Police found 17 corpses stuffed in cars or dumped on streets in garbage bags across Mexico on Monday in what appeared to be the latest wave of violence by drug gangs.
In the resort city of Cancun, the bodies of three men and two women were found in an SUV, Quintana Roo state police said in a news release. The victims' heads were covered in tape and their hands bound behind their backs, it said. One of the male victims was dressed in women's clothes.
Police spokesman Antonio Coral said he could not immediately confirm the causes of death.
In Mexico City, police found three corpses in an SUV parked in a middle-class neighborhood.
Mexico City's attorney general said the deaths appeared to be linked to a turf war between drug gangs as a note was found with the bodies threatening an alleged trafficker called "Chango Mendez."
Another two corpses were found in a car in the city of Iguala, about 100 miles south of the capital. A note next in the car threatened Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman, the alleged head of the Sinaloa Cartel who escaped from a federal prison in 2001.
Three burned bodies were also found in two cars in the Sinaloan city of Culiacan, while four more bodies were found in garbage bags in the central city of Taxco and the port city of Veracruz on the Gulf of Mexico.
Bloody turf war
Federal investigators say the Sinaloa cartel is fighting a bloody turf war with the Gulf Cartel and their army of enforcers known as the Zetas over billion-dollar drug trafficking routes to the United States.
Recently, there has been a wave of killings with notes threatening Zetas. In one video posted on the Web site Youtube, a man was shown being beheaded alongside the message, "Do something for your country, kill a Zeta!"
Drug-related violence killed more than 2,000 people across Mexico last year.
President Felipe Calderon, who took power in December, has launched a nationwide offensive against the gangs, sending 24,000 federal police and soldiers to areas ravaged by violence.
But killings have continued unabated. According to a tally kept by Mexico City daily El Universal there have been more than 700 drug slayings since January.
Mexico's Attorney General Eduardo Medina Mora said the United States needs to do more to stop guns and drug money heading south fueling Mexican drug violence. The vast majority of arms used by the soldiers of drug cartels are smuggled from the United States, he said.
Analysts estimate that Mexican drug gangs make between US$10 billion and US$30 billion selling cocaine, heroin, marijuana and methamphetamine to the U.S. market, rivaling the money Mexico makes from oil exports and foreign tourism.