Mexico said Thursday it had arrested 10 people, including eight federal agents, in the kidnapping of four suspected drug gang hitmen and the filmed execution of at least one of them.
The case has thrown the spotlight on the often cozy relations between Mexican authorities and organized crime. Drug gangs routinely bribe police, officials and judges to protect them or carry out their dirty work.
Four men, beaten and bruised, were shown on a homemade DVD confessing to being members of the infamous Gulf Cartel of drug traffickers. One of them was then shot in the head.
Excerpts of the video, taken several months ago, were published for the first time on the Dallas Morning News’ Web site Thursday.
Jose Luis Santiago Vasconcelos, the head of Mexico’s organized crime unit, said the government had arrested eight federal agents and two civilians in the case, charging them with kidnapping and organized crime.
Three other agents have also been charged but they are on the run.
Vasconcelos said the agents were in the pay of a rival drugs gang led by Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman, who is battling the Gulf Cartel for control of lucrative smuggling operations along the U.S.-Mexico border.
“You know that criminal organizations often co-opt (government) elements, above all police,” he told reporters.
Murder in Acapulco
Vasconcelos said it was not clear how many of the four men in the video were murdered, but that the kidnapping and murders were carried out in the Pacific coast beach resort of Acapulco and police were trying to find the victims.
“Regardless of their criminal identity or the criminal acts they committed, we have to investigate their deaths and punish those who committed murder,” he said.
The four men interrogated in the video were apparently members of a Gulf Cartel hit squad known as the Zetas, a band of renegade former army troops and police.
On the video, they spoke of the April murder of a reporter who was shot several times as she arrived for work at a radio station in Nuevo Laredo, across the border from Laredo, Texas.
A surge in violence along the border this year has upset Washington, with U.S. officials complaining Mexico is not doing enough to stop the bloodshed.