Sun, Dec 05, 2004 - Page 7 News List

Drug ring slayings, corruption under investigation


Seventeen federal, state and local investigators, prosecutors and police officers have been arrested in connection with a string of killings in Cancun as part of a massive effort to sever ties between cocaine smugglers and authorities in this beachside resort, Mexico's top organized-crime and anti-narcotics prosecutor said Friday night.

Those arrested face charges of protecting drug dealers as well as homicide or accessory to murder in the slayings of nine people -- including three federal agents -- whose bodies were discovered Nov. 25 in Cancun, Jose Luis Santiago Vasconcelos said at a news conference.

Vasconcelos said all of the suspects were government employees and that all had been flown to Mexico City for questioning.

Authorities are also investigating those captured on money-laundering and people-smuggling charges, Santiago Vasconcelos said.

The suspects include Miguel Angel Hernandez, who coordinated the office of federal attorney general's headquarters in Cancun but was fired on Wednesday. Also arrested is Armando Villalobos, who had headed elite Federal Agency of Investigation units in Quintana Roo, as well as the neighboring states of Campeche and Yucatan.

Ten agents from the Federal Agency of Investigation -- Mexico's FBI -- are also imprisoned, eight who were based in Cancun and two from the nation's capital, Santiago Vasconcelos said.

Felipe de Jesus Arguelles, who oversaw Cancun's police, traffic and emergency departments was arrested along with one city judicial police officer and three federal crime-scene investigators based here.

The investigation began last week, after authorities discovered the corpses of three federal agents who had been shot in the head execution-style, along with two civilians. Four other bodies were found in the trunk of a burned car.

A day later, two members of the Federal Agency of Investigation were founded wounded but alive outside this resort city. The pair are among those suspects now in custody, Santiago Vasconcelos said.

In addition to those already captured, authorities are working to link seven more federal, state and local law enforcement officials to the killings.

``We are investigating these other law enforcement officials and judicial agents who could be involved in protecting drug dealers,'' Santiago Vasconcelos said, adding that Attorney General Rafael Macedo de la Concha planned to travel to fly here on Monday to personally head up the investigation.

The slayings appear to be the result of a war between rival drug gangs that have moved from the US-Mexico border south to Cancun, which became infamous in the 1990s when the state governor, Mario Villanueva, allegedly protected traffickers moving Colombian cocaine.

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