Mexico fires corrupt police

2011-12-23 10:38
Mexico City - Police in the Gulf port city of Veracruz were heavily infiltrated by criminal elements, mainly the deadly Zetas drug cartel, an armed forces official said on Thursday, leaving authorities no choice but to disband the force - Mexico's most dramatic step to date in battling corrupt cops.

It could take months to replace the 800 officers and 300 administrative employees who were dismissed on Wednesday, said the official, who could not be named for security reasons.

"It was a fairly high percentage of people infiltrated or in collusion," he said, though he did not mention specifics. He added that many were threatened into service of the drug cartels and had no choice.

About 800 marines, or navy infantry, will patrol the city of 700 000 in the meantime, the official said.

Veracruz state government officials, meanwhile, disputed that the firing had to do with corruption.

Background checks

The dismissal was designed to meet a federal requirement to build new police forces certified under stricter standards, said Gina Dominguez, spokesperson for Veracruz Governor Javier Duarte.

None of the dismissed employees is under investigation for corruption and all can reapply for their jobs, she said.

All applicants will be required to undergo a rigorous new programme of testing and background checks.

"The police force was created under previous administrations and the governor wanted to renovate the force with new police certified at a national level that elicit the confidence of citizens," she said.

The change was agreed to on Monday by Duarte and federal Interior Secretary Alejandro Poire.

President Felipe Calderon, who leaves office in December 2012, has promised to leave a secure police force. To root out corruption, the federal government has been pushing an elaborate process for vetting all of Mexico's 460 000 police officers.

According to federal figures, only 16% have been vetted so far, and only 8% of the total passed the background checks and tests.

Corrupt police

In Veracruz, a state even Calderon conceded had been handed over to the Zetas, 14% of state police had been evaluated as of the end of the September, and 6% of municipal police. The number who passed was not available.

Mexico's army has taken over police operations several times before, notably in the northern border city of Ciudad Juarez and the northern border state of Tamaulipas, and federal and state governments have made countless unsuccessful attempts to clean up Mexico's notoriously corrupt police.

But Veracruz becomes the first state to completely disband a large police department and use marines as law enforcers.

Duarte already had disbanded a police force in the state's capital of Xalapa, but in that case state agents immediately replaced city police.

Veracruz is a common route for drugs and migrants coming from the south. It was first dominated by the Gulf Cartel, and then its former armed wing, the Zetas, took over after the two split. The state saw a rise in crime this year after a government offensive in neighbouring Tamaulipas scared drug criminals into Veracruz.

The port since has turned into a battleground between the Zetas and a gang aligned with the Sinaloa Cartel, led by Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman. The war has been marked by the dumping of 35 bodies on a main highway in rush-hour traffic in September.

Less than a month later, authorities announced the firing of nearly 1 000 state police officers for failing their tests.
Read more on:    mexico  |  narcotics

Join the conversation! encourages commentary submitted via MyNews24. Contributions of 200 words or more will be considered for publication.

We reserve editorial discretion to decide what will be published.
Read our comments policy for guidelines on contributions.

Hostages safe in Paris

2016-12-02 22:36 publishes all comments posted on articles provided that they adhere to our Comments Policy. Should you wish to report a comment for editorial review, please do so by clicking the 'Report Comment' button to the right of each comment.

Comment on this story
Comments have been closed for this article.

Inside News24


Book flights

Compare, Book, Fly

Traffic Alerts
There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.


Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.

Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire network.


Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.

Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.