Pubdate: Sat, 18 Jan 2003
Source: Independent  (UK)
Copyright: 2003 Independent Newspapers (UK) Ltd.
Author: Kieran Murray, Mexico City, Reuters


Mexican soldiers have raided and closed the offices of a federal anti-drugs
force in a crackdown on agents who work for or protect drug traffickers.

Rafael Macedo, the Attorney General, who ordered the raids, said the
200-strong narcotics unit, Feads, will be shut down and its agents

He said the government of President Vicente Fox had launched an all-out war
on police corruption and scored some major successes but more work was

"We have to admit there are people who have not understood that this
[tolerance of corruption] is over, and we are going to finish with them," he
said yesterday. "We have to clean up our house. We will not rest until we
have totally cleaned up these federal police forces, and we will insist that
every police force at the state and local level is also in the same shape."

The government has been praised by senior US officials for unprecedented
co-operation in the war against Mexico's cocaine cartels. So the new
evidence of serious problems inside Feads is an embarrassing reminder of how
deep corruption runs inside Mexico's police forces. The raids on Feads
offices in 11 states came less than a week after seven agents were arrested
in the northern border city of Tijuana for allegedly offering to free two
captured drug smugglers and give them back their drugs in return for a
massive bribe.

The soldiers allegedly discovered almost five tons of seized marijuana that
the agents had failed to declare.

The Feads force was set up in 1997 under former president Ernesto Zedillo to
focus exclusively on the drug war. Since President Fox took office in
December 2000, his government has captured or killed several leading
traffickers, including Benjamin and Ramon Arellano Felix, two brothers who
led the country's most ruthless drug gang.

Several senior officials -- including a former governor of the Caribbean
coastal state of Quintana Roo -- have also been arrested and US officials
say the level of co-operation with Mexican drug units has never been better.

But there have also been some setbacks, including the escape from prison in
early 2001 of Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman and a series of scandals showing
that the cocaine cartels routinely bribe army officers, police and judicial
authorities to stay one step ahead of the law.
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