Staged photos of slain drug lord stir controversy

By chillinwill · Dec 22, 2009 · ·
  1. chillinwill
    Images of Arturo Beltran Leyva's corpse covered with blood-stained peso notes and jewelry raise concerns that law enforcement is adopting the tactics of hit men. An inquiry is underway

    Reporting from Mexico City - The dead drug lord lay on his back, blood-soaked jeans yanked down to the knees. Mexican peso notes carpeted his bullet-torn body, and U.S. $100 bills formed neat rows next to his bared belly.

    The gory photograph of Arturo Beltran Leyva, one of Mexico's most wanted kingpins, was among those widely published here during the last few days following his death in a shootout Wednesday with Mexican marines in Cuernavaca, capital of the central state of Morelos.

    Even in a country where pictures of gruesome crime scenes routinely show up on the front pages of newspapers, the Beltran Leyva images have stirred controversy over who staged the tableau and whether Mexican authorities did so to send a taunting message to the rest of his powerful drug trafficking gang.

    Several commentators said the photos, some of which showed religious jewelry laid across Beltran Leyva's stomach, were evidence that the government had adopted the macabre public-relations methods used by hit men. Gang members often line their victims' bodies along the roadside or hang them from bridges, leaving menacing, handwritten messages to scare foes.

    The federal government, locked in a violent 3-year-old crackdown on drug cartels, has denied any responsibility for the photographs, calling the images "pernicious" and "reprehensible."

    "The Mexican government fulfills its duty to halt organized-crime activity, but it does not get into personal humiliation," Interior Minister Fernando Gomez Mont said in a television interview.

    But that has not laid the doubts to rest.

    "Photographs of a corpse: law or vengeance?" the Excelsior newspaper asked in a headline over the weekend.

    "The humiliated corpse, with its pants lowered, covered with bloody bills in one photo and religious objects in another, showed the typical modus operandi of narco-traffickers," security analyst Jorge Chabat wrote Monday in El Universal newspaper, which earlier ran a version of the photograph on its front page. "The only thing missing was a sign saying 'so that you learn to respect' to confirm the unmistakable stamp of an act of narco revenge.

    "The problem is much deeper: It has to do with the absolute lack of democratic culture and respect for human rights in our country."

    Among the main questions was who took the time to cover Beltran Leyva from neck to knees with blood-smeared bills, apparently to publicize the scene. Most of the bills appeared to be 500-peso notes, which are worth about $39 each. Another image, taken without the bills, showed Beltran Leyva's face disfigured by bullets.

    Beltran Leyva, who called himself the "boss of bosses" and headed a family-run gang based in the northwestern state of Sinaloa, was killed when marines stormed an upscale apartment complex Wednesday. Six bodyguards and one commando also died.

    Gomez Mont said the marine commandos, who are part of the Mexican navy, left the crime scene in the hands of coroner specialists from Morelos. He said federal officials would help state authorities try to figure out how the photographs were taken and distributed.

    Morelos officials said Monday that they had opened an investigation.

    El Universal published a series of photographs Sunday showing three people in civilian clothes, with faces digitally blurred, lifting Beltran Leyva's body by the arms and belted pants. Pictures showed gloved hands handling the bloodied bills and then portrayed the body covered with them.

    The case sparked debate among journalists over newsworthiness of the photographs, which were credited to Mexican newspapers and wire services. But mainly it had people wondering whether the drug war, with 15,000 dead in three years, had both sides adhering to the same vicious rules.

    "It is the state forces that adopted the basic language of the narco," columnist Luis Petersen Farah wrote in the Milenio newspaper. " 'There's your money,' the photograph seems to say. It's the language of war."

    Ken Ellingwood
    December 22, 2009
    LA Times,0,5243016.story

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  1. MiMoMo
    Slaying of drug war hero's family shocks Mexico

    Assailants on Tuesday gunned down the mother, aunt and siblings of a marine killed in a raid that took out one of Mexico's most powerful cartel leaders — sending a chilling message to troops battling the drug war: You go after us, we wipe out your families. The brazen pre-dawn slayings came just hours after the navy honored Melquisedet Angulo as a national hero at a memorial service.

