06/15/12 – In a decision that has sent waves through the Mexican public, the office of the Attorney General of Jalisco (Procuraduría General de la Justicia del Estado, PGJE) released a video that shows police officers executing orders on behalf of a third party, believed to be a cartel, as they kidnap three men who were found dead a few hours later. The video was captured in late January 2012 and shows six armed police officers arriving at a hotel in Lagos de Moreno–located in the northeastern part of Jalisco near the state of Guanajuato–and making what appears to be the arrest of three men staying in the hotel. The footage shows the officers exit their vehicle, speak with four armed men in a truck, receive a piece of paper (presumed to be a list) from the truck, and then enter the hotel. Soon after, they emerge with three men in custody, load them into a patrol car, and watch as the civilians in the truck steal the detainees’ luggage and truck. Finally, all three vehicles drive off together in a caravan. The arrested men–Jorge Alejandro Arrendondo Siller, 25, César Raúl Alcalá Gaona, 33, and Jorge Alberto Bustos Nájera, 35–were found dead a few hours later.
Prosecutors allege the victims were targeted because they were briefly detained earlier in the day on January 20, misidentified at the time as being involved with organized crime, and later released. Thus far, no conclusive evidence has emerged that any of the victims–all of whom were from Coahuila–were in fact involved with such organizations, but rather worked as a lawyer, legal assistant, and bricklayer. Despite the victims’ ties to organized crime being unfounded at this point, the state of Jalisco in general has been the site of intensive clashes between the Zetas cartel and the “New Generation” cartel (Nueva Generación), which has been linked to Joaquín “El Chapo” Guzmán and his Sinaloa cartel. (For more information on El Chapo, please see TBI’s recent article on U.S. sanctions levied against his support network). In 2011, Jalisco saw 776 narco-related killings (ejecuciones), while there have been 345 through June 15 of this year, as reported by Grupo Reforma.
Prosecutors from the Attorney General’s office were able to secure warrants for the six police officers seen in the video, as well as the police chief of Lagos de Moreno who was arrested on June 6, 2012, reported Vanguardia. The four civilian men who appear to be directing the operation from the truck were also detained. According to the Washington Post, the long delay between the murders in January and the arrests in June was due to difficulties in securing and authenticating the videos, investigating, and obtaining the arrest warrants. The PGJE’s decision to release the video to the public was a strategic move based on the desire to be more transparent within the justice system. Critics have suggested, however, that the delay was motivated instead by a desire to undermine the Institutional Revolutionary Party (Partido Revolucionario Institucional, PRI) in the run-up to the Mexican presidential election. The mayor of Lagos de Moreno is a member of the PRI and will be running for higher office in the July election.
Regardless of the motivation, the video created a significant stir throughout Mexico. While it is well-known that corruption and ties to organized crime are rather commonplace among Mexican police, particularly at the local and municipal levels, it is rare to have such visual evidence of the connection. This is, however, the second major story to break recently linking security officials with organized crime, as four high ranking military officials were arrested for connections to cartels last month. The dual revelation of corruption in both military and police forces raises questions about Mexico’s rule of law and does not bode well for the continued stability and democratic growth of the country. The next president will have to work systematically to continue the work being done to professionalize the police corps nationwide and will need to focus on eradicating cartel influence within public security forces.
“Ejecutómetro.” Grupo Reforma. Accessed June 15, 2012.