By Tomas Bravo
Authorities in northern Mexico are investigating the police after suspected hitmen snatched the body of a murdered Mexican television actor from a crime scene on Friday when officers ordered the area cleared.
The body of Jose Luis Cerda, a comedian on a popular Televisa show, was found dumped by a main highway in Monterrey, Mexico's richest city.
Cerda, known as "La Gata" (The Cat), had been kidnapped by masked men on Thursday night when he left the network's local studios.
As officers guarded the scene and journalists looked on, police ordered reporters to leave because suspected drug gang members with guns were on their way there, according to witnesses speaking on condition of anonymity.
"The bad guys carried him off," said a police officer at the scene who declined to be named.
It was not immediately clear if the police left the scene with the reporters or stayed put.
The body of Cerda, who was shot in the head, blindfolded with his feet and hands bound, was found later on Friday inside an abandoned Mercedes Benz on a highway near the city center, local newspaper El Norte reported. Police declined to comment.
Adrian de la Garza, state prosecutor in Nuevo Leon, where Monterrey is state capital, told a news conference that at least eight police officers at the scene had been suspended and were being interrogated about the corpse's disappearance.
Televisa had been covering live from the scene when the body was still there, but the TV reporter cut short his report, saying the police had asked them to withdraw. After the TV cameras were turned off, two men drove up, grabbed Cerda’s body and fled as the police stood by.
KILLING OF JOURNALISTS
Authorities were at pains to explain the bizarre series of events other than to attribute these kind of killings to rivals between drug gangs.
The incident occurred one day after Televisa and other major news outlets signed an accord in Mexico City to put tighter controls on the publication of gruesome images from the drugs war and to better protect journalists covering it.
Twenty-two journalists have been murdered during Calderon's term, at least eight in direct reprisal attacks for reporting on crime and corruption, according to the Committee to Protect Journalists. At least another seven have gone missing.
Cerda's body was found by a wall with a freshly spray-painted message reading:
“YA NO SIGAN COOPERANDO CON LOS ZETAS ATTE CDG, SALUDOS ARQUITECTO EL NUMERO UNO”.
STOP SUPPORTING THE ZETAS, SIGNED: CDG, GREETINGS TO " ARCHITECT", THE #1
The two rival gangs are fighting a brutal war for control of the area, its lucrative local drug market, smuggling routes to the United States and kidnapping and extortion rackets.
The violence in Mexico's business capital, which has close U.S. ties, is arguably the most dramatic deterioration in security in Mexico since President Felipe Calderon launched his army-led crackdown against drug cartels in late 2006.
More than 36,000 people have since died in the conflict.
Despite army and federal deployments across Monterrey, authorities are struggling to deal with rising grenade attacks, targeted killings of mayors and senior police officials and threats against journalists.
at 1:05 on the video, the reporter announces they have been told to leave the area due to risks of gunmen (comando) returning to the scene.
The two bodies found near Santiago, Nuevo leon were identified as La Gata's cousin, Juan Roberto Gomez, and an independent cameraman from Monclova, Coahuila, Luis Ruiz Ruiz
“La Gata,” who acknowledged having overcome problems with substance abuse, was active in charitable and social causes.
Photos: Grupo Reforma