Pubdate: Fri, 24 Mar 2006
Source: San Jose Mercury News (CA)
Copyright: 2006 San Jose Mercury News
Author: Jay Root, Knight Ridder
Bookmark: (Corruption - Outside U.S.)


General Replaced, Too, As Drug War Persists

MEXICO CITY - In a new sign of turmoil on the violence-racked Mexican
border, the police chief in Nuevo Laredo has resigned and authorities
have quietly replaced the military general in charge of law
enforcement, officials confirmed Thursday.

The changes came a week after the administration of President Vicente
Fox blamed corrupt elements of the city police force for a spectacular
attack that killed four federal intelligence agents last week. A Fox
official indicated that the hit men were aligned with a drug cartel.

Police Chief Omar Pimentel, in the job for only eight months, resigned
Wednesday night and the mayor accepted his resignation, said city
press officer Marco Antonio Martínez. Pimentel was the successor to
Alejandro Domínguez, who was gunned down last summer on his first day
in the job.

Officials named a temporary replacement Thursday and said patrols
would continue uninterrupted.

Also Thursday, a representative of the Federal Preventative Police
(known here as the PFP) confirmed that Gen. Álvaro Moreno Moreno, who
had been leading law enforcement efforts in Nuevo Laredo since last
summer, had been replaced March 14 without official announcement.
Knight Ridder reported last week that Moreno had not been seen in the
city for weeks as violence and suspicions of police corruption grew.

Nuevo Laredo, 2 1/2 hours south of San Antonio, is at the center of a
war between two drug cartels competing for access to lucrative
distribution routes into the United States. Already, 57 people have
been slain in gangland-style attacks this year, more than double the
number killed during the same period last year.

Late last week, only a day after authorities sent in some 600
reinforcements from the PFP, suspected traffickers gunned down four
federal agents dressed in civilian clothes in a brazen afternoon
attack. Rubén Aguilar, a press officer for the president, said
evidence pointed to involvement by corrupt city police officers.

Weeding out cartel corruption among some 700 municipal police had been
Pimentel's top goal. He fired at least half of the officers and
promised to create a less corrupt, more professional force.

In an interview last week with Knight Ridder, Pimentel said he
considered his job a ``professional challenge'' but acknowledged that
he had made little headway in recruiting new police officers because
of the hazards associated with the job. He gave no clue that he was on
the way out, but said he was concentrating on preventing petty crimes
and leaving the drug-trafficking investigations to federal law

Moreno, who was leading the federal agents in Nuevo Laredo, had left
quietly weeks earlier, officials told Knight Ridder. His departure
came amid Mexican media reports and public statements raising
questions about whether the PFP forces sent to restore order have
themselves been infiltrated by elements of the drug cartels.

PFP official Daniel Popoca said Thursday that Moreno had been rotated out as
part of a routine change in the federal police forces, not because of his
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MAP posted-by: Larry Seguin