In an ISIS-style video, members of the Viagras cartel beheaded a rival hitman in the western Mexican state Michoacan. After taping his “confession,” the man was bent backwards over a block of wood and his head was sawed off with a carving knife.
The video was posted to social media with a warning to the rival cartel.
The Daily Beast reports there have been dozens of beheadings this year. In fact, it has become the “signature move” for drug cartels to terrorize their rivals as well as local populations and law enforcement agencies.
“The heightened frequency of cartel execution via head-chopping is no coincidence. Fragmentation of established cartels has caused conflict between newer crime groups to grow ever more ferocious. Warring capos have in turn come to rely on decapitation as a tool of psychological warfare aimed at breaking the will of their opponents,” writes the news outlet.
“They really portray a sense of the victim’s heightened terror to the viewing audience as the terrorist or cartel enforcer begins working on them with a large knife,” said Robert Bunker, an instructor at the U.S. Army War College, in an interview with the Daily Beast. “A shooting or stabbing execution just doesn’t have the same horror.”
Other analysts see the use of beheadings as a “technique of conquest.” Gustavo Fondevila, a professor in Mexico who is a specialist in organized crime, says, “The rationale of the beheadings, abuse, and torture…is to persuade the other [cartels] to leave a place, give up, or surrender without using weapons. It’s a relatively inexpensive way to win and take the market.”