Mexico: police charged in kidnapping for drug gang

Backed up by Mexican soldiers, state homicide detectives arrested the municipal police chief and six other police agents in Lagos de Moreno in the western state of Jalisco on June 6 for allegedly participating in the kidnapping of three men five months earlier. The victims—attorney César Raúl Alcalá Gaona; his assistant, Jorge Alejandro Arredondo Siller; and construction worker Jorge Alberto Bustos Nájera, all from Saltillo, Coahuila—were found dead from asphyxiation and beating a few hours after they were kidnapped. The police agents are believed to have been working for Jalisco New Generation, a drug gang.

Videotapes from security cameras at a hotel showed police agents and men in civilian clothes entering the hotel and removing the victims, handcuffed and in their underwear–in the early morning of Jan. 20. The victims had apparently come to Jalisco to collect rent for a ranch, but the killers may have mistaken them for members of a rival drug cartel based in Coahuila.

Jalisco attorney general Tomás Coronado Olmos released the videos to the media on June 13, and parts were shown on Mexican television. “One assumes that in some cities … the municipal police work for the drug cartels,” said Jorge Chabat, an expert on security and drug trafficking at the Center for Economic Research and Teaching, told the Associated Press wire service. “But what is different here is that there is a video. It’s not the same thing to imagine that this going on, and to see it.” Chabat noted that in 2010 seven local police agents in Santiago in the northern state of Nuevo León were arrested on charges of working for the Zetas drug gang and kidnapping and murdering Mayor Edelmiro Cavazos, who had been trying to cut corruption. (Milenio, Mexico, June 13; AP, June 14, via Miami Herald)

As many as 50,000 Mexicans have died in drug-related killings since President Felipe Calderón Hinojosa began militarizing the “war on drugs” in late 2006. Federal and local authorities generally attribute the violence to drug cartels, but it is unclear how much should be blamed on the security forces. Last November Mexican human rights attorney Netzaí Sandoval filed a complaint with the International Criminal Court (ICC) in The Hague charging the federal government with responsibility in at least some of the killings.

From Weekly News Update on the Americas, June 17.

See our last post on Mexico’s narco wars.