The discovery of six bodies in shallow graves in the tourist city of Ensenada set off a forensic investigation to identify the victims. Officials made the discovery on April 10 and 11, 2018, in an unpopulated area between El Saizal and Maneadero according to the State Attorney General’s Office.
Officials made the discovery after the state attorney general’s office received a tip from the Association Against Missing Persons of Baja California about the possible existence of clandestine graves in Ensenada and Mexicali. The discovery followed the receipt of information from victims’ families and other anonymous tips, a local Mexican news outlet reported.
Police have not yet identified the six heavily decomposed remains nor their gender revealed but investigators confirmed that the victims displayed signs of torture. The victims’ heads were wrapped with duct tape and hands and feet were bound as reported in local media.
The discovery of the six bodies along with the posting of a narco-banner threatening a cartel turf war near the house of the mayor of Ensenada has sparked fear of continued narco-violence in this popular tourist beach resort which is located approximately 60 miles south of the U.S. border.
According to local media Proceso, the narco-banner was located on the morning of April 11, 2018, a short distance from the residence of Ensenada Mayor Marco Novela.
The narco-banner contained a message threatening the Cártel Jalisco Nueva Generación (CJNG) and Cártel Arellano Félix and the Cártel de Sinaloa. It declares that Ensenada— “Now belongs to me” and is signed by “Cártel La Rana.”
“La Rana” is identified as René Arzate García, a leader of a faction of the Sinaloa Cartel known as Los Aquiles or “Cártel La Rana.” René Arzate García is currently wanted by the FBI on a federal warrant out of the United States District Court for the Southern District of California for conspiracy to import marijuana.
At the current time, Cártel Jalisco Nueva Generación (CJNG) and remnants of the Cártel Arellano Félix have aligned in their fight against warring factions of the Sinaloa Cartel Los Aquiles and “Los Uriarte.”
The popular tourist city of Ensenada has experienced a dramatic increase in cartel-related violence as rival cartels fight for the lucrative street-level drug market and valuable smuggling routes to the United States. The dramatic spike in homicides in Ensenada is noted below. Officials reported 48 murders in 2015, 68 in 2016, and 294 in 2017.
Robert Arce is a retired Phoenix Police detective with extensive experience working Mexican organized crime and street gangs. Arce has worked in the Balkans, Iraq, Haiti, and recently completed a three-year assignment in Monterrey, Mexico, working out of the Consulate for the United States Department of State, International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Program, where he was the Regional Program Manager for Northeast Mexico (Coahuila, Tamaulipas, Nuevo Leon, Durango, San Luis Potosi, Zacatecas.)