It was rush hour in a coastal Gulf town in Veracruz, when Mexicans, eager to get home after work, were abruptly interrupted as two trucks pulled up on a main avenue and gunmen dumped 35 bodies near a mall.
The men reportedly pointed weapons at frightened motorists in the town of Boca del Rio before leaving, and residents warned over social media outlets that other drivers should take alternate routes.
Commutes in Mexico have never been considered breezy or stress-free. In fact, IBM carried out a study recently polling the the emotional and economic toll of commuting in 20 cities worldwide, and Mexico City fared the worst.
But in violent hotspots outside this megalopolis, Mexican drivers are contending with issues that are more stressful than traffic that won’t budge: Battling drug gangs do not shy away from public displays of terror, not even on the nation's roadways.
There have been menacing banners – warning snitches, rivals, and police to beware – and bodies left in piles on sides of highways. Drug traffickers hang victims from pedestrian overpasses. In Monterrey last month, a victim was executed on an overpass in front of commuters. Also in recent years Monterrey gunmen have begun setting up so-called narcobloqueos, or narco-blockades, in which they pull drivers from their buses and trucks and leave the vehicles in the middle of major intersections, snarling traffic and terrifying commuters.
Veracruz state prosecutor Reynaldo Escobar Perez says that seven of the victims identified to date – many of whom were women – were wanted for drug dealing and kidnapping, among other charges. That will assuage public fears that innocent victims were targeted, but the images from the event could still hang for a long time on the minds of the witnesses in Veracruz. Though once tranquil, Veracruz has seen an increase in violence as the Zetas seek to control lucrative drug and human smuggling routes through the state.