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Warrior in Drug Fight Soon Becomes a Victim

One of the great challenges faced by Calderón and his administration is that they are waging their war with a law enforcement organization that is honeycombed with corruption and incompetence, from local beat cops to the highest levels. In Cancun, the mayor was essentially seeking to outflank his municipal police force by organizing his own crime-fighting unit.

The chief of the Cancun city police, Francisco Velasco Delgado, known to everyone here as "El Vikingo," or the Viking, was brought in to meet with military and federal investigators after Tello's killing. The police chief said in an interview that he was not interrogated about the slaying but was brought in to coordinate with state, federal and military officials. He also said he is not a suspect. Velasco, however, was not invited to participate in Friday's meeting to discuss security.

Asked about Tello's work, Velasco said, "I don't know anything about it. I didn't know the general. I had never met him." Asked if he feared for his life, Velasco, whose office is adorned with viking helmets, answered: "Of course. I am only human."

In the local media, reporters citing government officials said Velasco is under investigation. The governor said, "We know as a fact that people who pursue elicit businesses often penetrate the police. We assume here that we have parts of the police that must be cleaned out."

Asked whether Velasco still had his confidence, the Cancun mayor said: "Yes. At this moment, yes."

Federal agents are pursuing several lines of investigation into who killed Tello; his aide and bodyguard, Getulio César Román Zúñiga, who was an active lieutenant in the Mexican army; and their driver, Juan Ramírez Sánchez, who was a cousin of the Cancun mayor.

The Gulf cartel is known to operate in Cancun, as does its increasingly independent enforcer gang, known as the Zetas, assassins whose ranks include former Mexican military officers. There is also reportedly a group of corrupt officers and ex-officers from the local police that is known as La Hermandad, or the Brotherhood. The killings, too, could have been a conspiracy by cartels and police.

The Cancun mayor said he believes that "the strongest theory" points to the Zetas because of the brutality of the crime and its sophistication. Also, during his long military career, Tello served as the commander of army forces in the state of Michoacan, a drug production and trafficking hot spot. "The general worked very hard and did a lot of work in Michoacan, where the Zetas have a very strong presence, a very active cell," Mayor Sánchez said.

There are other possible motives. A decade ago, Tello served as a leader of Mexico City's public security agency, where he was accused of torturing and killing six detained youths. He was cleared of the charges.

According to reports in the local media, there are a number of clues, including footprints and fingerprints on the pickup truck in which the three bodies were found in the jungle, and video camera images from the streets around downtown Cancun where the men were abducted.

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