At least 45 bags containing human remains were found in a ravine in the western Mexican state of Jalisco during a search for seven young people reported missing last week, local authorities said on Thursday.
“Forty-five bags with human remains have been extracted that belong to both male and female people,” the state prosecutor’s office said in a statement.
The gruesome discovery was made on Tuesday at the bottom of a 40-meter (120-foot) ravine in the municipality of Zapopan, a suburb of Guadalajara, a large industrial hub.
The authorities had launched a search for two women and five men, all aged around 30 years, who had been reported missing since May 20.
The missing persons’ reports for each one had been made separately on different days, but investigators found that they all worked at the same call center.
The call center was in the same area as where the human remains were discovered.
Forensic experts have yet to determine the number of victims and their identities.
Initial inquiries suggested the call center could have been involved in illegal activities, and local media reported that the authorities had found marijuana, a cloth and a cleaning rag with apparent blood stains as well as documents on possible commercial activities.
But relatives of the missing persons have accused the authorities of seeking to criminalise the victims.
In recent years, in different areas of Jalisco, human remains have been found in bags or in unmarked makeshift graves.
In 2021, in the municipality of Tonala, in Jalisco, some 70 bags with the human remains of 11 people were found.
In 2019 also, the bodies of 29 people were found in 119 bags in an unpopulated area of Zapopan.
Another case that sparked numerous protests in Jalisco was the disappearance, in March 2018, of three film students, whose remains were dissolved in acid.
Similarly, in 2018, media reported that three Italians disappeared, allegedly handed over by police to the Jalisco New Generation cartel, to whom they had allegedly sold faulty machinery.
The Italians have not been found despite massive searches by state and federal law enforcement.
According to local media, in the first two months of this year alone, the remains of 33 people were found in five makeshift graves in the Guadalajara area.
The Jalisco New Generation cartel operates in the state and is one of the most powerful organised crime groups in Mexico, and is embroiled in disputes with other drug syndicates.
Mexico has recorded more than 340,000 murders and some 100,000 disappearances, the majority attributed to criminal organisations, since the launch of a controversial military anti-drug offensive in December 2006.