Media reported the bodies were discovered in Mexico’s second city alongside a message from drug cartels. The state attorney-general’s office said there could be up to 23 dead.
Guadalajara is the capital of the state of Jalisco, home to mariachi music and tequila, and was long spared the beheadings and drive-by shootings that have marked Mexico’s drugs war in other regions.
Known as a stronghold of the Sinaloa cartel, headed by Mexico’s most-wanted trafficker, Joaquin “Shorty” Guzman, Guadalajara saw a spike in killings as other gangs, including the Zetas, started to contest their dominance of the region.
The discovery of the bodies, which were left 500 metres from the auditorium where the Guadalajara International Book Fair will be held from tomorrow, follows the dumping of 17 burned corpses in the Sinaloan capital Culiacan on Wednesday. Twelve of those bodies were in the back of one truck, some of them handcuffed and wearing bullet-proof vests.
Mexican president Felipe Calderon has deployed the army to crack down on powerful criminal gangs and some 45,000 people have died in the conflict since he took office.
Guadalajara, home to 4.5 million people, hosted athletes from 42 countries last month for the Pan American Games, which were not marred by security incidents.
Guadalajara is not the only previously safe city to be drawn into the drug war: residents of eastern port of Veracruz were horrified by the dumping of scores of bodies at various points around the city in September and October.
Drugs violence has already engulfed the northern business hub of Monterrey, a city of similar size to Guadalajara, prompting some companies to freeze investment.