- The Washington Times - Friday, December 10, 1999

Of course I have many enemies in Mexico,” says Jorge Madrazo, Mexico’s attorney general. “They are the drug traffickers.”
Those drug traffickers have a long arm in Mexico. Mass graves in Juarez, Mexico, where casualties of the drug trade lie buried, will likely be a testament to the corrupting influence of drug money on Mexican society. As the grim task of identifying bodies is undertaken, members of the Mexican police force could be implicated in drug corruption cases.
While the Juarez graves put police corruption into sharper focus, Mr. Madrazo, who spoke to editors and reporters at The Washington Times on Thursday, will continue his battle on the drug scourge. The former human-rights scholar has spearheaded some drastic measures. By April of next year, for example, half of Mexico’s federal police force of 3,500 will have been fired over the past two years in a comprehensive attempt to ferret out corruption. “We are working hard in providing results, we are cleaning the house,” Mr. Madrazo said. Furthermore, 357 police and prosecutors have been indicted in Mexico since August of 1997, he added. Mr. Madrazo also pointed to record marijuana, opium and cocaine seizures this year.
Attempts are being made to increase the probability that the new blood remains clean. Since April of 1997, police candidates have had to take polygraph tests. Furthermore, because the firings of about 800 police officers around August of 1996 have been contested in court, Mr. Madrazo has stewarded an effort to lower the threshold of evidence needed to dismiss police officers. Those constitutional changes have quickened the vetting process and will help keep the ranks clean, he added. Now, even if evidence against a police officer wouldn’t hold up in court, it can still be used as criteria for firing an officer. “Sometimes you don’t really have hard evidence, but you know they are working for the bad guys,” said Deputy Attorney General Eduardo Ibarrola.
He also recognized that there are no guarantees that the force will be corruption-free, as the Juarez case most succinctly demonstrates. “The capacity to corrupt law-enforcement is really high,” he said, citing an example where a delegate of his was offered a bribe of $1 million per month by a drug trafficker in Juarez. “The capacity to develop violence against law-enforcement is also very high.”
Police officers get paid about $1,000 a month in Mexico. Extra bonuses are given for notable achievements in arrests, seizures, and providing intelligence, Mr. Madrazo said. Attempts are being made to increase the amount of money provided in the bonuses. But “we are not competing with bribes of drug traffickers.”
Those bribes will continue to have a devastating effect on Mexican society. Eventually, however, Mexico’s house cleaning could begin to have a positive effect.

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