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Mexican lawyers charge cops with protecting drug trafficking gang

Sunday, August 20, 2006

MEXICO CITY -- Mexican prosecutors announced Saturday that they have charged two policemen with protecting the Arellano Felix drug trafficking gang, whose alleged kingpin was recently arrested by the U.S. Coast Guard.

Large numbers of Mexican police officers are believed to have helped the Tijuana-based Arellano Felix gang move tons of Colombian cocaine and Mexican marijuana to the United States, but few officials have been charged.

Officers Jorge Alberto Perez and Salvador Cebreros face organized crime charges and also are being investigated for involvement in the killing of four of their colleagues, who were shot dead in July, the attorney general's office said in a statement.

Both Perez and Cebreros work for the police department of Rosarito, about 15 miles south of the U.S. border at San Diego.

"They received money from members of the Arellano Felix criminal organization in exchange for giving them protection," the attorney general's office said in the statement.

The Coast Guard captured Francisco Javier Arellano Felix, 36, when he was fishing in international waters Monday. On Friday, he pleaded not guilty in San Diego to racketeering, racketeering conspiracy, conspiracy to import and distribute controlled substances and money laundering.

Known in Mexico as "El Tigrillo," or "Little Tiger," Arellano Felix is accused of taking over the Tijuana clan almost by default in 2002 when the gang lost two of his older brothers: Benjamin, who was jailed, and Ramon, who was killed.

The Arellano Felix gang emerged as a drug powerhouse in the 1980s in Tijuana but its influence has waned lately as a new generation of gangsters in a cartel known as the Federacion rose to prominence.


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