23 bodies found in Mexican border city

Posted May 04, 2012, at 10:52 p.m.

MEXICO CITY — Another 23 bodies were discovered Friday in the embattled border city of Nuevo Laredo, including five men and four women hanging from a highway overpass, authorities said.

The grisly surge in violence in Nuevo Laredo, across the river from Laredo, Texas, appears to be part of a battle between Mexico’s two largest drug-trafficking gangs for control of the important land corridor.

The nine bodies dangling from the overpass were bloody, some were blindfolded, and, according to authorities, they bore signs of torture. The victims carried no identification but appeared to be between 25 and 30 years old, the state prosecutor’s office said.

A banner hanging alongside them contained a profanity-laden message in which one drug gang, possibly the Zetas, threatens to eliminate another for “heating up the plaza” — that is, provoking the kind of violence that could attract federal troops.

The Zetas have controlled the area, but a faction of the powerful Sinaloa cartel is moving to challenge them and is believed responsible for a car bomb detonated outside police headquarters last month.

Also Friday in Nuevo Laredo, 14 headless bodies were found in black garbage bags in a truck parked outside a government customs building, authorities said. The heads were later found in three ice chests near City Hall. All of these dead were men, also between the ages of 25 and 30. Similarly, a little more than two weeks ago, 14 other dismembered bodies were found near City Hall.

Much of Mexico, meanwhile, remained outraged over the killing of four current or former journalists in less than a week in the coastal state of Veracruz. One, Regina Martinez, was the correspondent for a national muckraking magazine, two were photojournalists, and the fourth had worked previously as a news photographer.

The battle between the Sinaloa cartel and the Zetas that is hounding Nuevo Laredo, in Tamaulipas state, is also terrorizing neighboring Veracruz. Violence and threats from the cartels, and inaction by the government and prosecutors, have left the Veracruz press corps frightened and less willing to report on criminal activity, a chilling phenomenon seen in many parts of Mexico.

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(c)2012 the Los Angeles Times

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