A member of the Jalisco New Generation Cartel—his stomach straining against a black sleeveless vest—is crouching over the body of a mutilated foot soldier from a rival crime group. The fallen man’s hands are bound and his chest looks like it has been torn open.
Shocking cellphone footage—captured in broad daylight—shows the hitman tearing large bites from the dead man’s heart. The cameraman continues to film as the hitman mocks the fallen sicario by pretending to offer him a taste of his no-longer-beating heart. In the background of the twisted scene, another body is partly visible, as is the shadow of someone hacking away at it.
When the video first surfaced in Mexico’s troubled Zacatecas state last month, it quickly went viral. Dr. Robert J. Bunker, a security analyst who studies Mexico’s cartels, told The Daily Beast that was exactly the point: It was a public display intended as a threat to the Sinaloa outfit. (The Daily Beast is not linking to the footage due to its graphic and disturbing content.)
“Given its warning to other Mayo Zambada gunmen, the video has clearly been produced for PSYOPS purposes by the CJNG unit involved in the incident who then uploaded it to social media,” Bunker said. Though cannibalism has been practiced by several organized crime groups in Mexico for a variety of reasons, including ritualistic rites, this particular incident “appears secular in orientation,” said Bunker, a research director at the consultancy firm C/O Futures LLC.
The sicario seen eating his enemy is a member of the Jalisco New Generation Cartel (CJNG), which is locked in a deadly battle with the Sinaloa Cartel—formerly run by Chapo Guzmán and now headed by Mayo Zambada—for regional dominance in Zacatecas. Other cartels like the Knights Templar, the Zetas, and the Michoacán Family have all practiced cannibalism—sometimes to terrorize rivals, to initiate recruits, or even as part of death-cult-like rituals meant to weed out spies.