On the night of September 2, 2009, twelve hit men carrying AK-47s forced open the main door of Casa Aliviane, a drug rehabilitation center in Ciudad Juarez. Inside, they started shooting at a group of 19 young recovering addicts and alleged cartel members. From a hallway overlooking an inner courtyard, the hit men riddled their victims with bullets.
In photos taken the following day, there are blood-soaked footprints in various sizes under a small tiled roof that decorates the half-pink, half-magenta façade of the Casa Aliviane. Thicker tracks mark the path of a wounded man who managed to crawl outside just before he died. In total, the gunmen killed 18 young men.
The massacre at the Aliviane rehabilitation center was ordered by Jose Antonio Acosta Hernandez, alias "El Diego", the same man who ordered the massacre of Villas de Salvarcar, an action in which three weapons from an ATF gun-tracing operation were used to murder 16 teenagers. At the time, Acosta Hernandez was one of the alleged leaders of La Linea, the armed branch of the Juarez Cartel.
After he was captured on July 29, 2010, Acosta Hernandez told Mexican authorities that he was responsible for nearly 1,500 murders, including the 18 at the Aliviane rehabilitation center and ten more at another similar facility called Centro Anexo de Vida. "Someone told us that they were using them as safe-houses -- people from the other gang who belonged to the Sinaloa Cartel," he told authorities.
"I instructed them to go and murder some groups of opponents in two rehabilitation centers," he said later on.
The modus operandi of the Aliviane massacre and the kind of weapons used were very similar to those of Salvarcar, Chihuahua state prosecutor Jorge Gonzalez Nicolas, who is currently investigating the case, told Univision News. "I can tell you that they are very related," Gonzalez Nicolas said, "and I can tell you that according to my investigations, it comes from the same heads, from the same group that decided to carry out [the Salvarcar massacre]."
In 2009, Acosta Hernandez led La Linea in an effort to stave off an offensive from the Sinaloa Cartel, commanded in Juarez by Jose Antonio Torres Marrufo, a violent enforcer close to Chapo Guzman, who reputedly skinned an enemy's face to create a soccer ball.
Mexican authorities captured Torres Marrufo in Guanajuato last February. Behind the mirrors of his apartment's gym, they found a cache of guns that included powerful anti-aircraft weapons and firearms linked to Operation Fast and Furious.