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Imprisoned Mexican Drug Lord Files Complaints Over Living Conditions - 2002-10-14

A notorious Mexican drug lord has filed a complaint with the United Nations Human Rights Commission over alleged abuses at the prison where he is being held. At the same time, turf battles continue over the lucrative drug trade along the U.S. border.

From his cell in La Palma prison in central Mexico, Benjamin Arellano Felix sent his complaint to the U.N. Human Rights Commission, Mexican President Vicente Fox, the Mexican Supreme Court and the Mexican National Human Rights Commission. In the document, he alleges that prison guards keep him in constant isolation, apply psychological torture and limit his access to reading material.

The alleged drug smuggler also claims he is held for hours in a bathroom before each visit with his attorney and that his meetings with lawyers as well as his conjugal visits with his wife are being tape recorded.

Mr. Arellano-Felix is accused of operating Mexico's largest and most violent drug cartel out of the border city of Tijuana. He has been held in isolation at La Palma since his arrest on March ninth in the city of Puebla, about 100 kilometers east of Mexico City. A few weeks earlier, his brother, Ramon Arellano Felix, was killed in a shootout with police in the Pacific coast resort city of Mazatlan.

Since that time, authorities say, other members of the Arellano Felix family have taken over drug smuggling operations. There are also indications that the gang may be involved in a number of recent violent incidents along the 3,000-kilometer border with the United States.

Experts on the drug trade say the gang is trying to defend itself from inroads by other gangs and also trying to expand into other border areas.

Several hundred federal police and Mexican soldiers are now in the northeastern states of Tamaulipas and Nuevo Leon to control violence caused by a turf battle between drug gangs. Although the Arellano Felix group is allegedly involved, experts say the main players in the war raging now in the industrial city of Monterrey and the border city of Nuevo Laredo are from rival gangs based in Ciudad Juarez, across the border from El Paso, Texas and Matamoros, across the border from Brownsville, Texas.

There have been more than 60 gangland-style killings in the area since January.