Soldiers joined federal and state police Wednesday in a operation to arrest cops suspected of collusion with drug cartels, the governor of the northern Mexican state of Nuevo Leon said.
Gov. Rodrigo Medina told a press conference that the sweep began at 6:00 a.m. with simultaneous raids in a dozen different municipalities, including several in Greater Monterrey, the state capital.
Arrested early Wednesday were the former heads of the Monterrey and Guadalupe police departments, Amador Medina and Jose Santos Almaraz, respectively, a spokesman for the state Attorney General’s Office said.
Gov. Medina said later that erstwhile Montemorelos police chief Alejandro Esparza was also picked up, as well as five lower-ranking officers from various departments.
Thirty-four municipalities in this northern border state are currently without police chiefs as a result of resignations prompted by threats from drug cartels, Nuevo Leon legislators say.
Some 300 state and local cops have been arrested in Nuevo Leon over the past two years on suspicion they were working with the cartels, among them 22 police detained last week in the rural town of Garcia for the recent killings of the head of the municipal force, retired Gen. Arturo Esparza, and four of his bodyguards.
Mexico has been plagued in recent years by drug-related violence, with powerful cartels battling each other and the security forces in a scramble for smuggling and distribution routes.
Mexican police are badly paid, making it easy for organized crime to infiltrate and neutralize law-enforcement agencies.
The drug war is blamed for nearly 15,000 deaths in Mexico since December 2006, when newly inaugurated President Felipe Calderon gave the armed forces the leading role against the cartels.
November 19, 2009
Latin American Herald Tribune