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Key figure in Mexico's ‘dirty war’ arrested

One of the men believed to have led the "dirty war" against leftists in Mexico during the 1960s and 70s was arrested in Thursday and charged with kidnapping.
/ Source: The Associated Press

The man who helped lead Mexico’s so-called “dirty war” against leftists was arrested and flown to Monterrey on Thursday to face charges he kidnapped an accused guerrilla group leader nearly three decades ago.

The arrest of Miguel Nazar Haro, the former head of the now-dissolved Federal Security Directorate, delivered a long-awaited victory to the special prosecutor investigating the domestic campaign against leftists during the 1960s and 1970s.

Nazar Haro, who was arrested in Mexico City on Wednesday, was flown to the northern Mexican city of Monterrey, where he was driven away by a caravan of 10 cars and an ambulance to local Justice Department offices.

Nazar Haro was one of three former federal officials charged with the 1975 kidnapping of Jesus Piedra Ibarra, an alleged guerrilla activist who disappeared after his abduction. Nazar Haro is the first suspect to be captured.

Piedra Ibarra’s mother, noted human rights activist Rosario Ibarra, called Nazar Haro’s arrest a “key piece” in solving a “sinister puzzle of repression.”

But she added that an arrest does not guarantee justice.

“Let’s see what happens with the judges,” Rosario Ibarra said. “We still don’t know if the justice process in this country acts in accordance with the law, with strict adherence.”

Throughout the 1960s and 1970s, small bands of Marxist guerrillas attacked the army and agents of the Federal Security Directorate. The government responded with a campaign to weed out suspected rebels and activists accused of supporting them. The National Human Rights Commission has documented the disappearance of at least 275 suspected rebels.

Mexico’s Supreme Court cleared the way in November for the arrest of former officials implicated in the kidnappings of activists who were never seen again. In December, authorities launched a manhunt for Nazar Haro; his predecessor as domestic spy chief, Luis de la Barreda; and former police commander Juventino Romero.

President Vicente Fox’s government has appointed special prosecutor Ignacio Carrillo to investigate past government crimes against activists and massacres of student demonstrators in 1968 and 1972.

Witnesses told Carrillo that de la Barreda and Nazar Haro ordered Romero to capture Piedra Ibarra and hold him at a ranch outside Monterrey. That was the last time the activist was seen alive.

Piedra Ibarra was the alleged leader of the guerrilla group Liga 23 de Septiembre, blamed for several kidnappings and bank robberies in the 1970s that presumably were designed to finance the organization’s subversive activities.

The domestic intelligence agency that Nazar Haro once headed was disbanded for corruption and brutality.