2 bodies found in northern Mexico are apparently officials who investigated migrant massacre

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Mexico: 2 bodies likely massacre investigators

MEXICO CITY — Two dead bodies found in the northern state of Tamaulipas appear to be those of a state detective and local police chief who investigated the massacre of 72 migrants in August, prosecutors said.

If confirmed, the killings would be one of the most brazen signs of defiance yet by the drug cartels: not only are the gangs willing to commit wholesale massacres, they are apparently unafraid to kill officials who try to investigate such crimes.

The Tamaulipas state Attorney General’s office said Tuesday that identification documents found on the bodies matched those of the missing officials, state detective Roberto Suarez Vazquez and Juan Carlos Suarez Sanchez, who was head of the Public Safety department of the town of San Fernando, Tamaulipas, where the massacre occurred.

The bodies were found in a field about 30 miles (50 kilometers) northeast of San Fernando.

The officials have been missing since Aug. 24, when they participated in the initial investigations into the massacre, which was apparently committed the previous day at a ranch outside San Fernando.

The office said in a statement that it was conducting DNA tests to confirm the identities, suggesting the condition of the cadavers may have been too poor to permit visual identification.

Suarez Vazquez filed the initial crime report on the bodies of the massacre victims, and Suarez Sanchez accompanied him during that task.

The killings appeared to demonstrate that the Zetas drug gang — which authorities have said was apparently responsible for killing the 72 mainly Central American migrants — did not flee the region, even after Mexican marines swarmed the area, found the bodies and engaged in a firefight with suspects, killing three and detaining another.

Instead, the gang appears to have closely followed the investigations, seeking either to impede the probe or resolve it quickly.

On Monday, federal authorities said an anonymous tipster called marines last week and told them where to find the bodies of three men who the caller said participated in the massacre. A Honduran man who survived the slaughter and is currently under police protection in Mexico later identified the three dead men as having been among the killers.

Prosecutors’ spokesman Ricardo Najera said authorities have no information on who made the call. But in the past, suspects in especially brutal killings that draw too much attention to drug gangs have been “handed over” to authorities, apparently by the cartels themselves.

A total of seven men have now been identified as suspects in the massacre. The only one still alive was caught in the Aug. 24 raid at the site of the killings, and identified by a survivor. Three other suspects died in a shootout with authorities at the scene of the killings.

Najera said “the evidence and testimony suggest very strongly that the Zetas were involved,” referring to the violent drug gang.

Of the witnesses, only two men, an Ecuadorean and a Honduran, are confirmed to have survived.

Also Tuesday, pieces of the dismembered bodies of two men were found scattered around a children’s park in the Pacific coast state of Guerrero, authorities said.

Guerrero state police said the victims’ two severed heads were left next to each other, along with a handwritten message. Police did not reveal the text of the message.

One of the heads was wrapped in packing tape. Such execution tactics are frequently used by drug gangs in Mexico.

Located in the state capital of Chilpancingo, the park adjoins a museum and contains several large fiberglass models of dinosaurs that were once part of a touring exhibit.

In the northern border city of Ciudad Juarez, across from El Paso, Texas, gunmen attacked a vehicle carrying inmates from the city’s prison, killing two guards and wounding a prisoner.

The gunmen made off with another inmate who was serving a 9-year sentence for drug trafficking and weapons possession. The two inmates were being returned from a visit to a hospital for treatment of unspecified conditions when the attack occurred.

Also in the north, about 200 family members and friends wept as they filed past two open caskets at the funeral for a father and son mistakenly killed by Mexican troops Sunday in the city of Monterrey.

Vicente De Leon Ramirez, 52, and his 15-year-old son, Alejandro Gabriel De Leon Castellanos, were shot by soldiers in their car on a highway on the outskirts of the industrial city.

Authorities said the troops opened fire after De Leon failed to heed signals to pull over at a roadblock. But Joel Gonzalez, the boyfriend of De Leon’s daughter, said passengers in the car told him they had seen only a military convoy, not a roadblock.

“They were in a convoy with four vehicles, some behind and some overtaking them,” Gonzalez said, recounting the witnesses’ reports. “When he (De Leon) passed and returned to his lane, they started shooting, and shooting and shooting.”

“We often applaud the efforts of the army, but this time it was the opposite,” Gonzalez said. “It does not seem right that they, the defenders of the nation, act like cowboys.”

The Mexican army officially apologized for the killings and the Nuevo Leon state government paid the family’s funeral costs.

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