The lush hills surrounding the southern Mexican town of Iguala have been used by criminals to bury scores of victims beneath the green canopy this year alone.
At least 80 sets of human remains have been unearthed so far, and authorities are investigating whether recently discovered mass graves contain 43 students who vanished more than two weeks ago.
Residents of Iguala now call the minibus that travels to the Las Parotas stop the “combi of the cemetery.” Nearby, 28 badly burned bodies were found inside five burial pits on October 4.
On another hill, four more unmarked graves with an undisclosed number of bodies were discovered last week after suspects said some of the missing students were buried there.
“Most people knew that mass graves existed. I don`t know why the government did nothing about those that were found before,” said Jorge Popoca, leader of Iguala`s shopkeepers association.
Some 200 kilometers (125 miles) south of Mexico City, Iguala lies in the state of Guerrero, one of Mexico`s poorest regions and beset by violent drug gangs.
As authorities dig up the bodies, the 140,000-population city`s dirty secret is being exposed: Its police force is accused of being in cahoots with the Guerreros Unidos gang.
“We see an association (of the gang) with municipal employees,” Attorney General Jesus Murillo Karam said last week.
Anger over the case boiled over on Monday as fellow students torched a Guerrero state government building in the capital Chilpancingo, demanding Governor Angel Aguirre`s resignation.
Prosecutors have detained 26 gang-linked police officers accused of shooting at busloads of students on September 26 in a case that has sparked national outrage and international condemnation.