Mexico is trying to purge 800 corruption-tainted federal agents from an elite force modeled on the FBI but infiltrated by drug gangs, the attorney general’s office said Saturday.
A spokesman said the agents, all members of a disbanded predecessor to the Federal Investigation Agency, or AFI, were asked to resign after failing psychological profiling tests.
“We want ... the profile of those who stay to be unquestionable,” the spokesman said on condition of anonymity. ”Their profile and records should be totally clean, with no complaints and no irregularities.”
However, he acknowledged that Mexican labor laws meant it would be hard to remove some of the agents, despite evidence of corruption.
In 2001, Mexican President Vicente Fox founded the crack federal force to combat ruthless and powerful traffickers who smuggle drugs like cocaine and heroin over the U.S. border.
The AFI played an important role in putting top drug capos behind bars, including Benjamin Arellano Felix and Osiel Cardenas, of the Tijuana and Gulf cartels respectively, and won praise from the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration.
But members of the elite force, which has about 7,000 agents, have increasingly been linked to criminal acts.
Eight agents were arrested on kidnapping charges in August after investigators found a copy of a homemade DVD showing four battered and bloody men confessing to being members of the Gulf cartel of drug traffickers. One of the traffickers was then executed with a bullet to the head.
The Fox administration has tried to take on gangs like the Gulf cartel and a rival gang headed by Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman, but it has proved difficult to reduce the hugely wealthy gangs’ influence on the country’s security forces.
The attorney general’s office, which oversees AFI, believes the agency’s problems stem from the presence of the 800 former members of the Federal Judicial Police, which was dissolved to make way for the new unit.
Almost 1,500 AFI agents are under investigation for committing crimes, and the attorney general’s office says many are former members of the Federal Judicial Police.