A man accused of helping a Mexican drug kingpin dispose of hundreds of victims by dissolving their bodies in acid was arrested in the border city of Tijuana, authorities said on Friday.
A Mexican military statement said Santiago Meza Lopez confessed to disposing of at least 300 bodies over a decade, but authorities provided no further evidence to back the claim. Officials contend he dumped the bodies in graves, poured acid on them and let them dissolve underground.
The victims are believed to be rivals of Teodoro Garcia Simental, an alleged former lieutenant of the Tijuana-based Arellano Felix drug cartel, authorities said.
Soldiers and police paraded Meza, 45, before reporters at a cement-block shack on the outskirts of Tijuana where he allegedly disposed of the bodies. Two grave-sized holes had been dug near the walls.
The security officers had Meza tell reporters how he allegedly got rid of the bodies, prodding him to speak up whenever he mumbled.
Meza, who has not yet been charged, was arrested along with three other people on Thursday at a Tijuana hotel. He told reporters on Friday that he got paid US$600 a week for his work and repeated his claim that he had disposed of 300 bodies.
This month, the US Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) identified Garcia as one of 10 men it believed were battling for drug trafficking routes through Tijuana. The DEA said Garcia was the chief rival of alleged Arellano Felix cartel leader Fernando Sanchez Arrellano.
Mexican officials have blamed the power struggle for a surge in violence in Tijuana, the birthplace of the Arellano Felix cartel.
The two men split in April after a shootout between their followers in Tijuana left at least 14 people dead, Mexican and US officials said.
The Arellano Felix cartel rose to power in the 1980s. Since 2002, four brothers who led the cartel have been killed or arrested, most recently Eduardo Arellano Felix, who was captured in October in his Tijuana home.
Mexico’s drug violence has surged and grown more gruesome in recent years, particularly in northern border cities Tijuana and Ciudad Juarez. Drug violence claimed more than 5,300 lives last year.
In one case last year, authorities said they found human teeth and other remains inside barrels of acid left on a Tijuana street.