Soldiers and federal agents detained 29 police officers in northern Mexico on Monday for alleged ties to drug traffickers.
It was Mexico’s latest sweep to root out corruption among police and government officials, which has been a major impediment to President Felipe Calderon’s battle against drug cartels. Last week, federal officials arrested 10 mayors and 20 other officials in the western state of Michoacan on suspicion of protecting the La Familia cartel.
Soldiers and state and federal agents detained the 29 officers at police headquarters in the cities of Monterrey, San Nicolas de los Garza, Apodaca and the state public security offices, said Nuevo Leon state district attorney Luis Carlos Trevino.
The officers were detained after soldiers found evidence linking them to drug dealers who were arrested last month, the state government said in a statement. It did not give details on the evidence.
“We are working on cleaning up forces and this is one step of many that have to be taken to achieve that,” Trevino said.
Trevino said none of the 29 had been charged.
Outside of the state police headquarters, about 60 people who said they were relatives of the detained officers protested against military intrusion in police activities.
Calderon has sent more than 40,000 soldiers to battle drug trafficking across the country and acknowledged that corruption is pervasive among Mexican police at all levels.
Local law enforcement officials have followed the president’s lead and are increasingly relying on military officers to run their police departments.
On Monday, retired Gen. Javier Aguayo took over as police chief for the northern city of Chihuahua, where drug-fueled violence has claimed hundreds of lives.
In the nearby city of Ciudad Juarez, gunmen opened fire in the lobby of a drug and alcohol rehabilitation center, killing five people Sunday, said Regional Deputy Attorney General Alejandro Pariente. Witnesses told police many of the 50 rehab patients climbed a fence to flee the attack.
Pariente says police are investigating whether Sunday’s attack was related to threats that administrators had received demanding they shut down the clinic.
It was the second shooting attack in six months at a rehab clinic in Ciudad Juarez, a city across the border from El Paso, Texas.
The city had seen a decline in drug violence since more than 5,000 extra troops were sent in to bolster security in February.
The killings capped a bloody weekend that left more than 30 people dead. Among the victims were a lawyer, a university professor and a female police officer who was shot to death after leaving work.
Also Sunday, gunmen killed four men sitting in a car in the border city of Tijuana, across from San Diego, California.
On Saturday, two gunmen died in a clash with soldiers in Michaocan. The gunmen opened fire on soldiers who were on patrol in the village of Moreno de Valencia, the Defense Department said in a statement. It said soldiers found a Kalashnikov rifle, a shotgun, a handgun and a grenade inside the gunmen’s sport utility vehicle.
More than 10,750 people have been killed in drug violence since Calderon launched a national crackdown on organized crime in December 2006.
– Article from The Associated Press on June 2, 2009.