Thursday, February 23, 2006

Drug war claims two more police chiefs

Miami Herald

The President's office condemned the shooting deaths of two northern police chiefs.

President Vicente Fox on Tuesday promised to use all of Mexico´s might to battle drug traffickers, a day after two police chiefs in northern Mexico were shot and killed within hours of each other.

"All the force of the state, all of our might will be in this fight against organized crime and drug trafficking," Fox said in San Pedro Garza García, a wealthy Monterrey suburb whose police chief was ambushed and killed Monday.

Héctor Ayala, director of police in San Pedro, was driving in Monterrey, whose sprawling metro area is Mexico´s third largest, when a car overtook his vehicle and opened fire.

That killing came four hours after the kidnapping and shooting death of Javier García, who was named police chief two weeks ago in the town of Sabinas Hidalgo, about 80 miles (130 kilometers) south of the U.S. border at Laredo, Texas.

It wasn´t clear if the killings were related, but authorities say violence has spiked in Mexico´s northeast border region since the 2003 arrest of the area´s top reputed drug dealer set off a turf war for control of smuggling routes across the border.

"We´re not going to let our guard down and we will work more intensely until all of this is stopped, until all criminals are where they need to be," said Fox, who was distributing property titles to some San Pedro residents when he spoke.


García was arriving at city hall when he was intercepted, kidnapped, and driven off by an unknown number of armed assailants in at least two cars, police said.

Minutes after the abduction, investigators found his body next to a highway outside Sabinas Hidalgo, a farming town of about 30,000. He had been shot in the back of the head and had his hands tied behind his back.

García took over as Sabinas Hidalgo´s top police officer after his predecessor stepped down to join the political campaign of a local mayoral hopeful.

Last week, a state investigator was killed in Monterrey in an apparent road rage incident, but García´s slaying was the first attack of its kind in recent memory against an official in Sabinas Hidalgo.


The killings echoed the June slaying of Alejandro Domínguez, who died in a hail of gunfire eight hours after taking over as the police chief of Nuevo Laredo, across the Rio Grande from Laredo.

Ayala, 43, had been a state investigator for Nuevo León state, where San Pedro Garza García and Sabinas Hidalgo are located.

State prosecutor Luis Treviño said investigators had made no arrests and were still trying to determine a motive for the killings. He said neither police chief had reported receiving threats.

"We have to base our investigation on reality and at this point we cannot say whether either attack is linked to organized crime," Treviño told reporters.

Treviño said investigators were already collecting videotapes from surveillance cameras along the street where Ayala was killed.

Violence in this area has been on the rise since 2003, when reputed drug lord Osiel Cárdenas was arrested during a shootout in Matamoros, across the border from Brownsville, Texas.

Authorities say the violence has intensified as another accused drug lord, Joaquín "El Chapo" Guzmán, has been fighting smugglers loyal to Cárdenas to gain access to drug smuggling routes in Nuevo Laredo and other border cities.


Also Tuesday, Fox spokesman Rubén Aguilar said the government expects more officials to fall victim in the ongoing battle against organized crime.

"In the frontal war against organized crime, the Mexican state will be victorious, but there will still be a long period of confrontation that surely implies the loss of functionaries´ lives," Aguilar told a news conference in Mexico City.


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