Twelve people tortured and killed in a cartel-plagued Mexican state were federal agents investigating organized crime, the government said Tuesday, marking one of the boldest attacks on federal forces since President Felipe Calderon launched his war on drugs.
Mexico's national security spokesman, Monte Alejandro Rubido,
said the 11 men and one woman were off duty when they were ambushed and abducted by members of the La Familia drug cartel in Calderon's home state of Michoacan, which has been a center of his crackdown on drug traffickers.
Their bodies were found piled up along a mountain highway late
Monday near the town of La Huacana. Michoacan state prosecutor J.
Jesus Montejano initially said Tuesday that they were soldiers, but
the army denied that.
Initial reports indicated the victims were likely killed over the weekend, when federal agents arrested Arnoldo Rueda Medina, a reputed chief of operations of the Michoacan-based La Familia cartel.
Police say his arrest Saturday set off a string of brazen attacks against federal forces that left six federal police officers and two soldiers dead. Gunmen threw grenades and fired on federal police stations and hotels where the agents were staying in three states.
"This marks an important change in the drug war in that they are attacking federal forces directly," said Jorge Chabat, a Mexican drug expert. "It also suggests the capture of this person has affected the operations of the cartel. It was a major blow and this is a reaction out of weakness not strength."
Federal forces arrested politicians in several Michoacan cities, including La Huacana, during an unprecedented sweep in May against
local officials believed to be cooperating with drug traffickers. Seven mayors, one former mayor and the state prosecutor remain jailed on charges of protecting the La Familia cartel.
Rubido said Tuesday that an arrest warrant for alleged links to
La Familia has been issued for Julio Godoy, half brother of
Michoacan state Gov. Leonel Godoy and a federal lawmaker for the
leftist Democratic Revolution Party, or PRD.
Julio Godoy, who has gone into hiding, is allegedly one of
several people in charge of seeking government protection for the
cartel, Rubido told a news conference in Mexico City. Julio Godoy
was elected to Congress a week ago.
A PRD spokesman said the party wouldn't comment on the case.
"Any person from Michoacan who is responsible for a crime has
to face the consequences and if they are innocent they also should
get a fair process," Leonel Godoy said in Mexico City after
meeting with federal Attorney General Eduardo Medina-Mora.
A former Green Party congressional candidate from Michoacan
state has also been accused of collaboration with La Familia,
Since Calderon took office in December 2006, he has sent more
than 45,000 troops to drug hot spots. More than 11,000 people have
been killed in drug violence.
Michoacan, located on Mexico's western coast, has been wracked
by a wave of killings and arrests in recent weeks. Federal forces
there are fighting La Familia, which is locked in a battle with the
Zetas drug hit men, who form a branch of the Gulf cartel. On
Tuesday, three bodies were found in the town of Nuevo Urecho.
In the northern state of Chihuahua, meanwhile, gunmen killed the
mayor of the town of Namiquipa, officials said.
Hector Mixueiro was driving his pickup truck near Namiquipa when
gunmen opened fire Tuesday. A message left on a Ciudad Juarez
bridge hours earlier threatened Mixueiro saying he had helped
soldiers arrest 25 gunmen last month in the town of Nicolas Bravo,
said state prosecutors spokesman Fidel Banuelos.
In neighboring northern Coahuila state, four police officers in
the border city of Piedras Negras were kidnapped hours after the
police chief was pulled from his patrol car, Piedras Negras' Public
Safety Director Jose Castillo said Tuesday.
Gunmen kidnapped Piedras Negras Police Chief Rogelio Ramos on
Officials said the kidnappings could be related to efforts to
curb corruption by militarizing the police force in Piedras Negras,
across the border from Eagle Pass, Texas. The city is one of many
in Mexico that have turned to the armed forces for help controlling
cross-border drug trafficking.
Castillo's predecessor, army Col. Arturo Navarro, was shot and
killed in April - less than three weeks after he took over the
local force with the aim of purging alleged corruption.
Also Tuesday, soldiers detained 19 police officers from the
wealthy Monterrey suburb of San Pedro who are suspected of links
with organized crime, authorities said.
The San Pedro officers were detained Monday evening and Tuesday
morning, said a spokesman for the state attorney general's office
on condition of anonymity because he is not authorized to give his
The detentions follow the June 26 capture of a Beltran Leyva
cartel operative in San Pedro who police said was carrying a list
with the names of San Pedro police officers.
In the Gulf coast state of Tabasco, prosecutors announced
homicide charges Tuesday against five alleged Gulf cartel hit men
for allegedly killing two policemen and 18 of their relatives in
massacres carried out in February and May.
They had been arrested in recent days but held at a nearby
military base, where a sixth man who was allegedly the leader of
the group died of a heart attack while in army custody.
Tabasco state Attorney General Rafael Gonzalez refused to take
questions about the death of suspect Raul Martinez, who was
arrested Friday. Gonzalez said Martinez reported feeling ill Sunday
and was taken to a military clinic, where he died. Gonzalez said an
autopsy revealed Martinez had an enlarged heart.
The Mexican army has been accused in the past of mistreating