Mexico Releases ‘Narco’ Military Officials

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Four high-ranking military officials arrested during the presidency of Felipe Calderon for suspected links with drug cartels have been released, leaving just three of the officials convicted as part of a much-vaunted anti-corruption operation still in prison.

On July 5, generals Roberto Dawe Gonzalez, Ricardo Escorcia Vargas, and Ruben Perez Ramirez, and Lieutenant Silvio Isidro de Jesus Hernandez Soto were released from a maximum security prison after all charges against them were dropped.

In May 2012, the men were placed under preventive detention on accusations that they had aided the Beltran Leyva Organization (BLO) drug cartel, based partly on testimony from jailed BLO member Edgar Valdez Villareal alias “La Barbie,” and from protected witnesses “Jennifer” and “Mateo.” 

One other military official — Major Ivan Reyna Muñoz — found not guilty in the case, was kept in custody to be tried on separate extortion charges.

In April, charges were also dropped against a sixth official involved in the case, General Tomas Angeles Dauahare, based on the decision that testimony against him had been fabricated.

InSight Crime Analysis

With the release of the four military men, ten of the 13 officials convicted as part of “Operacion Limpieza” (Operation Cleanup) have now been released, according to Proceso, further damaging the Calderon presidency’s already batterered reputation.

The operation had been held up by the Calderon government as proof of its progress in tackling corruption and ending impunity, with the arrests of the military men particularly significant as it showed they were even willing to take on the army and its comparatively clean reputation. 

The cases unravelled rapidly, undone by their reliance on the testimonies of the cartel members turned witnesses, parts of which prosecutors have been unable to verify. 

With the current government of Enrique Peña Nieto content to let the Operation Cleanup cases lie, the truth of the men’s guilt seems unlikely to come out. Either way, the case remains a damning indictment of the weaknesses of the Mexican security and judicial systems.

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