Juarez Businessman Murdered After Testifying Against Police

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A Mexican businessman who accused 10 federal police officers of extortion and kidnapping has been murdered in Ciudad Juarez, and while authorities say they suspect the motive was robbery, it seems possible that it was a revenge attack.

Eligio Ibarra was found stabbed to death in his residence near El Paso, Texas, on the US-Mexico border. His body was 70 percent covered in burns, making him difficult to identify.

One suspect has been arrested in connection with the murder.

Ibarra filed a complaint in September 2011 against 10 federal police officers, who he said demanded $5,000, threatening to plant drugs on him if he did not comply. He accused the officers of kidnapping, beating, and robbing him. At the time of their arrest, the officers had marijuana, heroin, and illegal weapons in their possession.

When Ibarra filed his complaint, he told online publication Norte Digital that he had received threats and feared for his life, as the El Paso Times reports. Based on his complaints, the agents were arrested and indicted on a variety of charges, including extortion, abuse of authority, kidnapping, and carrying illegal weapons. They were found guilty by a federal judge and currently await sentencing.

When his case became public, Ibarra fled Juarez, a state human rights official told El Paso Times. He had returned to participate in court proceedings against the officers.

InSight Crime Analysis

Despite the fact that Ibarra received threats, state and federal authorities suspect the killing was motivated by robbery, and that Ibarra knew his killer, due to evidence collected at his scene and the fact that only his family and friends knew when he was staying in his Juarez residence. One of Ibarra’s cars was stolen, and the lock to his garage had been tampered with, suggesting the suspect or suspects had attempted to steal his other car.

Authorities have painted a picture of an unlikely-sounding robbery-homicide, in which somebody close to Ibarra stabbed him in the heart, burnt his body almost beyond recognition, all while navigating the closed-circuit cameras protecting his residence, in order to rob him.

If, on the other hand, Ibarra was killed in a revenge attack, perhaps even by colleagues of the officers he helped put behind bars, this would point to a deep level of corruption in the federal police. This would be a bad sign for security in Mexico, since the federal force is generally seen as a more reliable and less corrupt alternative to state and municipal police. The fact that Ibarra had no official protection despite his high-profile complaint against the police is telling of the dangers faced by those who report corruption in the security forces.

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