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Border Traffic, Trade Begins To Pick Up After Ritual Slayings

April 20, 1989

MATAMOROS, Mexico (AP) _ Border traffic and trade were picking up after a sharp drop that followed the discovery of 15 mutilated bodies believed to be the work of a drug- smuggling cult.

But traffic on the two Rio Grande bridges connecting Matamoros to its Texas neighbor, Brownsville, was still less than normal on Wednesday, officials said.

Fear and rumors generated by the discovery of the bodies at two nearby ranches and the arrest of five cult members still pervaded this city of nearly 500,000.

Reports that cult leaders had threatened to abduct and sacrifice children if fellow members were not freed prompted parents to pick up their children from school on Wednesday. Police said the calls were a hoax.

″They (news media) are creating the psychosis with all these rumors,″ said a telephone operator at the federal police office. ″We have hundreds of people calling to ask if the rumors are true.″

Jesus Urquiza Martinez, the regional police commander, said special guards were being posted, especially at outlying schools.

Cult leaders Alfonso de Jesus Constanzo, a Cuban-American, and Sara Aldrete of Brownsville still were at large, and federal investigators said the search for the missing cult members continued and was being coordinated by the Mexico City office on Wednesday.

An attorney General’s office spokesman in Mexico City said there was no new information in the case on Wednesday.

He denied an earlier report by Mexican officials in Matamoros that Aldrete’s purse, her passport and $15,000 had been found at a Mexico City apartment and that she was feared dead.

Juan Benitez Ayala, commander of the Federal Judicial Police in Matamoros, said earlier this week that some officials feared Constanzo may have ordered Aldrete’s death.

The discovery last week of the first of the 15 bodies, many of them mutilated, sent waves of horror through this border community.

″We cannot hide reality,″ Chamber of Commerce Director Andres Cahuigh said. ″This happened here, but it could have happened anywhere. We must now start showing again the good things about Matamoros and we must remind our visitors that this is a good city, quiet, with a healthy society.″

Officials said traffic across the border dropped 80 percent in March after the disappearance of Mark Kilroy, a 21-year-old University of Texas student abducted and killed by the cult.