Several police officers in northern Mexico allowed a violent drug gang to hold kidnap victims in the local jail while ransom payments were being negotiated, a state official said on Thursday.
Hours later, the navy reported finding 32 bodies in three houses in the Gulf coast seaport of Veracruz, where just two weeks ago 35 tortured bodies were dumped in front of shocked motorists on a main avenue. The first incident appeared tied to fighting between rival drug cartels, but officials did not immediately say if Thursday’s find was drug related.
The scandal at the northern prison came to light this week when state and federal police freed two kidnapping victims from jail cells in Juarez. Investigators believe that the victims were abducted by the violent Zetas cartel and that the officers were working for the Zetas, Domene said.
Four police officers from Juarez, a suburb of the city of Monterrey, are being held pending further investigation, said Jorge Domene, the security spokesman for Nuevo Leon state.
Domene noted that last weekend, the Nuevo Leon attorney general’s office detained 73 local policemen from a half-dozen communities in the state who confessed to having performed various services for gangs, including spying, acting as lookouts and carrying out killings and kidnappings.
Authorities then conducted background checks on 99 other officers, 21 of whom were fired after refusing to cooperate. Forty-three have passed the checks so far.
The bloodshed in Veracruz appears related to a drug gang’s challenge to the Zetas cartel, the violent gang that has been expanding its control of drug markets and trafficking routes, Mexican officials said.
A gang thought to be aligned with the Sinaloa cartel is apparently striking at the Zetas, who took control of the drug trade in Veracruz last year.
Mexican President Felipe Calderon last week decided to deploy federal police and security forces to the state of Veracruz.
Meanwhile, the Mexican navy said all 32 bodies were found on Thursday. It said Veracruz state agents found the first 20 inside a house in a residential neighborhood. A search in a home at another subdivision yielded 11 more bodies and the final body was discovered later in a third house.
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