MEXICO CITY - In recent years, Mexico City has shined as an oasis from the murderous mayhem plaguing parts of the country, a relatively safe place spared by drug cartels.
But the discovery of a mass grave near the city containing the remains of at least five of 12 young people kidnapped from a downtown bar in broad daylight has blemished the capital's image as a safe haven.
Mexico City Mayor Miguel Angel Mancera has insisted that the nation's big cartels do not operate in the megalopolis despite the mass abduction, drawing scoffs from security analysts.
Prosecutors have linked the May kidnapping to a drug dispute between smaller, local gangs known as La Union and Los Tepis, which operates in the rough neighborhood of Tepito, home to most of the victims.
Two of the missing, aged 16 and 19, are sons of jailed gang members. Relatives deny they followed in their fathers' footsteps.
"Obviously, there is an organised crime presence in the city," Samuel Gonzalez, a security consultant and former federal anti-drugs prosecutor, told AFP.
"Even though they may be small, they showed their ability to make a dozen young people disappear," he said. "Their ability to make them disappear and the state's reaction only 80 days later are alarming."
The 12 missing, aged 16 to 34, were escorted by a group of men out of the Heaven bar and into several cars on a Sunday morning, May 26, just steps away from a federal police headquarters and the city's main boulevard.
Three months later, authorities discovered a concrete-covered mass grave on a ranch outside the city containing the remains of 13 people.