Cartel's Power Corrupts Efforts To Control Drugs

Cartel's Power Corrupts Efforts To Control Drugs
Posted by FoM on December 06, 1999 at 12:28:57 PT
By Ricardo Sandoval & Daniel Vasquez
Source: San Jose Mercury
Astrid Gonzalez, a social worker here who helps victims of violent crime and their families, had her worst fears confirmed last year when Mexican authorities replaced a task force that was in the middle of investigating mysterious disappearances of hundreds of people in the Juárez-El Paso region.
The elite task force assigned by Mexico's attorney general had been infiltrated by agents of the Juárez cartel, the same drug enterprise suspected of orchestrating many of the disappearances and of burying enemies, informants and innocent people in mass graves now being dug up by U.S. and Mexican authorities at four ranches outside of Juárez.``I was angry, but I realized that I was not surprised. It seemed easy for the drug people to corrupt the investigators and anyone else they want,'' said Gonzalez, whose father's 1993 murder remains unsolved.It's not the kind of run-of-the-mill corruption Americans see when they pay $20 to avoid a ticket for running red lights in Mexico. The buying of cops, described to the Mercury News by officials and experts on both sides of the border, paints a grim portrait of a region so saturated by easy drug money that youngsters can score $500 just for driving a drug-laden car from Juárez to El Paso. There is so much money tossed around that high-ranking police officers -- on both sides of the border -- can net as much as $50,000 for helping just one large shipment make it into the United States. This is big-dollar drug corruption that leaves U.S. and Mexican investigators certain that drug dealers have used a few bad cops as deadly tools.Bodies Appeared Tortured:Mexican federal agents and U.S. FBI agents found no more bodies in their digging around this dusty border city this weekend, but they did reveal new evidence that some of the six people unearthed at one ranch were tortured before they died.Drug dealers are thought to have used the ranches to get rid of some informants and rival gang members in a turf war over one of the richest drug shipping networks in Latin America. An ex-police officer who once worked in the Juárez area is believed to be the informant who led authorities to the suspected grave sites.Citing the sensitivity of cross-border politics, police corruption by drug dealers in Juárez ``is something we cannot publicly condemn and go after,'' said a veteran U.S. drug official in Texas, who asked to remain anonymous. ``That is the real crime.''The way into a police officer's heart is with intimidation and quick cash, say Juárez drug-trade experts and former government officials. A Juárez cop working the streets makes about $300 a month, but he can more than double that by simply ignoring drug dealers. Even more is paid to officers who ride shotgun on drug shipments. And a few are recruited, after tests of loyalty, into kidnapping and hit squads that can pay tens of thousands of dollars, the officials and analysts say.The corruption is a complex deal with its own protocol.For example, Silvano Corral, a Juárez doctor now sought by Mexican authorities who want to question him about his business practices, kept a list in his office with Juárez-area police officers who paid weekly visits to his clinic. According to published reports in Juárez, the officers would each walk out with about $100 in cash from drug dealers -- their pay to stay out of the way of drug deals.More expensive relationships, costing traffickers as much as $40,000 a month for official cooperation, are negotiated between police commanders and drug dealers of similar rank. A watch commander, for example, is approached by a local lieutenant in charge of distributing drugs among small-time runners -- often American students from El Paso recruited in bars. While the police commander makes a bundle to make sure the drivers get to the border, the runner gets around $600 for a night's work.But that's small change for a cartel whose former chief -- the late Amado Carrillo Fuentes -- was said to have controlled a $15 billion empire. ``If one of 10 of the drivers is inspected and caught at the border, so what? It means another nine are likely to make it through the border and begin putting drugs on U.S. streets,'' said a Mexican drug expert who has observed the Juárez cartel for years.To combat corruption, federal prosecutors, investigators and police are routinely cycled out of Juárez after six months of work to keep them from falling prey to drug lords.But that strategy has not worked.Hector Mario Varela, a former Mexican federal police officer murdered in January 1998, was later found to have maintained ties to drug traffickers, even as he helped investigate disappearances of people along the Juárez-El Paso border. Mexican Attorney General Jorge Madrazo was forced to replace the special prosecutor's entire team.Dirty money has also soiled American officials. In the United States, the number of active drug-related corruption cases against federal agents jumped from 79 in 1997 to 157 last year. In some instances, Customs agents were charged with using cell phones to tell drug traffickers which lanes at border crossings were safe from inspections. Agents were collecting as much as $50,000 for a single transaction, according to government reports.Targeting Americans:Retired and current U.S. agents say drug dealers are always on the prowl for vulnerable American cops upset with long hours and low pay. They'll try to befriend an agent on his off-hours. Agents are often invited by Mexican police to free drinks at bars south of the border -- owned by drug lords. They're given free tickets to sports events or weekend stays in Mexican resorts. And women are often used to lure American agents into closer ties with traffickers.``It can all be overwhelming to a kid fresh in from Iowa, or to a disgruntled veteran who's not happy making $40,000 a year,'' said a former U.S. drug agent.Gonzalez, the social worker, has received threats over her years of work in Juárez, yet she continues to speak out against drug dealers. For years drug lords have threatened the innocent and honest cops by simply uttering two words, ``silver or lead,'' Gonzalez said. The message: ``Take the bribe or we'll kill you.''``And when they see a ranch they want to use for their operations,'' Gonzalez added, ``they'll say, very nicely but frankly to the owner, `We'll buy it from you, or we'll buy it from your widow.' ''Published: December 6, 1999©1999 Mercury Center Related Articles:Legalize Drugs Or Expect More Mass Graves - 12/06/99 Massacres Reflect Failure of US War On Drugs - 12/03/99
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Comment #1 posted by kaptinemo on December 06, 1999 at 17:25:03 PT
Manoey *can* but anything, after all
The above article is of special importance to you cops out there. You've known of this corruption for years. You might even personally know a few of your brethren who are dirty. But the code of silence demands just that... silence.But if anything can make you pause for thought, it's this: The stakes are higher now than ever before. Cops are being killed in record numbers, when previously perps would never dream of being labelled a cop-killer. The graves that have been uncovered will almost certainly prove to be partly filled with the bodies of good cops who may have thought a badge might protect them from the fate they met.It's an ugly fact, one which your political 'betters' tend to overlook. So, is it worth it? Is it?
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