Mexican authorities are expected to arrest more police officers as suspects in the abduction and slaying of U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration agent Enrique Camarena Salazar as part of a new "housecleaning" of Mexican law enforcement agencies, U.S. Ambassador John Gavin said here today.
A group of 13 present and former members of the Jalisco State Judicial Police, including three high-ranking officers, were detained Tuesday and Wednesday in Guadalajara, the state capital, and charged with involvement in the Camarena case. They are scheduled to be arraigned "on diverse charges" Saturday at a Mexico City district court, Felipe Flores, spokesman for the attorney general's office, said tonight.
The interrogations of the detained suspects by investigators attached to the attorney general's offices were continuing this evening, Flores said.
Gavin voiced U.S. appreciation for Mexico's "success in apprehending some of the people responsible for the kidnaping" and said that more Mexican policemen are expected to be detained by federal authorities.
"We are pleased that they were able to move so quickly," he said. "We are looking forward to learning more details about their investigation."
Gavin said he had been told that two of the four men who kidnaped Camarena Feb. 7 on a main thoroughfare in the city of Guadalajara, Jalisco State, are among the detained suspects. The other two men are apparently "still at large," he said. The normally wary Camarena, who apparently approached the kidnapers' car willingly, "certainly knew at least two" of his abductors, Gavin said.
Half of the 12 suspects being held by Mexican authorities are members of the Jalisco State Judicial police department, while most of the six civilians detained are former Jalisco Judicial policemen, Mexican officials Flores said. Some of the former policemen reportedly had been working in Guadalajara with the Federal Security Directorate, an Interior Ministry plainclothes security force.
All were said by the attorney general's office last night to have provided major drug traffickers with "personal protection, the protection of their belongings, the custody of drugs in transit" and information about police activities.
The highest ranking of the three arrested Jalisco State police officers, Commander Gabriel Gonzalez Gonzalez, died of hemorrhaging of the pancreas while in the custody of federal agents, the attorney general's office announced last night. Gonzalez, who as Jalisco's top homicide detective had been charged with the investigations into the disappearances of six other Americans in the Guadalajara area, was described by Mexican authorities as "an intimate friend" of such "known narcotics traffickers" as Miguel Angel Felix Gallardo and Rafael Caro Quintero.
Gallardo and Caro Quintero "are obviously the intellectual authors of this detestable crime," Gavin said, referring to the abduction and slaying of Camarena and Alfredo Zavala Avelar, his Mexican pilot. U.S. authorities are urging Mexican officials to bring Gallardo and Caro Quintero "to the bar of justice," Gavin said, but "they are still at large, and we don't know where they are."
Named by Mexican and U.S. law enforcement officials as the Guadalajara-based ringleaders of intertwined cocaine- and marijuana-smuggling syndicates, Gallardo and Caro Quintero are both being sought by Mexican police. But in a raid yesterday on a Sonora State ranch signaled as a Caro Quintero hideout, police discovered that the premises had been vacated, leading U.S. officials to the conclusion that the traffickers were warned by police-linked informants, Gavin said.
"Unfortunately, this has been the pattern, that information leaks out," Gavin said. "Obviously it leaks out because some people are being merchants of evidence. It stands to reason that if you raid a place and it is empty, somebody has got the word."
Gavin said the embassy had no information regarding the reported seizure in Texas by U.S. customs officials of a private jet belonging to Caro Quintero, famed in Guadalajara for his quick temper, phalanx of bodyguards and lavish life style.
Although he fled Guadalajara shortly after the Camarena abduction with the aid of Jalisco State Judicial policemen, Caro Quintero nonetheless has remained publicly visible. Several of his henchmen last week allegedly abducted the 17-year-old niece of Guillermo Cosio, Mexico City chief of Mexico's ruling Institutional Revolutionary Party, according to statements of family members and police spokesmen in Guadalajara, who said Caro Quintero is in love with the young woman.
Gavin, who met last night with Mexican Attorney General Sergio Garcia Ramirez and this afternoon with Interior Minister Manuel Bartlett, said Mexican authorities expect more policemen to be arrested in relation to the case.
"Unfortunately, there will also be some other elements, supposedly defending the law and wearing badges, that will be brought in -- at least this is what we understand from Mexican authorities," he said. "They themselves are fully aware, and assured us that they are aware, that they have a housecleaning process here."
Garcia Ramirez and U.S. Attorney General Edwin Meese plan to meet "in the very near future" to discuss bilateral drug control efforts, Gavin said. The meeting's date and locale have not yet been arranged, he said.
Gavin stressed his view that U.S. and Mexican officials "cannot allow recent events, as tragic and difficult as they have been . . . to impinge on our overall cooperative efforts and on our good bilateral relations."