Death Saint helps fuel drug war brutality

December 14, 2010 10:20:28 AM PST
Beheadings and other brutalities in Mexico's drug war are sometimes committed to curry favor with the Death Saint and underworld icons like her, and the influence of such dark cults is growing among American smuggling networks, the U.S. Marshall for the Western District of Texas says. Robert Almonte is giving a presentation Thursday for police officials on the patron saints of Mexican drug and people smugglers.

Icons include Jesus Malverde, the patron saint of drug traffickers, and Santa Muerte, or Death Saint, a skeletal figure of a black-cloaked woman with a scythe.

Almonte said he investigated a case in Tijuana where a drug gang cut off the head of a victim as a Death Saint offering.

He said underworld saints have gained popularity among U.S. smugglers of non-Mexican origin as drug networks controlled by Mexican gangs expand their territory.