3rd Mexican Army General Detained for Alleged Drug Links

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A third Mexican army general has been detained in a week for alleged ties to the Beltran Leyva Organization, a drug gang which used to work for the Sinaloa Cartel, evidence of that group’s ties to the security forces which raises new questions about the military’s role in fighting crime.

Retired General Ricardo Escorcia Vargas was detained Thursday and turned over to the attorney general’s Office of Special Investigations into Organized Crime (SIEDO) for questioning. The order for his arrest was issued simultaneously with those for two other generals detained Tuesday for alleged drug ties.

In 2007, Escorcia was investigated for allegedly receiving payments from the Beltran Leyvas in exchange for offering them protection and handing over intelligence while commanding the 24th Military Zone in Morelos state, according to Excelsior. In December 2007, Escorcia allegedly allowed a small airplane to land at an airport in his jurisdiction despite the US Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) warning the military that the craft was loaded with cocaine. By the time soldiers arrived at the site, the plane had been emptied of its cargo and crew. Escorcia was relieved of his command of the zone three days later, before leaving the military in April 2010 when he reached the mandatory retirement age.

An official at the Attorney General’s Office told the Associated Press that the other two generals were also accused of ties to the Beltran Leyvas.

InSight Crime Analysis

Escorcia’s arrest, coming on top of that of two other generals earlier this week, adds fuel to a scandal which threatens to be the biggest corruption case of President Felipe Calderon’s presidency. It does not help the image of Calderon and his embattled PAN party that at the time Escorcia was allegedly protecting the Beltran Leyvas, they were working for the Sinaloa Cartel, which Calderon’s government has repeatedly been accused of favoring.

The case hints at cartel links to the highest levels of Mexico’s military — one of the generals currently under house arrest, Tomas Angeles Dauhare, was an undersecretary for defense who recently participated in a security forum hosted by frontrunner for the July presidential elections, Enrique Peña Nieto.

While the evolution of this investigation may have political implications for Mexico’s upcoming election — Peña has already moved to wash his hands of Angeles — it also raises questions about the role of the military in fighting organized crime. The military was deployed under Calderon because it was thought to be less corrupt than local police forces, but the arrests puts that in question.

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