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Kidnapped Chihuahua attorney found dead

The kidnapped brother of a former state attorney general who was forced to make a video accusing the official of cartel crimes has been found slain, authorities announced Friday.

Eight suspects were arrested in the kidnap-homicide of Mario Gonzalez, brother of Patricia Gonzalez, who until last month was the top prosecutor in Chihuahua, Mexico’s most violence-ridden state. The suspects said the killing was ordered by a local police officer working for the Sinaloa cartel.

Several of the suspects were paraded before television cameras Friday morning wearing what appeared to be the same camouflage clothes they had worn in a video in which they were seen forcing Mario Gonzalez at gunpoint to “confess.” The video was later posted on YouTube. Two suspects wore police uniforms. Some had bruises on their faces, and one had an eye swollen shut.

Facundo Rosas, federal police commissioner, said the men worked for the powerful Sinaloa cartel, which is locked in mortal combat with the Juarez cartel, which historically has dominated much of Chihuahua state.

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Gonzalez’s body was found in a shallow grave and bore signs of torture, Rosas said at a news conference. He had been beaten repeatedly, and his assailants used a garrote fashioned from rope and a piece of wood to choke him to death, Rosas said.

Gonzalez, an attorney, was kidnapped from his office Oct. 21. The video appeared a few days later. In it, he is surrounded by masked men pointing weapons at his head. He accuses his sister of working on behalf of the Juarez cartel, of accepting bribes and of ordering several high-profile killings.

Patricia Gonzalez, in an interview with The Times last month, denied the allegations, saying her brother had been coerced. She had speculated that the kidnapping was the work of vengeful “drug cartels and some state police or ex-police” who resisted her efforts to reform the judiciary and law enforcement agencies.

“It hurts my soul that criminals use my brother to punish me,” she said at the time.

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One of the detained suspects, Luis Miguel Ibarra, 22, said a cartel henchman code-named the Vulture ordered Mario Gonzalez’s kidnapping. His death was ordered by Adrian Orozco, a police officer in Chihuahua City, the state capital, who is on the payroll of the Sinaloa gang, investigators said Ibarra told them.

Rosas said the kidnappers began beating Gonzalez shortly after they abducted him but were careful to hit the soles of his feet and his ankles to avoid having any injuries visible in the video. Gonzalez was killed a day after the video was made.

Separately, federal police announced the arrest of a Colombian national who they say served as liaison between Colombia’s cocaine producers and the Beltran Leyva cartel in Mexico. Harold Mauricio Poveda, alias “the Rabbit,” was wanted in the U.S. on cocaine-trafficking charges, said Ramon Pequeno, head of the police narcotics division.

Also Friday, another Mexican journalist was reported killed, this time during a shootout in the northern border city of Matamoros. And the mayor of Mexico’s wealthiest suburb confirmed that his head bodyguard had been shot to death the night before. Mayor Mauricio Fernandez of San Pedro Garza Garcia in Nuevo Leon has courted controversy in the past, once for advocating negotiations with cartels and later for seeming to support vigilantes.

Meanwhile, at the University of Texas in El Paso, students and faculty were mourning the shooting deaths in Ciudad Juarez of two business administration students. Manuel Acosta Villalobos, 25, and Eder Andres Diaz, 23, were killed earlier in the week, among the more than 80 U.S. citizens killed in Chihuahua state, where Juarez is located, this year, according to the U.S. State Department.

Acosta and Diaz lived in Juarez while attending school at the El Paso campus, just across the border, school officials told the El Paso Times.

wilkinson@latimes.com


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