The Mexican Drug War - a sustained, violent conflict between powerful drug cartels and the Mexican government - has claimed an estimated 164,000 lives over the past decade. This rampant bloodshed has torn apart cities and communities across Mexico, often taking the lives of the innocent along with those directly involved. The grim headlines are splashed across the news on a daily basis: "59 bodies found in eight mass graves near San Fernando," "9 bodies hanged from bridge and 14 decapitated heads found," "Bone fragment found amid ashes and burned tire confirms 43 students were murdered by Mexican drug cartel." The endless death can seem hard to truly comprehend in its staggering totals, but it's way more gruesome than you could ever imagine.
The cartels in this drug war have a penchant for one-upsmanship. In their mission to send a message to their rivals, the cartels (The Sinaloa, Los Zetas, The Gulf Cartel, and the Knights Templar, most notably) continue to escalate their violence in new and horrifying ways, often recording it to be shared across the web. With this bloody competition in mind, here are the most brutal execution methods used by the Mexican cartels.
Beheading by Chainsaw
In 2014, a video [**warning: extremely graphic content**] began making the rounds in the gore-hound corners of the Internet, one that nauseated even the most steeled, desensitized viewers. In the video, two men are propped against a stone wall, their hands tied behind their backs. Off-camera audio reveals that the men are members of the Sinaloa cartel (headed by the notorious Joaquín "El Chapo" Guzmán) and have been deemed dedos, Spanish slang for snitches.
What happens next is a gruesome display of brute violence. The first man's neck begins spurting blood from severed arteries as a chainsaw removes his head from his body, his convulsions terrifyingly lasting throughout the ordeal. The decapitation is carried out so brutally that in the process, the prisoner sitting next to him loses his arm from the chainsaw's errant course. He then sits in agony before being beheaded via machete himself.
The video is so horrifying that it's been used as an intimidation tactic for anyone who'd dare involve the law with the cartel's criminal enterprise, with potential whistleblowers receiving graphic DVDs in the mail. It's difficult to think of a more effective way to ensure silence.
A method of execution whose brutal creativity is attributed to Los Zetas cartel leader Miguel Trevino, "The Stew" (El Guiso) would seem to back up claims that Trevino himself is a bit of a psychopath.
The Stew has two variations. In the first, victims - perceived enemies of the Zetas cartel - are placed inside 55-gallon barrels filled with oil and lit on fire, resulting in a rapid, searing, agonizing death. But the Stew has another even more gruesome recipe that also takes place in a 55-gallon barrel, one that requires a bit more patience: simply boiling victims alive.
Miguel Trevino was apprehended in 2013, but the practice of El Guiso is still carried out by the Zetas cartel, whose reputation as the most sadistic crime organization in Mexico remains firmly intact.
In the annals of disturbing execution videos on the Internet, a recent contender [**warning: extremely graphic content**] is vying for the position of most awful documented killing online. The extremely graphic video shows a man, his hands severed, writhing on the floor of an unknown location in utter agony, his head a skeletal smear of red, with his face and eyeballs completely removed from his skull via razor blade. The will to live demonstrated by the victim is astounding, considering the indescribable amount of pain and blood loss involved the flaying of one's own face.
Face peeling has become a common practice in the Mexican Drug War as an effective scare tactic to rivals and would-be informants. El Chapo's Sinaloa cartel have even gotten creative with the process, affixing one victim's face to a soccer ball to send an ominous message. Found at the footsteps of city hall in Ciudad Juarez, the decorative football came with a note: "Happy New Year, because this will be your last."
Feeding to Lions and Tigers
As notably portrayed in the 1983 film Scarface, drug lords have long thought private zoos to be a statement of opulence. Just as the infamous Pablo Escobar kept hippopotamuses and other exotic creatures at his private compound, rare and dangerous pets are still a status symbol today for high-ranking members of the Mexican drug cartels.
While some cartel kingpins, like Jesus "The King" Zambada, a leader of the Sinaloa cartel who recently had 200 animals confiscated from his property in a raid, simply enjoy the animals as a part of the ranchero lifestyle, leave it to the uniquely demented Zetas to find another use for their collection of beasts.
Heriberto Lazcano, noted psychopath and leader of the Zetas cartel, purportedly fed his rivals and enemies to lions and tigers he kept on his ranches. His victims would be forced into cages with these fanged creatures and gnashed apart, torn limb from limb in an excruciating death to an audience of onlookers. The Mexican government claims Lazcano is dead (though no body has been found), but with the widespread ownership of these animals and the copycat nature of the drug war, it's quite plausible his execution design lives on.