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Young man linked to 79 killings in Mexico

By Mariano Castillo, CNN
updated 12:37 AM EDT, Sat October 26, 2013
Police say Juan Pablo Vazquez is linked to 79 homicides in Mexico
Police say Juan Pablo Vazquez is linked to 79 homicides in Mexico
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Juan Pablo Vazquez was arrested earlier this month
  • Authorities link him to 79 killings in northern Mexico
  • His track record isn't surprising to some

(CNN) -- The most shocking thing about the arrest of a man linked to 79 killings may be that authorities don't find it shocking.

At 20 years old, Juan Pablo Vazquez is accused of killing rivals, a policeman, a stripper and other innocent bystanders.

But you won't find authorities in the northern economic hub of Monterrey, Mexico, using any superlatives to describe the alleged killer. Not the worst they've ever seen, not the most ruthless, not the youngest or most prolific.

That's because Monterrey and its surroundings are an area disputed by rival drug cartels. From 2010 to the present, an average of 108 people have been killed each month in the state of Nuevo Leon, according to official statistics. Monterrey, the capital, has recorded 223 homicides so far this year.

Vazquez's arrest, then, merited a press conference, but no celebration as if an alleged serial killer had been brought down.

"We are witnessing a very severe crisis because of the war between cartels," one Mexican official said.

Vazquez was caught on October 8, but the arrest was not announced until Thursday.

He was arrested together with a woman, Nancy Ortiz, who police said was selling drugs with Vazquez. The pair was caught with 35 baggies of weed and 22 packets of cocaine, the state's security secretariat said.

The young man confessed to 45 killings, security officials said, and has been implicated in 34 other slayings between 2011 and this year.

Fear of reprisals from the warring cartels means that officials keep details to a minimum, not even revealing what gang a suspect belongs to.

The Mexican official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, told CNN that Vazquez is a member of the Gulf cartel.

The Gulf cartel is fighting with the Zetas cartel for lucrative smuggling routes to the United States.

The official scoffed at the idea that Vazquez was any more dangerous or deadly than other alleged cartel hit men. He described Vazquez simply as the latest member of a large cell of assassins to be caught.

Vazquez was not necessarily the shooter in all the cases, but was a witness or otherwise involved in the killings, the official said. Sometimes he was just one of several shooters who aimed at their targets. Cartel members who were arrested before him fingered him in connection with the 34 killings he did not confess to, the official said.

And if the thought of a 20-year-old having a hand in 79 deaths sounds like an exaggeration, authorities released a list of dates and victims' names.

Among the killings he is accused of:

-- A transit officer who pulled him over on March 13.

-- An exotic dancer who had been kidnapped from a strip club on July 30.

-- A woman who happened to be accompanying a member of a rival cartel on January 16.

-- A group of eight rivals who were at a bar on August 13.

The list goes on and on. It is just a small fraction of the number of homicides committed in Nuevo Leon, the official said.

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