06/26/12 (by cmolzahn) - Three federal police officers are dead after an armed confrontation at the Mexico City International Airport (Airopuerto Internacional de la Ciudad de México, AICM), believed to have been shot by two of their colleagues involved in a drug smuggling ring. The officers who were shot were reportedly part of an investigation into the smuggling operation, which had been ongoing for 18 months and which had yielded 294 kilos of cocaine seized over several operations. These included the 2011 detention of an individual transporting more than nine kilos of cocaine from Peru in a girdle, and the 2012 arrest of a woman alleged to be attempting to transport a suitcase with four kilos to Milan, Italy. In the past year and a half, the Federal Police (Policía Federal, PF) report arresting 180 in the act of committing crimes in the airport. The agency says that this string of arrests led to the discovery of a trafficking network involving officials from various local and federal agencies.
On June 25, the Federal Police mounted an operation in the Mexico City airport targeting two officers from the same agency assigned to patrol the airport. When the two officers realized that they were being targeted by the PF’s Investigations Unit (Unidad de Investigación de la Policía Federal), they opened fire in the crowded food court in an attempt to evade capture, killing three investigations officers as a result. The two officers believed to be responsible for the shootings have been identified, but remain at large. The AICM is the principal drug trafficking corridor in Mexico City, believed to be used by elements of the Sinaloa, Gulf, and Zetas cartels, among others, and with assistance or complicity from a variety of public officials.
In the wake of the shootings at AICM, Mexico’s Attorney General Marisela Morales has requested that the U.S. Justice Department share documents it is reported to have linking AICM Director Héctor Velázquez Corona with various drug trafficking organizations. Nevertheless, Morales said at the ceremony to commemorate the International Day Against Drug Abuse and Illicit Trafficking on June 26 that the U.S. government had responded that it did not have such documents. However, El Universal claims to have had access to such documents, which were compiled by U.S. agents in Mexico, that directly link Velázquez Corona with drug trafficking groups, as well as with migrant smuggling rings, human trafficking organizations, and other black market operations. El Universal cited one document stating that the only cases in which detentions have typically been made inside AICM have involved independent drug smugglers, or when shipments belong to rival groups to those affiliated with Velázquez. The documents cited by El Universal also point to murders around AICM as being linked to Velázquez, who in some cases ordered the killings, “as a favor to [drug trafficking] groups.” Despite these allegations, Velázquez, who was appointed AICM director by the Vicente Fox administration in early 2005, has never been subjected to a formal investigation. El Universal reports that the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency began looking into Velázquez in 2007 after receiving numerous anonymous tips of his involvement in illicit activities.
Velázquez, who is a longtime friend and colleague to President Felipe Calderón, is not new to allegations of wrongdoing. Aside from ongoing criticism for substandard operations at the AICM during his time as director as well as questionable handling of finances during recent remodeling projects, security breaches, labor conflicts with taxi drivers and now allegations of links to drug trafficking, Velázquez was implicated in a questionable 3.1 million peso loan awarded to Calderón when he worked at the bank Banobras in 2003 for which some said he was not qualified to receive.