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Mexico anti-drug official resigns

The deputy attorney general was faulted for lack of progress.

August 01, 2008|Marla Dickerson | Times Staff Writer

MEXICO CITY — A high-ranking official in the Mexican attorney general's office has resigned under pressure amid poor results in the nation's battle against kidnappers and drug traffickers.

Noe Ramirez Mandujano had served for 20 months as deputy attorney general in charge of the Office for Special Investigation Into Organized Crime before tendering his resignation Wednesday.

Violence has exploded across large swaths of Mexico as drug gangs fight for control of lucrative smuggling routes to the United States.

More than 2,300 people have died this year in Mexico in narcotics-related violence, according to a July 18 body count by the national daily Reforma.

On Thursday, police in the western Mexican state of Jalisco found six members of a family shot to death in a house in the town of Zapotlan el Grande.

All had been shot in the back of the head, media reports said -- the calling card of drug executioners. The victims included three children, the youngest a 7-year-old girl.

A shake-up in the attorney general's office had been rumored since an alleged high-ranking operative for the Juarez cartel briefly escaped from the agency's custody in June. Pedro Sanchez Arras, known as "the Tiger," managed to flee the National Arraignment Center, a Mexico City lockup under the direction of the federal prosecutor's office.

The alleged drug trafficker was quickly recaptured by agents who found him hiding in a building not far from the arraignment center. But his ability to elude dozens of guards raised speculation about corruption within the ranks of the attorney general's office and its ability to secure its own detention facilities.

In April, the alleged leader of a kidnapping gang died in the custody of the Office for Special Investigation Into Organized Crime. The agency said that Asael Alejandre Roldan committed suicide by hanging himself with his jacket. But a videotape obtained by local media showed Roldan dressed only in a T-shirt and jeans at the time of his arrest, raising suspicions about the circumstances surrounding his death.

Corrupt, poorly paid and ill-trained police have hampered efforts to vanquish the cartels.

In the southern state of Campeche, 50 state and local police officers have resigned this week, according to the national daily El Universal. The officers cited low salaries and fear of the increasingly violent and better-armed drug assassins operating on Mexico's Yucatan peninsula.

The story is much the same in northern Mexico. In Lerdo, Durango state, 30 police officers have quit in the last few days and at least 120 more are threatening to unless they get better pay, equipment and life insurance.

On Monday, suspected drug cartel hit men attacked a police station in Lerdo, killing four officers, according to media reports. The rugged, largely rural state of Durango is part of the so-called Golden Triangle of narcotics trafficking that also includes the states of Sinaloa and Chihuahua.

The rising toll of innocents, particularly children, has alarmed the nation. Some question the government's hard-line strategy of sending army troops and federal police into drug hot spots, which they say is fueling the mayhem.

"This is a state without control, incapable at a local or national level of combating the narcos," said Juan Guerra, a federal legislator. "There is no strategy for the struggle against this."

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marla.dickerson@latimes.com

Cecilia Sanchez of The Times' Mexico City Bureau contributed to this report.

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