MEXICO CITY — The bodies of a longtime Mexican army general and two associates were discovered early Tuesday on a highway to Cancun, the latest execution-style victims of the violence sweeping Mexico.
Brig. Gen. Mauro Enrique Tello, who left the army last month and was working as a security consultant for the mayor of Cancun, is one of the highest-ranking officials killed in lawlessness fueled by drug trafficking and other gangland crime.
"Without a doubt, we are talking about an organized crime execution," state Atty. Gen. Bello Melchor Rodriguez told reporters. He said the bodies were found in a bullet-riddled SUV that had probably been intercepted on the dark road. The men had apparently been tortured before being killed with single shots to the head, Melchor said.
Killed with the general were an active-duty army lieutenant and a man thought to be a civilian who was serving as a bodyguard, authorities said.
There was speculation that the slayings were intended as a warning to Cancun officials, some of whom have sought to rid the popular beach resort of drug traffickers and other gangsters.
The notorious Gulf cartel, among the most ruthless of Mexico's drug gangs, is active in Cancun.
Tello and the two others "fell in the line of duty," Cancun Mayor Gregorio Sanchez said at a news conference. "We will continue with a firm hand. They are not going to intimidate us."
Tello served in the army's elite presidential guard but was dogged by controversy. More than a decade ago, when he was a senior official in Mexico City's Public Security Ministry, he was accused of the torture and murder of six detained youths. He spent a year in prison before he was ultimately cleared of the charges.
Elsewhere in Mexico, 14 people were reported killed between Monday night and late Tuesday afternoon in the border state of Chihuahua. Most of the dead were found in Ciudad Juarez.
In one incident, a man and a woman were gunned down in a supermarket parking lot and a third person was killed in the checkout line.
In Durango state, two police officers were killed Tuesday in a shootout, and another officer died when a police station in the port city of Lazaro Cardenas was attacked before dawn.
In the state of Zacatecas, the police chief of Villanueva was shot to death Monday. Residents had recently asked for army protection from criminals and drug gangs.
More than 5,300 people were killed last year in a raging drug war in which government forces are fighting traffickers and their hired guns, and the traffickers are fighting among themselves for control of lucrative drug routes to the U.S.