WASHINGTON — Federal investigators are providing Mexican police with what they consider prime leads on four Mexican narcotics suspects linked to the kidnap-murder of an American drug agent, and U.S. officials said they are suspending their criticism of Mexico's investigation of the case until Mexican authorities can act on the information.
The information being relayed deals with both the present whereabouts of the four suspects as well as details said to tie them to the Feb. 7 abduction in Guadalajara of Drug Enforcement Administration agent Enrique S. Camarena, a source familiar with the case said Wednesday.
Since Camarena's body was discovered last week, U.S. officials have accused Mexican police of negligence in the investigation. But the Justice Department, after Atty. Gen. Edwin Meese III met with other top officials of the department and the DEA, decided to withhold further criticism pending a Mexican response to the new information, officials said.
Meese to Discuss Case
Meese is expected to talk about the Camarena case Friday at his first news conference as the nation's top law enforcement official. In remarks made after the bodies of Camarena and Adolfo Zavala Avelar, a Mexican pilot who sometimes flew DEA missions, were found, Meese labeled those responsible for the murders as "terrorists."
The four men being sought in the case are Rafael Caro Quintero, who was allowed by Mexican federal judicial police to leave Guadalajara after the DEA had asked that he be detained; Jose Mata Ballesteros, who with four bodyguards escaped a raid by police on a Mexico City apartment conducted two days after the DEA pinpointed his location; Miguel Angel Felix Gallardo, who with Caro Quintero is reportedly a member of a marijuana and cocaine trafficking operation, and Manuel Salcido, known as "Cochiloco" (Crazy Pig), a runner for the traffickers who had exchanged sharp words with Camarena.
Direct Involvement Doubted
None of the suspects are believed to be among those who actually abducted and killed Camarena, federal investigative sources said. They said they believe that three of the suspects planned and ordered the kidnaping and murder but that the role of the fourth, Salcido, is not clear.
Mata Ballesteros is believed to be in Madrid and Caro Quintero in Mexico's Sonora state, sources said.
In a related development, it was learned that the Air Force has billed the DEA $31,300 for flying Camarena's body from Guadalajara back to the United States. DEA officials expressed annoyance about the billing, noting that the Camarena investigation already has cost the agency more than $1 million and that it must seek a supplemental appropriation from Congress to meet the costs.
Times reporter Juan M. Vasquez in Mexico City contributed to this story.