Reporting from Mexico City — The gunmen pointed rifles at his head, demanding answers. The captive named names. He had lots to say about the Juarez drug cartel.
But this drug war interrogation, captured on a "narco-video," carried a twist.
The handcuffed man before the camera was no nameless cartel henchman. He was the kidnapped brother of Patricia Gonzalez, the former top prosecutor of Mexico's most violent state, and his account was startling: that his sister took bribes to protect the so-called Juarez cartel and even ordered several high-profile killings.
The video, one of many aired during the 4-year-old drug war, created an unusual stir in Mexico after it appeared on YouTube on Monday, four days after Mario Gonzalez was kidnapped in the northern state of Chihuahua.
Patricia Gonzalez, a reform-minded prosecutor whose term as Chihuahua's attorney general ended this month, confirmed that the man in the video is her brother.
But she insists the allegations are bunk — induced at gunpoint, most likely by disgruntled current or fired police agents, to avenge her efforts at rooting out dirty cops.
"During six years, I received threats from police, ex-state police and organized crime groups," Patricia Gonzalez told The Times on Tuesday in an e-mail exchange. "The motive for the kidnapping, I believe, is related to revenge by the drug cartels and some state police or ex-police who resisted working with institutional transparency and a new model of justice."
She said her brother was unfamiliar with the topics he was discussing and appeared to have been coerced through "physical and psychological torture" into making damning statements.
The former prosecutor said a tip-off that police were involved was the telltale brown-and-cream paint scheme of the cubicle where the interrogation was taped, which she said resembled cubicles in the state prosecutor's offices.
By Tuesday afternoon, Mario Gonzalez's whereabouts were still unknown.
Gov. Cesar Duarte, who took office three weeks ago, tiptoed around the ticklish questions raised by the video, including the possible involvement of active-duty police in kidnapping Mario Gonzalez, an attorney. In a radio interview Tuesday, Duarte denied that the video was shot in a state-owned building.
To some human rights advocates, the Gonzalez kidnapping is further sign of the perils facing public officials in Mexico, where mayors, prosecutors and police have been among the roughly 30,000 people slain in drug-related violence since President Felipe Calderon launched his offensive against drug cartels in 2006.
Mario Gonzalez, seated in a chair and surrounded by five masked gunmen in military-style camouflage, showed no outward signs of having been beaten before the 10-minute interrogation.
A questioner off-camera shouts questions and Gonzalez, in a black T-shirt, appears eager to provide a robust account. His version includes a who's who of Chihuahua officials, army generals, lawyers and reputed drug lords and hit men.
In the video, Gonzalez claims to have served as middleman between La Linea, a Ciudad Juarez-based gang closely tied to the Juarez cartel, and his sister, who became attorney general in Chihuahua in 2004. The Juarez group is at war with a rival cartel from the northwestern state of Sinaloa, and both have charged that public officials favor their foes.
Mario Gonzalez alleges that his sister ordered several infamous killings, including that of Juarez newspaper journalist Armando Rodriguez, who had written unflatteringly about her family's legal woes shortly before his slaying in 2008.
Patricia Gonzalez said most of the cases mentioned in the video were already solved.
As attorney general, Gonzalez often spoke against deep-rooted police graft and won praise from reformers and American law-and-order experts for the state's efforts to modernize courts and root out corrupt officers. Chihuahua was one of the first states in Mexico to institute U.S.-style oral trials.
Nonetheless, suspicions of drug-related corruption long swirled around her boss, former Gov. Jose Reyes Baeza, and, to a lesser degree, around Gonzalez. Drug ties were never proved, though.