Mexican cartel ‘cannibal schools’ recruit to eat human flesh
A member of the Jalisco New Generation Cartel – his stomach tensed against a black sleeveless vest – is crouched over the body of a mutilated infantryman from a rival criminal group. The fallen man’s hands are bound and his chest appears torn.
Shocking mobile phone footage – captured in broad daylight – shows the hitman ripping large bites out of the dead man’s heart. The cameraman continues to film as the hitman taunts the fallen sicario by pretending to offer him a taste of his beating heart. In the background of the twisted scene, another body is partly visible, as well as the shadow of someone cutting it.
When the video first surfaced in the troubled state of Zacatecas in Mexico last month, it quickly went viral. Dr. Robert J. Bunker, a security analyst who studies Mexican cartels, told The Daily Beast that was exactly the point: it was a public display intended to threaten the Sinaloa team. (The Daily Beast is not linked to the images due to its graphic and disturbing content.)
“Given his warning to other Mayo Zambada gunmen, the video was clearly produced for PSYOPS purposes by the CJNG unit involved in the incident who then uploaded it to social media,” Bunker said. Although cannibalism has been practiced by several organized crime groups in Mexico for a variety of reasons, including ritual rites, this particular incident “appears secularly oriented,” said Bunker, research director at consultancy C/O Futures. LLC.
The sicario seen eating his enemy is a member of the Jalisco New Generation Cartel (CJNG), which is engaged in a deadly battle with the Sinaloa Cartel – formerly led by Chapo Guzmán and now led by Mayo Zambada – for regional domination in Zacatecas . Other cartels like the Templars, the Zetas and the Michoacán family have all practiced cannibalism—sometimes to terrorize his rivals, initiate recruitsor even as part of death cult like rituals intended for eliminate spies.
Dutch anthropologist Teun Voeten, who also served as a war correspondent in Mexico, compares the growing trend to that of beheadings. Beheadings were unheard of in Mexico before 2006, according to Voeten. “After the first incidents, other criminal groups also started to carry out beheadings and a vicious circle of imitation and escalation of extreme violence set in,” Voeten told The Daily Beast. “Now there are dozens of beheadings a year in Mexico.”
“You must do this without reacting or vomiting or you get beat up.”
He called the cycle of criminal groups trying to outdo each other “a kind of Olympiad of cruelty and sadism”, with cannibalism – which is considered one of the ultimate taboos in many cultures – being treated by the cartels as another form of savage. competetion. “In the case of cannibalism that happens more frequently in Mexico, just like beheadings, it also has to do with imitation and escalation of violence,” Teun said.
Regarding climbing, the CJNG, led by Nemesio Oseguera-Cervantes, alias “El Mencho– took the practice of feasting on human flesh to a whole new level. In fact, they institutionalized it as part of the mandatory curriculum of their training camps, known colloquially in Mexico as “Escuelas de Terroror “schools of terror”.
The fastest growing cartel in the country sets up these camps in secret locations, usually in rural areas, to train new initiates in the use of small arms and combat tactics. Rookies are usually forced to become man-eaters during the three to four months of boot camp, experts told The Daily Beast.
“I went there and there were a lot of [cannibalism]said a CJNG member who agreed to speak to The Daily Beast only on condition of anonymity. “They recruit them, and then they start working on them.” The cartel insider explained that one of the reasons there are so many individuals “who want to become sicarios” is because the CJNG entices them with offers of “big bills” – but the promised signing bonus” never happens,” the source explained.
“First, they teach them to cut people. They start by learning how to cut their ends off,” he said. This is an important skill for a would-be sicario, as cutting off fingers and toes – without letting the subject bleed or lose consciousness – is the preferred torture tactic used to extract information from cartel victims.
In terror schools, recruits are also made to devour severed fingers, the source said. If they pass this test, they learn to dismember whole bodies. Such expertise will prove indispensable later, when they will be called upon to cut up corpses in order to facilitate their transport or their disappearance. And, as for the ends, the cartel insider explained. conscripts are then forced to feed on larger pieces of flesh, such as vital organs.
“They have been changed forever; their souls have in a sense been darkened in the process.”
“They have a choice of one of these morsels to eat in front of the boss. You have to do it without reacting or throwing up or you get beat up,” said the source, who added that the refusal is also not a option. “If you didn’t want [eat human flesh] they wouldn’t let you go, they had you there,” he said.
Former DEA chief of international operations Mike Vigil said breaking school of terror rules often had fatal consequences for conscripts. “The only way out of this is feet first,” Vigil told The Daily Beast. “If the recruits of the school of terror show fear or make mistakes or offenses, they instantly become the victims of the other trainees who dismember and decapitate them. [and] their flesh is then eaten.
There are other rules that must also be followed, including strict limits on gossiping or revealing school whereabouts.
“One of the Terror School recruits broke cartel rules by telling his girlfriend where he was and endangering all the other trainees,” Vigil recalled. “After he left, the boyfriend was tied up and told he was going to be killed for breaking the rules. An ice pick was rammed through his skull into his brain several times. Vigil said the inductees were also sometimes forced to sleep next to dead bodies at night in order to desensitize them, and that the sole purpose of this process is to convert graduates into “emotionless killing machines”.
Political scientist Javier Oliva Posada, of the National Autonomous University of Mexico, said the brutal experiences endured in CJNG training camps also had another psychological effect on recruits, that of instilling a sense of allegiance to the group and their fellow trainees.
“A kind of loyalty to the organization is established by such displays of commitment and courage,” Posada told The Daily Beast. He compared the “absolutely savage initiation rituals” of CJNG to the customs practiced by another infamous criminal group: MS-13. New members of this Central American gang must “murder and even behead a member of their own family” to show their loyalty. “[T]these acts of cannibalism [have] to do with these formulas of pimping, liaison, secrecy and loyalty to the organization,” Posada said.
Those who survive the grueling weeks of camp life are celebrated at lavish graduation parties with narcotics and prostitutes, Vigil said. After that, they are ready to become active sicarios and put their new skills to good use. In many cases, their experiences as interns have left such deep marks on their psyches that a normal life is no longer possible, security analyst Bunker said.
“It’s a calculated strategy to intimidate enemies into submission.”
“Once a group of new recruits have completed their training – that is, they have tracked down, killed, flayed, cooked and then eaten their assigned victim – they cannot return to the traditional Mexican society,” Bunker said. “They have been changed forever; their souls have somehow been darkened in the process… Having survived this brutal “trial by fire”, they will not hesitate to carry out future cartel orders, however barbaric.
Discussing the January viral video, Bunker called it an act of “battlefield cannibalism.” similar to other incidents which were filmed during the conflict in Syria. For an enraged fighter to eat “heart, flesh, or any other body part is the ultimate act of disrespect and vengeance toward fallen comrades.” The incident is usually recorded by another fighter and posted on social media,” to be used as propaganda. “The fighter indulging in the heinous act then becomes a real badass among his peers,” Bunker added.
Anthropologist Voeten said acts of cannibalism, drinking the blood of slain enemies or desecrating their corpses are world historic and “a standard repertoire of human behavior in wartime” intended to add “further humiliation” after the initial defeat in battle.
Cannibalism sends a strong signal that says, “We are victorious and we can do whatever we want and act with impunity,” Voeten said. “It’s a calculated strategy of intimidating enemies into submission.”