HTTP/1.0 200 OK Content-Type: text/html Mexico Questions Police Officials About Ambush
Pubdate: Mon, 19 Mar 2007
Source: New York Times (NY)
Copyright: 2007 The New York Times Company
Author: James C. McKinley, Jr.
Bookmark: (Mexico)


MEXICO CITY -- Three high-ranking state police commanders and a 
former police chief were being held for questioning on Sunday in the 
attempted killing of the Tabasco State secretary of public security, 
after hundreds of soldiers and federal agents raided the police 
headquarters there the day before.

The raid was the latest in a series of similar operations President 
Felipe Calderon has ordered to counter the influence of drug cartels 
in state and local police forces. "It's part of the general strategy 
to go into the states that have problems with narcotics traffickers," 
said Miguel Monterrubio, a spokesman for the president.

On March 6, gunmen yet to be identified tried to kill Francisco 
Fernandez Solis, the secretary of public security who took office 
only a few months ago. Mr. Fernandez Solis survived the ambush but 
his driver was killed.

Last Thursday, a severed human head was thrown on the ground in front 
of the police headquarters. The grisly act was seen as a warning to 
officers to avoid meddling in the drug trade. Over the last year, 
decapitations have become a common way for drug traffickers to 
intimidate rival gangs and the police in Mexico.

On Saturday afternoon, about 350 federal police officers and 150 
soldiers and federal agents surrounded the state police headquarters 
in Villahermosa, the capital of Tabasco, seized the armory and 
disarmed the local police, as they have done in Tijuana, Oaxaca and 
other cities since Mr. Calderon took office in December.

After the raid, state police officers returned to duty with only 
nightsticks, while armed federal officers patrolled in pickup trucks. 
Federal investigators were testing the guns to determine whether any 
had been used in the attack on the police chief or in other crimes, 
officials said.

Federal authorities also detained three high-ranking state police 
officials: the assistant security secretary, Rene Castillo Mendez; 
the state police chief, David Sanchez Alejandro; and the chief of the 
governor's security force, Fernando Santiago Rodriguez. Several hours 
later, a former police chief, Juan Cano Torres, was arrested in the 
city of Frontera. All were brought to Mexico City for questioning Sunday night.

Investigators in Tabasco originally theorized that drug dealers had 
attacked the police chief because he was cracking down on their 
business, but now federal prosecutors are pursing a second line of 
inquiry, officials involved in the investigation said. That theory 
holds that a shadowy "brotherhood" of rogue officers angry over the 
new police commander's rigorous approach to fighting the drug trade 
carried out the attack.

Sara Salas, a spokeswoman for the federal attorney general, said that 
federal prosecutors were interrogating the Tabasco officials in 
Mexico City about the assassination attempt, but that no charges had 
been filed at this point.

"They have not been arrested," she said. "They are being asked to 
make a declaration about what they know." 
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