MEXICO CITY (Reuters) - Authorities in western Mexico swamped by mounting murders from the country’s drug war have resorted to storing dozens of corpses in a refrigerated container truck that in recent days has been parked in several towns, angering residents.
The semi-trailer truck was noticed last week in a warehouse of a suburb on the outskirts of Mexico’s second largest city Guadalajara, drawing the ire of the mayor of the borough, who said it was illegally parked. It then turned up, apparently abandoned, next to houses in a field further from the city, where neighbors complained it was emitting a powerful stench.
Following complaints, by Monday authorities had moved it to a warehouse near Jalisco state prosecutor’s office in Guadalajara, an official at the office said, declining to provide his name as he was not authorized to speak about the matter. The official said about 150 bodies were stored in the truck’s container.
Like other parts of Mexico, Jalisco is suffering from a crime wave that led to a record 31,000 homicides in 2017. The state is home to one of Mexico’s most violent and powerful drug gangs, Jalisco New Generation Cartel.
The surging numbers of deaths has overwhelmed Jalisco’s morgue and work is underway on a new facility that would hold 700 bodies in its first phase, the state’s general secretary Roberto Lopez told local media.
“When it is built, these bodies will be transferred,” Lopez said. He added that the new facility will be completed in a month and a half.
On Monday, Lopez acknowledged that the use of the truck showed a lack of respect and promised to launch an investigation.
The government “will not tolerate displays of indifference or laziness,” Lopez wrote on his Twitter account.
The identity of the bodies was not immediately clear and how they died, although Lopez was reported in Mexican media as saying they were unidentified victims of organized crime.
The container was at a warehouse in the Guadalajara suburb of Duraznera for an unspecified amount of time until mayor Maria Elena Limon demanded it be taken away. She said on Twitter it had been removed on Saturday.
A local Facebook group made up of truck drivers called “The Owners of the Road” said on Saturday that the container had then been placed in a large field, but neighbors demanded that it be moved. Images in Mexican newspapers showed it parked near houses.
“This affects our kids, it smells horrible and the longer it stays it’s going to stink even worse,” said Patricia Jimenez, a resident of the small town of Tlajomulco, describing the truck as a health hazard.
Mexican media reported that the mobile morgue held 157 bodies, but an official count had not yet been announced by officials.
Additional reporting by Frank Jack Daniel and Noe Torres in Mexico City and Jose Luis Osorio in Jalisco; Editing by Alistair Bell