The bodies of 32 people were found in the Mexican Gulf coast state of Veracruz, where a federal program was launched this week to battle organized crime, officials said.

The Navy Secretariat said in a statement Thursday that the corpses were found in three homes in Veracruz city's metropolitan area.

Marines arrived at the Jardines de Mocambo subdivision after being alerted by state police to the discovery of 20 bodies inside a home, the secretariat said, adding that 11 more corpses were found in the Costa de Verde residential complex and one last body in the Costa de Oro subdivision.

These discoveries come two weeks after the bodies of 35 people were dumped Sept. 20 on a busy road in the Veracruz suburb of Boca del Rio, in an apparent challenge to the violent Los Zetas drug cartel.

Meanwhile, the secretariat said marines deployed in Veracruz were carrying out actions that will lead "to the probable capture of criminal groups purportedly linked to recent homicides in the area," adding that it will provide more information shortly.

The Veracruz state government, for its part, said in a statement that "numerous operations had been conducted over more than 18 hours," leading to the discovery of the 32 bodies in three cartel "safe houses" in the Veracruz metro area.

On Wednesday, the Mexican federal government launched an operation dubbed "Safe Veracruz" that involves deploying federal forces, cleaning up local police departments and strengthening intelligence efforts to bolster security across the state, which has been battered by a wave of drug-related violence.

The federal government said Wednesday it is responding to the violence by improving coordination with local authorities "to protect the lives of all Mexicans and guarantee the security of families in every community."

Mexico's interior minister, Jose Francisco Blake, said of the operation that federal forces will be deployed across Veracruz state under a unified command to "regain (control of) the areas invaded by crime" and gather intelligence to dismantle the logistical, operational and financial networks of criminal organizations.