in “super-tunnels” beyond the basic “gopher holes” first discovered in the late 1980s and early 1990s.

These cost millions of dollars to build and feature elevators, lights and ventilation ducts reaching over 70 feet underground.

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