Sat, Dec 27, 2008 - Page 7 News List

Soldiers nab police chief of Mexican town at cock fight

AP , ACAPULCO, MEXICO

Soldiers arrested the deputy police chief of a Mexican resort town and six other officers who were allegedly protecting drug cartel members at a cock fight, the Mexican Defense Department said on Thursday.

Fourteen suspected members of the Beltran Leyva drug gang were arrested at the cock fight in Zihuatanejo, a Pacific beach town popular with foreign tourists, the Defense Department said in a statement.

Soldiers also seized 59 packets of cocaine, 40 bags of marijuana and 20 assault rifles.

Seven heavily armed police officers had been guarding the suspected drug traffickers, the department said. They included Zihuatanejo’s deputy police chief, Timoteo Mata Cruz.

The department did not say what led up to Wednesday’s raid, although cock fights are illegal in Zihuatanejo. It was unclear whether the police officers had previously been suspected of collaborating with the Beltran Leyva cartel.

Zihuatanejo Mayor Blanco de Aquino said he had no advance notice of the raid and he could not comment on the allegations against the police officers.

“There are no police forces at any level that are 100 percent free of members who don’t act correctly,” de Aquino said.

Police corruption runs deep in Mexico despite numerous attempts to purge forces. Mexico’s former drug czar and several other federal officers were arrested earlier this year for allegedly accepting money from drug cartels.

Mexican President Felipe Calderon’s government has relied heavily on the army in his fight against drug gangs, deploying more than 20,000 troops to hotspots across the country. The US has backed Mexico’s campaign with US$400 million for equipment and training.

The Mexican military, however, has also been plagued with abuse and corruption allegations. The Mexican National Human Rights Commission said on Thursday it had received 631 complaints against the Defense Department this year, more than any other federal institution.

Southern Guerrero state, home to the popular resort towns of Acapulco and Zihuatanejo, has been a battleground of increasingly fierce fights between rival drug gangs and the security forces trying to stop them.

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