Pubdate: Fri, 17 Oct 2008
Source: Los Angeles Times (CA)
Copyright: 2008 Los Angeles Times
Author: Ken Ellingwood, Los Angeles Times Staff Writer

Mexico Under Siege


The Suspects, a Police Commander and a Security Firm Owner, Are
Detained in Connection With the Discovery Last Month of Bodies Piled
in a Park Near Mexico City.

MEXICO CITY -- Mexican authorities Thursday said they had arrested two
suspects in the slayings of 24 men whose bodies were discovered in a
wooded area outside Mexico City last month.

Federal prosecutors said one of the suspects is a municipal police
commander in the state of Mexico, which surrounds the capital on three
sides. The other, identified as having led the planning for the
killings, runs a security company in the same state, officials said.

Authorities said the latter suspect has links to drug traffickers in
the northern state of Sinaloa.

The bodies were found Sept. 12 in a forested park, known as La
Marquesa, that is popular with hikers and other day-trippers from
Mexico City. The mass killing bore signs of the drug-related violence
that has racked the country, leaving more than 3,500 people dead
nationwide this year, according to unofficial Mexican news media tallies.

But authorities have not provided details about a possible motive. A
number of the dead were identified as brick masons from various
Mexican states.

The newspaper El Universal has reported that some of the men may have
been involved in building a drug-smuggling tunnel meant to span the
border in the Baja California city of Mexicali. The newspaper, citing
unidentified sources, said the men were killed after authorities found
out about the tunnel project.

Eight men were arrested in Mexicali after police there found the
150-yard-long tunnel, which ended just short of the U.S. border.

In a statement, the attorney general's office said suspect Raul Villa
Ortega, the security company owner, worked for a Sinaloa drug figure
linked to traffickers known as the Beltran Leyvas. Villa, the
suspected mastermind, was armed when the two were arrested Wednesday,
authorities said.

The second suspect, Antonio Ramirez Cervantes, is a police commander
in the town of Huixquilucan, prosecutors said.

The pile of bodies was among the most grisly developments in what has
been a remarkably violent year, as a government crackdown against drug
traffickers has stoked bloody feuds among gangs over control of
smuggling routes and access to local markets.

In other developments, a Mexican soldier and four suspected hit men
were reported dead after a gun battle late Wednesday in Tijuana,
Mexican news reports said.

The border city has been the site of violent clashes, mostly between
rival factions of the once-powerful Arellano Felix drug gang.

In the northern city of Monterrey, officials at the U.S. Consulate
suspended visa services after gunshots apparently were fired nearby.
Last weekend, gunmen fired shots at the consulate and hurled a grenade
that didn't explode. No one was hurt in either incident.