Nuevo Laredo en vivo

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Javier Soto plays his accordion as he searches for tourists in a vacant downtown market in Nuevo Laredo on January 26, 2006. (AP/Gregory Bull)

You don't notice it at first. Not with the people seemingly moving as normal on the sidewalks and the happy recorded music blaring across the plaza in front of city hall to announce the annual cowboy parade. No, at first Nuevo Laredo looks like a regular border town, until the military armored car goes by a block away and rotates the heavy machine gun toward the plaza. Are the soldiers just curious? Or do they see something they want to shoot? Who will be hit if they do open fire? Then other images come into focus, like the blocks of closed shops, with for sale signs only on the most recently closed because the owners of the older, more dilapidated shops, have given up even that hope.

María Elizabeth Macías Castro's killers left this note. (AFP)

María Elizabeth Macías Castro's killers made sure their actions were understood. In a macabre, carefully orchestrated mise-en-scene, they placed her body in front of a poster with the ominous note. Nearby they left a computer keyboard, with a pair of headphones on her decapitated head.

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