    "The message is very clear: It's to intimidate not only the government but its flesh and blood," said Jorge Chabat, a Mexican expert on drug cartels. "It's to intimidate those in the armed forces so they fear not only for their own lives, but the lives of their families." Federal officials had warned last week's killing of drug lord Arturo Beltran Leyva, known as the "boss of bosses," could provoke a violent backlash from smugglers, who have gone after federal police in the past following the arrest of high-ranking cartel members.

    Beltran Leyva was among the most-wanted drug lords in Mexico and the United States, and was the biggest trafficker taken down by President Felipe Calderon's administration so far. U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration officials blamed his cartel for much of the bloodshed across Mexico. Even so, the country was shocked by the brutal slayings of Angulo's family at their home just hours after the fallen marine's mother, Irma Cordova, 55, attended his memorial service in Mexico City, where she received the Mexican flag covering his coffin.

    His brother, Benito Angulo, 28, his sister, Jolidabey Angulo, 22, and aunt, Josefa Angulo, 46, also were killed shortly after midnight when gunmen wielding assault rifles broke down the door of their home. His sister, Miraldeyi Angulo, 24, was reported in serious condition at a hospital. The family's home in southern Tabasco state was littered with more than two dozen bullet casings. Hit men linked to Beltran Leyva's cartel have a strong presence in Tabasco, a Gulf state bordering Guatemala, and were suspected of being behind the attack. State and federal forces searching for the assailants set up roadblocks across the state Tuesday. The navy did not say whether it was taking special measures to protect marine families, including Angulo's two children, ages 3 years and 16 months. Authorities did not say where they or their mother were when their relatives were slain. Calderon called the attack "a cowardly act" and vowed to press forward in his war involving more than 45,000 troops. "We will not be intimidated by criminals without scruples like those who committed this barbarity," he said Tuesday. "Those who act like this deserve the unanimous repudiation of society and they must pay for their crime."

    While the armed forces have led Calderon's crackdown against organized crime that has seen more than 15,000 people killed by drug violence since it began in 2006, direct attacks by cartels on troops are rare, especially for marines who only recently started playing a major role in the drug war. Most of the killings have been among rival smugglers, according to the federal government. Hundreds of local, state and federal police also have been slain, but only a handful of soldiers have died at the hands of traffickers.

    Angulo, 30, was the only marine killed in the Dec. 16 raid that sparked a nearly two-hour shootout at an apartment complex in the colonial city of Cuernavaca, south of Mexico City. Two other marines were wounded.
    Angulo was also the only marine whose identity was made public of the more than 60 who took part in the operation, which also left six other gunmen dead in addition to Beltran Leyva. Mexican troops never have their names or numbers on their uniforms to protect their identities. The Mexican government, eager to announce its victory, was unusually open about last week's raid, much of which was filmed by local media. Reporters were allowed into the apartment afterward to view Beltran Leyva's bullet-riddled body.

    "This is really worrisome and is a challenge to the government because clearly one of the weapons of organized crime is its ability to use violence to intimidate, and that's where it has been apparent that the state has failed many times in protecting its officials and, in this case, even their families," Chabat said.
    The Tabasco attack came exactly one year to the day after authorities found the bodies of seven decapitated soldiers and five other victims in southern Guerrero state, a region where the Beltran Leyva cartel has been battling for control. The bodies were accompanied by a sign that warned: "For every one of mine that you kill, I will kill 10." A bag of their heads, some still gagged with tape, was found nearby. Those slayings, in Chilpancingo, an hour north of the resort of Acapulco, marked the worst attack against the Mexican army in its half-century battle against drug gangs.

    After the gruesome discovery, the government held a high-profile ceremony aimed at reassuring the nation it would not surrender. Officials also released the names of the troops — just as the navy did Monday when it honored Angulo. Their sobbing wives appeared on national television receiving the flags that had been draped on their husbands' coffins. In that case, however, officials ended the ceremony at the base and refused to say where the bodies would be buried; it also released no information on which cartel was suspected in the killings. On Monday, by contrast, navy officials flew back with Angulo's family to bury him in his home state, where their arrival was covered by local media.

    Tue Dec 22, 2009 4:21 PM EST
  2. cra$h
    Wanna know the sickest part of all of this? Swim can still very easily access any of those drugs that kingpin was pushing. Great job guys, innocent lives lost to just make swim pay more for drugs. When will they realize the damage's been done, and instead of being so hostile, give in and hit the black market where it hurts the most: Their wallets. Lost lives are easily replacable, lost money takes work to earn back
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