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Rising kidnappings, the discovery of mass graves, and security force shootouts with alleged Zetas members have created a security storm in the state of Veracruz in southeast Mexico, but what lies behind this streak of violence?

On July 2, authorities discovered a clandestine grave containing at least eight bodies in a southern municipality of Veracruz, reported Animal Politico. This followed the June discovery of 12 mass graves in which at least 31 bodies were unearthed.

Accompanying these chilling finds has been a series of shootouts in urban areas of the state, reported Proceso. On July 5, security forces killed six alleged criminals in the city of Veracruz, while three alleged members of the Zetas criminal organization were killed in nearby Orizaba. A day earlier, police killed four suspected Zetas near the coast, including the group’s alleged Veracruz plaza chief — the local leader in charge of that territory.