Pubdate: Sat, 18 Jan 2003
Source: San Jose Mercury News (CA)
Copyright: 2003 San Jose Mercury News
Author: Susana Hayward, Mercury News Mexico City Bureau


Agency Accused Of Collusion With Traffickers

MEXICO CITY - Soldiers and police in battle gear Thursday raided
anti-narcotics offices in 11 Mexican states where narcotics agents are
suspected of colluding with drug traffickers.

Ordered by Attorney General Rafael Macedo de la Concha, the operation
to disband Mexico's top drug-fighting agency -- the Federal
Prosecutors Office for Drug Crimes, or FEADS -- was the largest
anti-corruption strike in recent Mexican history.

Justice officials said Friday that they had confiscated documents from
the agency's offices in the states of Sonora, Chihuahua, Tamaulipas,
Nayarit, Chiapas, Guerrero, Baja California, Oaxaca, Tabasco, Yucat=E1n
and Jalisco.

There were no arrests, but hundreds of federal police officers and
employees were placed under military control while they are
investigated for possible offenses ranging from bribery to abuse of

``FEADS is going to disappear,'' Macedo de la Concha said Friday.
``We're going to get rid of these people. They're going to the street
or to jail.''

The coordinated action to dismantle networks of officials who collude
with drug cartels is a new tactic in Mexico's battle with organized
crime: mounting dragnets instead of small busts.

President Vicente Fox, Mexico's first president from an opposition
party in 71 years, praised the attorney general, who oversees all
police agencies, and the secretary of defense, saying they were key
players in his administration's vow to combat official corruption.

``We will continue to clean up the Attorney General's Office to its
deepest core,'' Fox said in Tijuana. ``This won't be the only case;
there are others. If we go after each and every member of any police
force . . . we will ensure that there's no collusion with organized
crime, that there's no corruption or dishonesty.''

Fox's crackdown on drug lords and corrupt police has been considered
one of the major successes of his administration. Cooperation with
U.S. law enforcement authorities on drug issues also has improved, as
trust has grown that Mexican officials will not betray U.S. agents or
their intelligence sources.

The United States has hailed Mexico's efforts against cartels, which
have grown more powerful as drug traffickers began working with
Colombian cocaine barons. Half the cocaine that enters the United
States comes through Mexico.

FEADS, with 700 members, was created in 1997 under the administration
of President Ernesto Zedillo Ponce de Le=F3n. It replaced the National
Institute to Combat Drugs after the institute's director, Gen. Jes=FAs
Guti=E9rrez Rebollo, was charged with protecting the drug cartel of
Ciudad Ju=E1rez, south of El Paso.

A new agency will be created in about 180 days, as mandated in a law
that passed Dec. 27.

Some 500 soldiers and dozens of police agents conducted the raids
Thursday after seven FEADS agents were arrested last weekend in
Tijuana. They were charged with holding two drug traffickers and
offering their freedom for $2 million. They were arrested after
soldiers reportedly found them with four tons of marijuana that had
not been reported to the government.

Macedo de la Concha said Thursday's operation was not related to the
arrests in Tijuana. The former army general said the employees of the
new special prosecutors' office would be subject to reviews and screening.

``I've ordered this action as an ongoing strategy to clean up the
institution of public servants who don't understand that they must
serve citizens, that they must serve Mexico,'' he said.

On Dec. 4, 2000, three days after Fox took office, he issued a
presidential decree that created the Intersecretarial Commission for
Transparency and Combat Against Corruption. He also created the
Federal Agency of Investigation, which is in charge of overhauling the
notoriously corrupt federal judicial police.

=C1ngel Buendia, a top Justice Department inspector, said 1,180
officials in the Attorney General's Office had been arrested on
drug-related charges and that more than 2,000 from various police
agencies were under investigation.

Fox said that since he took office corrupt police officers had been
replaced by more than 3,000 new agents and by the end of the year
there would be 5,000 federal investigators.

``They are career professionals,'' Fox said. ``Forty percent have
university degrees, and a large part have postgraduate degrees.''
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