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Mexican Anti-Narcotics Agents Accused in Large Drug Trafficking Scheme - 2003-01-20


In Mexico, federal authorities are investigating corruption in one of the country's most elite anti-narcotics agencies, after raids last week produced tons of unregistered drugs at some agency offices. The latest actions have reinforced criticism of Mexico's law enforcement system.

Federal authorities say they are investigating more than 700 of their own anti-drug agents, in an effort to root out corruption.

Last week, the government of President Vicente Fox shut down the elite anti-drug agency known as FEADS or Fiscalia Especializada para la Atencion de Delitos contra la Salud, after carrying out raids on offices in 11 states. These followed the arrest of seven FEADS agents in the border city of Tijuana. They were charged with drug trafficking, extortion and kidnapping. The drug agents had allegedly detained two suspected drug smugglers, and offered to free them, if they paid $2-million.

The Mexican press has given wide coverage to these developments. The front cover of the weekly magazine, Proceso, in its latest edition, features a headline declaring the government impotent before the power of the narcotics trafficking gangs. An article in the magazine recounts the long history of how drug gangs have used their illicit wealth to corrupt officials in the Fox government, and those that preceded it.

But Mexican Attorney General Rafael Macedo de la Concha says the government is making progress.

He says some of the reports have misrepresented the facts of this latest case. He says it is true there were seven corrupt agents, whom he calls traitors, but that they will answer for their crimes. He says, the government will continue to take action against any official who engages in such corruption.

Mr. Macedo de la Concha says the arrests and subsequent raids are part of a planned strategy against corrupt police officials.

The United States has praised the Fox government for its ample cooperation in the fight against drug smuggling.

The Fox government has scored some noteworthy successes in the past year, including the arrest of some major trafficking figures. But others remain free to take a greater share of the lucrative trade. The flow of narcotics through Mexico has continued. Experts estimate that half of the cocaine entering the United States each year comes through Mexico.

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