MEXICO CITY — The hacked-up bodies of a newspaper photographer and another young man have been found in the northern Mexico city of Saltillo, the newspaper Vanguardia reported Thursday. Photographer Daniel Martinez Bazaldua had recently been hired to cover social events for Vanguardia, the paper said in a story in its online edition. He was 22.
Saltillo is located in northern Coahuila state, an area where the Zetas drug cartel is active. Another Coahuila newspaper recently announced it would no longer publish stories about drug gangs, after receiving threats apparently signed by a Zetas leader.
Vanguardia wrote that authorities confirmed the two bodies had been found Wednesday. The state government said the bodies were found next to the kind of hand-lettered signs frequently used by drug cartels.
The bodies were left in a jumbled pile of severed parts on a street, next to a message that appeared to indicate the Zetas were responsible for the killings.
The state government said the sign suggested the two young men had deserted from a drug gang.
Vanguardia called the accusations "sad and alarming," noting that the message left at the scene also contained threats to police.
"We think it is sad and alarming that Coahuila has become a state in which the authorities condemn murdered people, converting them into criminals, without offering the least evidence," the paper wrote.
"Only a serious, professional investigation can find out the truth that society deserves," Vanguardia wrote.
Vanguardia Editorial Director Ricardo Mendoza described Martinez Bazaldua as "very calm," ''friendly" and "enthusiastic," and said he did not know whether the killing was related to his work as a photographer.
In some cartel-plagued cities in Mexico, covering even the society section can be dangerous, because cartel leaders may hang out at prominent social events and may get angry if they are included in photos. In some cases, if they want the attention, they can be angered if they are left out.
Press advocates have long called Mexico one of the most dangerous nations for reporters. But there isn't a single, agreed-upon figure on crimes against journalists.
The Committee to Protect Journalists says in its latest report published in February that 12 Mexican journalists went missing from 2006-2012 and that in the same period 14 were killed because of their work. Mexico's human rights commission lists 81 journalists it says have been killed since 2000.
In 2012, Mexico's special prosecutor for crimes against freedom of expression said 67 journalists have been killed and 14 have disappeared in the country since 2006.
On Thursday, the lower house of congress approved a bill that would allow journalists to request that federal prosecutors and federal judges investigate attacks against them, and to establish cases in which such federal intervention would be obligatory. The bill was previously approved by the senate and has now been sent to the president for his signature.