"I killed, cut off heads" says repentant Mexico hitman

Fri Jun 18, 2010 2:58pm EDT
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By Robin Emmott and Julian Cardona

CIUDAD JUAREZ, Mexico (Reuters) - The kills started with a telephone call and often ended with a beheading, but they were all just jobs for the drug hitman, one of maybe hundreds that have scarred Ciudad Juarez's streets. He now says the tortured faces of the dead haunt him.

Recounting his years as a hired killer, he says most of his jobs began with a voice down the phone telling him where to meet. At the safe house he would find the weapons and the hit squad. They would pass around a photo of their target -- a police chief who owed money, a politician who got in the way -- and wait for the signal, sometimes for days.

The target can be at home, at the office, outside a mall, or on patrol, but the killers rarely struggle to find their prey. Bodyguards are regularly bought off.

Several shots to the back of the head or a tight ring of bullets through the car door and into the body is enough.

The killers are told to cut off the victim's head if he talked too much. They will saw off his arms and fingers if he stole drugs and cash. And they'll chop up his body if they've been told to.

"There are things people do that they shouldn't, and that is the punishment," the hitman and former Mexican police officer told Reuters from a secure location in Ciudad Juarez, across the border from El Paso, Texas.

Fearing for his safety, he asked to have his identity kept secret. He spoke in almost a whisper, his eyes hidden behind mirrored sunglasses. A row of broken teeth were just visible behind his bottom lip.

Hitmen working for murderous drug gangs are turning Mexico, a top U.S. oil supplier and trade partner and a prominent emerging market economy that has scored points for political stability, into a conflict zone that is alarming Washington, tourists and foreign investors.   Continued...

<p>A hitman and former Mexican police officer speaks to Reuters from a secure location in Ciudad Juarez June 11, 2010. REUTERS/Alejandro Bringas</p>