MEXICO CITY – Army troops took temporary control Monday of one state police force and three municipal departments in northern Mexico, arresting 25 officers suspected of collusion with drug traffickers, a military source told Efe.
The operation unfolded in and around Monterrey, capital of Nuevo Leon state.
At 8:00 a.m., troops staged coordinated takeovers at the Nuevo Leon and Monterrey police headquarters and at the main police stations in the suburbs of Apodaca and San Nicolas de los Garza, an army officer assigned to the VII Military Zone said.
He said the troops set out to apprehend more than 70 state and local police suspected of being “involved in organized-crime activities,” the source said.
Nuevo Leon authorities were briefed in advance on Monday’s operation and some state law-enforcement agents took part, the army officer said.
Soldiers detained 15 state police and seven cops from the Monterrey force. The army officers also ordered the on-duty members of all four departments to return to their respective headquarters for vetting.
The operation could continue for several days and extend to other law-enforcement agencies in Nuevo Leon, military sources said.
Dozens of wives and children of state police officers gathered outside the force’s headquarters to protest the army’s action, threatening to block streets in Monterrey, the business and financial hub of northern Mexico.
Some 200 troops and federal police participated in Monday’s operation in Monterrey, officials said.
The respective police stations are being guarded by armored vehicles, with helicopters providing air support.
Last week, army troops captured Raymundo Almanza Morales, a suspected Gulf cartel member in charge of operations in Guatemala and Belize, along with three other suspected members of the criminal organization, in Monterrey.
The suspects’ arrest yielded a list of police officers allegedly working with drug traffickers.
Mexico’s drug cartels produce and traffic around 500 tons of drugs worth $450 million annually, the federal Public Safety Secretariat said in a report.
Mexican security forces have seized 28.4 tons of cocaine, 360.7 tons of marijuana, 395.3 kilos of heroin, 801.1 kilos of ephedrine and 41.7 tons of pseudoephedrine, among other illegal substances, since President Felipe Calderon took office on Dec. 1, 2006, the secretariat said.
The report discusses the government’s strategy in the war on drugs, noting that the focus is on controlling territory, deploying troops in high-crime areas, attacking criminal organizations and establishing joint police-military checkpoints.
Since the Calderon administration launched its offensive on criminal organizations, 337 suspected cartel leaders have been arrested, “damaging the upper echelons of power” of drug trafficking groups, the secretariat said.
Mexico has been plagued in recent years by drug-related violence, with powerful cartels battling each other and the security forces, as rival gangs vie for control of lucrative smuggling and distribution routes.
Armed groups linked to the cartels murdered around 1,500 people in 2006 and 2,700 people in 2007, with the 2008 death toll soaring to more than 6,000. So far this year, according to press tallies, more than 2,500 people have died. EFE