Mexico arrests 6 police officers in mayor's slaying

Crime, Law and JusticeCrimeHomicideMexicoPoliticsRegional AuthorityJustice System

Mexican authorities on Friday announced the arrest of six police officers as suspects in the slaying this week of the mayor of a wealthy northern city.

The suspects include a police agent who served as the mayor's bodyguard. But as Jose Alberto Rodriguez and the other five suspects were paraded before journalists Friday, Rodriguez proclaimed his innocence. "I did not participate!" he protested.

Separately, the army announced the capture of four suspected gunmen who may be implicated in the slaying, caught in a raid Friday on a house where a small arsenal of grenade launchers and other weapons was seized. A dozen or more gunmen escaped the raid.

Edelmiro Cavazos, the mayor of Santiago, was grabbed from his home Sunday night by at least 15 armed assailants wearing uniforms from a defunct police agency. His bound body was found Wednesday morning dumped alongside a road.

Adrian de la Garza, head of the state investigations bureau, said four of the suspects kept watch over the highway leading to Cavazos' house while a fifth accompanied gunmen, who were working for drug traffickers, in the abduction. It was originally thought that Rodriguez, the guard, was a victim because he had said he was also kidnapped and stuffed into a car trunk before being released unharmed.

State prosecutor Alejandro Garza said the detainees had "confessed" and implicated other participants. He predicted additional arrests.

Santiago is a picturesque vacation town near Monterrey, Mexico's most affluent city and its principal business hub. The region has been increasingly sucked into deadly drug-war violence as the powerful Gulf cartel battles with its former allies, the Zeta paramilitaries, for control of drug-running corridors, production operations, local markets and a raft of other illicit businesses.

Authorities did not say what gang was involved in the slaying of Cavazos, a 38-year-old, U.S.-educated member of President Felipe Calderon's political party, who had been on the job for less than 10 months.

At his funeral Thursday, his mother, Rubinia Leal, said amid sobs that she had warned him to quit because he was surrounded by "traitors." Mauricio Fernandez, mayor of nearby San Pedro Garza Garcia, said Cavazos had told him of a visit from traffickers who warned him not to interfere with their operations.

The five men and one woman arrested represent about a quarter of the Santiago police department. Municipal police across Mexico are considered the most corrupt, worst-paid, worst-equipped law enforcement agents in the nation. Many cities have started a program to purge local officers, in some cases firing entire departments.

Genaro Garcia Luna, the country's top security official and an advocate of replacing local police with state agencies reporting to a single command, said this month that traffickers allocate nearly $100 million a month to buy off municipal police. Nearly 8% of the more than 28,000 people killed in Mexico's drug gang crackdown since December 2006 were police officers at state, local and federal levels, according to government statistics.

Also Friday, the judge handling a drug trafficking case against the mayor of Cancun survived an attack that claimed the life of one of the judge's bodyguards.

And a prominent businessman was slain overnight in a trendy bar in Mexico City's Roma district. Oscar Paredes Echegaray was "executed" by three gunmen, city prosecutor Miguel Angel Mancera said. Paredes was scheduled to testify against a kidnapping ring that allegedly abducted his son in 2008.

wilkinson@latimes.com

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