- The Washington Times - Friday, December 10, 1999

A massive “housecleaning” campaign by Mexican Attorney General Jorge Madrazo Cuellar aimed at dismantling that country’s drug cartels has targeted 40 percent of Mexico’s federal police force for termination most of whom already have been fired.
Another 357 federal officers have been prosecuted in the nationwide sweep, which Mr. Madrazo described as a “major step for us in Mexico” in the war on drugs.
“Our goal is to cut all those police officers with tendencies to be corrupt and to prosecute them for the sake of national security,” he told editors and reporters Thursday at The Washington Times. “Traffickers have a lot of money and are capable of corrupting law enforcement officers. And the possibility of violence against the officers is high.”
“But we intend to clean the house and while I have no guarantee the program will work, I put my confidence in the very brave people we are now hiring,” he said.
Mr. Madrazo, on a three-day visit to Washington to meet with Attorney General Janet Reno, FBI Director Louis J. Freeh and DEA Administrator Donnie Marshall, said more than 1,400 of the country’s 3,500 federal police officers will have been fired for corruption as his housecleaning plan begun in April 1997 moves into early next year.
Mr. Madrazo also said an extradition bottleneck between the United States and Mexico could be resolved as early as next year when the Mexican Supreme Court rules on extradition challenges in that country. U.S. authorities have complained that Mexico refuses to extradite criminals, although the Mexican government has cited conflicting laws for the problem.
And, in another matter, he said eight bodies had been unearthed from two sites near Ciudad Juarez and the search for more victims in what appears to be the killing of drug smugglers by rival dealers would continue. He said some of the victims were murdered execution-style blindfolded with their hands tied behind their backs and their feet bound. Some of the victims, he said, also had been tortured.
Six of the victims, all men between 35 and 39, were pulled from a common grave at one site, and two others from a separate location, he said, adding that some of the bodies were wrapped in blankets and sprinkled with quicklime, a tactic used by drug traffickers to dispose of their victims.
Mr. Madrazo declined to estimate how many bodies would be found when a total of four sites now under review by Mexican police and the FBI are searched, but he discounted claims that as many as 100 people were killed, as charged by others. He also said the probe has included a look into the possibility that former Mexican police officers may have been involved in the deaths.
“There is no doubt that the Carillo Fuentes cartel was responsible and that former police officers could be involved,” he said. “The investigation continues and we will present indictments in the case but we are not looking for 100 people or 200 or 300. There is no basis to say that.”
He said early concerns that 100 people could have been killed came from reports confirming that more than 100 people were missing from Ciudad Juarez, but for a variety of reasons. He said many listed as missing went to the United States to find jobs.
Mr. Madrazo was named attorney general in December 1996 by Mexican President Ernesto Zedillo, who fired then-Attorney General Antonio Lozano Gracia after a series of failures in high-profile assassination cases. A lawyer who spoke out against irregularities by ruling-party officials, he is a political independent who formerly headed the government’s Human Rights Commission.
One of his first orders was a vetting process for federal police that required extensive background investigations and polygraph examinations a practice previously unheard of in Mexico. He also sought increases in pay for the officers, who make about $12,000 a year, and instituted life- and medical-insurance plans, along with a bonus program that rewarded the officers for exceptional work.
The vetting program resulted in the mass termination of much of the existing federal force. Part of his plan includes a National System of Public Security, which is a readily available registry of federal police who have been fired from one jurisdiction to ensure they are not hired elsewhere.
Mr. Madrazo also said:
c Seven suspected Mexican criminals had been extradited to the United States and 12 others lost legal appeals and were awaiting extradition. He said contradictory rulings by Mexico’s lower courts had clouded the question of whether Mexicans could be extradited to the United States but the matter has now been referred by his office to the Mexican Supreme Court and he expected a ruling in the matter by early next year.
c Media reports linking the Mexican military, including six generals, to the Amado Carrillo Fuentes drug cartel in Juarez were misleading. He said four of the six were in prison, one had died and another had been investigated for corruption but prosecutors could not find evidence to charge him.
During his visit, Mr. Madrazo has underscored ongoing cooperation between Mexico and the United States, especially in “our common fight against drug trafficking.” He said that cooperation had become most evident in the investigation in Juarez, where FBI agents have joined with Mexican police to recover the bodies, examine evidence and pursue suspects.

Sign up for Daily Newsletters

Manage Newsletters

Copyright © 2020 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.

Please read our comment policy before commenting.


Click to Read More and View Comments

Click to Hide