Mexican Army Officers Found Guilty of Taking Drug Bribes; Trio Protected Cartel Shipments into U.S

Article excerpt

Byline: Jerry Seper, THE WASHINGTON TIMES

Three high-ranking Mexican army officers, including a general, have been convicted of accepting bribes from the reputed head of a Mexican drug cartel to protect shipments of cocaine and marijuana into the United States.

Brig. Gen. Ricardo Martinez Perea, Capt. Pedro Maya and Lt. Javier Antonio Quevedo Guerrero were found guilty this week in Mexico City by a tribunal of seven army officers, who said the three were paid to protect the operations of Gilberto Garcia Mena.

The tribunal said the three officers had established a relationship with Mena when they were stationed at a military base in the Mexican border state of Tamaulipas, which shares more than 200 miles of U.S.-Mexico border from Brownsville, Texas, to Laredo, Texas.

They were arrested in April 2001 after an investigation by the Mexican attorney general's office and the defense department.

U.S. law enforcement authorities have long believed that Mexican drug lords, backed by corrupt Mexican military and police officials, are moving tons of marijuana, cocaine and heroin into the United States each year. They said the smugglers often are protected by heavily armed soldiers and policemen, who have been paid handsomely to escort drug shipments across the border.

The drug lords are expected to spend more than $500 million this year in bribes and payoffs to a cadre of Mexican military officers and police officials to ensure that the illicit drugs reach their destination, the authorities said.

Mexican smugglers will account for 80 percent of the cocaine and nearly half the heroin that reaches American streets this year.

U.S. law-enforcement authorities all along the U.S.-Mexico border said that many Mexican military units and police agencies have been "totally corrupted" by drug smugglers and that the corruption included several key Mexican generals and other commanders.

Corruption among Mexican police is so extensive, the authorities said, that some U.S. law-enforcement agencies refuse to work with their Mexican counterparts. Mexican police officials have been tied not only to alien and drug smuggling, but also to numerous incidents of extortion, bribery, robbery, assault and kidnapping along the border. …