Pubdate: Thu, 21 Jul 2011
Source: Wall Street Journal (US)
Copyright: 2011 Dow Jones & Company, Inc.
Author: David Luhnow


MEXICO CITY-Hundreds of investigative police, prosecutors and
forensics experts and other staff from Mexico's Attorney General's
Office are being investigated amid suspicion of links to organized
crime, the latest corruption scandal to hit Mexico's government.

Mexican Attorney General Marisela Morales said late Tuesday that the
agency was in the process of firing 424 officials, the majority for
failing to pass lie-detector tests aimed at rooting out corruption.

"We are strengthening our vigilance to make sure that our own
officials abide by the law," Ms. Morales said in a speech.

The move is the second large-scale purge by Mexico's government in
less than a year, coming on the heels of a mass firing last year of
roughly 3,200 federal police by the country's Ministry of Security and
Public Safety-equal to 10% of the entire federal police force.

News of the purge came only days after 100 members of the Attorney
General's Office were arrested for allegedly taking part in a fraud
that allowed them to get large, cut-rate loans to buy homes through a
federal employee mortgage agency.

The purges are part of a broad effort across Mexico to clean up
corrupt police forces that have long been tied to organized crime, in
particular drug gangs that are responsible for more than 40,000 deaths
since President Felipe Calderon came to power in December 2006.

The federal government wants all local, state and federal police to
undergo lie-detector tests. A national database has been set up to
ensure that those flushed from one force don't resurface in another.

But the process of cleaning up corruption in the police force has been
slow and fraught with problems. One of them is that so many police are
failing the tests that officials fear there won't be enough police
left at the local and state levels.

The state of Oaxaca said last week that it had fired nearly a quarter
of its entire state police force, some 500 officers, because they had
failed the lie-detector tests.

Last year, the city of Torreon fired almost its entire city force on
suspicions that they were tied to a local drug cartel, and decided to
start a new force from scratch. While new cops were being trained,
crime rates went up.

Police in Mexico who are killed are often targeted because they are
working for one cartel at the expense of a rival gang, analysts say.

Whatever the case, working in law enforcement is dangerous as drug
gangs fight for turf across the country. This week, the head of
Acapulco's tourist police, a unit trained to help the city's visitors,
was gunned down. Dalila Linet Pena Abarca, 25 years old, had just left
her local gym when gunmen surrounded her car and killed her,
eyewitnesses said.

In Ciudad Juarez, meanwhile, local police were again the subject of
negative headlines this week when two policemen on patrol shot a small
dog that was barking at them.

Pictures of the wounded mutt licking its wounds under a car were
splashed across the front page of daily newspapers. The dog died of
its wounds two days later, prompting outrage across the city.
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