Torture, Beheadings, and Narcocultos

Document Type



Politics and Economics (CGU)

Publication Date



Defense and Security Studies | Political Science | Public Affairs, Public Policy and Public Administration | Social and Behavioral Sciences


This essay provides an overview of those incidents of torture and beheadings linked to the Mexican cartels and their mercenary and gang affiliates taking place both within Mexico and the United States. Specific forms of torture are discussed as well as the most likely victims and perpetrators. Beheadings, primarily taking place only in Mexico, are also analyzed with supporting database information provided. The occurrences of torture and beheadings tied to these cartels, both in Mexico and more recently across the border into the United States, beg the question of the context in which they are being conducted. Most cases of torture or beheading are regarded as primarily secular in nature – a terrorist tactic tied to economic or political gain. In an even more macabre twist, however, certain instances have been seen as intertwined with a group's belief system, performed in ritual fashion to fulfill religious or spiritual demands. This suggests that the emergent Mexican narcocultos that are evolving may further increase drug war violence to new levels of brutality heretofore unseen.

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© 2010 Taylor and Francis

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