HTTP/1.0 200 OK Content-Type: text/html 17 Police Officers Suspected In Slayings
Pubdate: Fri, 30 Jan 2004
Source: Charlotte Observer (NC)
Copyright: 2004 The Charlotte Observer
Author: Olga R. Rodriguez, Associated Press


Detained State Officers Also Questioned About Drug Trafficking

CIUDAD JUAREZ, Mexico - Authorities questioned 13 state police
Thursday about drug trafficking and the murders of at least 11 people,
feeding fears that officers in this border city take part in the crime
they should be fighting.

The officers were detained Wednesday. Their commander and three fellow
officers were being sought.

A state police spokesman acknowledged officials have been unable to
clean up the force despite firing about 300 officers in the past two
years. Thousands of other local, state and federal lawmen in Mexico
have been dismissed in recent years.

The money from drug trafficking is "too tempting for people who are
not committed to public service," spokesman Mauro Conde said.

Hundreds of murders have gone unsolved in Ciudad Juarez, including the
cases of dozens of young women who were strangled and dumped in the
desert outside of the city.

Conde said the 13 officers focused on drug cases and were not involved
in the investigations of the slain women, but they were linked to the
bodies of 11 men found this weekend in the back yard of a house in a
middle-class neighborhood.

Federal Deputy Attorney General Jose Luis Santiago Vasconcelos told W
Radio that "some elements of the state judicial police" were involved.
He said some officers "are nothing more than delinquents disguised as
public servants, at the service of the interests of drug

The man who rented the house, Alejandro Garcia, was arrested Tuesday
and told police he took part in the killings at the order of several
state police officers and members of the Vicente Carrillo drug gang.

That led officials to investigate all state police officers on the
night shift in Ciudad Juarez. Thirteen were taken into custody when
they showed up for work Wednesday night, and four others, including
their commander, are being sought.

The commander, Miguel Angel Loya, didn't show up for work Monday and
hasn't been seen since, Conde said.

The officers were flown to Mexico City, where federal agents
questioned them about possible ties to drug trafficking and to the 11
bodies found at the house.

The discovery of the bodies led relatives of some of the dozens of
other missing men to ask police for information. Late Wednesday,
relatives were allowed into the morgue to try to identify the remains,
some of which had been buried months before.

Lorenza Benavides, vice president of the Association of Relatives and
Friends of the Disappeared, said her organization had the names of at
least 187 missing men.

"We have always said police officers are involved in all of these
crimes," Benavides said. "But our complaints have always fallen on
deaf ears."

She said her organization has asked federal authorities to search
three more houses around Ciudad Juarez where neighbors reported
hearing screams. Officials said those were among six houses for which
they were seeking search warrants.

Residents say they aren't surprised by the arrests. Luz Elena Caraveo,
whose brother disappeared along with his friend a year ago, said
witnesses told her police kidnapped the two men.

"One is always afraid to talk and look (for answers) because one could
easily become a target," she added.

Conde blamed violence in this city of 1.2 million on a growing drug
war that has claimed dozens of lives so far this year.

"Juarez is a tough city, but it's a city where people still live," he
said. "Those who live their lives honestly don't have a reason to feel
persecuted or harassed. Everybody is exposed, but the victims are
usually part of organized crime."
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