Tue, Mar 03, 2009 - Page 7 News List

Mexico’s best paid jobs: hitmen

CORPSE DISPOSAL The business of getting rid of the aftermath of Mexican cartels’ bloody turf war has lured workers who can make up to US$600 per dead body

AGENCIES , MEXICO CITY

Hired guns and people who make murder’s evidence disappear by dissolving bodies in acid have become some of Mexico’s best-paid jobs, with dozens of killings blamed on drug cartels every day.

That was the conclusion of criminal psychiatrists who recently held a conference in the Mexican capital.

The scientists focused on people like Santiago Meza Lopez, also known as “pozolero,” a nickname grimly derived from a famous Mexican soup, who was arrested by authorities in January. The 45-year-old man gained notoriety after admitting that he had made “disappear” about 300 bodies, victims of murderers for hire, by dissolving them in acid.

An estimated 5,300 people were killed in Mexico last year in criminal activities blamed on drug cartels.

Killers for hire “are very proud of their work, to the point that they effectively admit what they are doing,” Mexican psychologist Feggy Ostrosky said.

She based her conclusion on her prison interviews with more than 270 dangerous criminals, some of whom included hired guns working for drug cartels.

They work “quickly and well,” Ostrosky said.

They have few contacts with their clients who “call them only to give them a target for elimination” using codes created by the hitmen themselves.

“The compensation aspect of the job is unquestionably its key attraction,” said Martin Barron, a lawyer and researcher with the Mexican Institute of Forensic Science.

He cited the case of one “pozolero,” who used to work as a bricklayer before he embarked on his gruesome new career.

“They paid him US$600 per corpse,” Barron said. “Had he continued working as a bricklayer, how much would he make? Do you believe it would have been easy for him to make US$600?”

Ostrosky believes that killers for hire are psychopaths.

She said they were “not crazy, indeed even reasonable,” but they were devoid of compassion and without the slightest sentiment of guilt.

“If somebody tells them, ‘You kill people just like you, people who have children,’ they reply, ‘But this is my job,’” said Ostrosky, pointing out that hired guns often cite the precariousness of their future.

Their careers usually don’t last more than three years: Hired guns themselves are often murdered by rivals or by their bosses.

“Such killers, who also specialize in decapitation, felt ashamed to admit that they did not know how to read or write,” the psychiatrist said. “But they had no problem providing us details about the assassinations they had committed.”

The list of horrors perpetrated by the cartels in recent years includes mass murders and piling up of decapitated bodies. In one case, the removed head was replaced by a pig’s head.

And the roster does not even include corpses dissolved in acid.

“How many ‘pozoleros’ are there and how many cartels do they work for?” asked Barron, saying that he had discovered at least one more corpse dissolver during his study.

And how does Mexican society react to these horrors?

“With jokes and black humor,” Barron said. “Two songs have already been composed about the ‘pozoleros.’ If a musical group sings them and the public listens, then [that] means [these] workers [have] already been accepted, in a certain way. Isn’t this a sign that our society has already grown used to it?”

Meanwhile, Mexican federal police made two arrests and confiscated weapons and marijuana on Sunday in Tijuana, across the US border from San Diego, California, after coming under attack by men linked to a drug cartel.

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