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Military Rife With Drug Corruption, Reports Mexican Newspaper Procesco


August 1997

Mexican Defense Ministry officials acknowledged recently that 34 military personnel have been accused of drug-related crimes during 1997. Several documents leaked to the Mexican newspaper Procesco indicate the existence of widespread corruption within the military [citing "the large number of personnel involved in drug trafficking"] ("Alleged drug ties of Mexican general probed," Houston Chronicle, July 28, 1997, p. A1; Reuters, "Mexico's Military Tied To Traffickers," San Francisco Chronicle, July 28, 1997, p. A11; Andrew Downie, "Mexico says 34 in military accused of drug crimes," Houston Chronicle, July 29, 1997, p. A8; "2 Generals Reported Held in Drug Theft," Los Angeles Times, August 6, 1997, p. A4).

A six-year investigation within the Defense Ministry showed ties between military officers and drug lords. Procesco said two generals, two colonels, and three lieutenant-colonels protected and accepted gifts from Ernesto Foncesca Carillo and Rafael Caro Quintero, two "drug lords" who are in jail for drug-trafficking. At least 10 generals and 22 other officers are under investigation for similar crimes.

Mexican President Ernesto Zedillo has been expanding the role of the military in fighting the anti-drug effort, in large part because of extensive law enforcement corruption (For background information, see "Mexican Drug Czar Fired ..." NewsBriefs, March-April 1997.)

"Evidence suggests that drug corruption will move from one institution to the other, and that corruption will overwhelm the Mexican military long before the military curtails the drug trade. The corruption might also undermine civilian control of the military at precisely the time that democratization if taking hold in Mexico," wrote Eva Bertram, a policy analyst, and Kenneth E. Sharpe, professor of political science at Swarthmore College, in an commentary in the Los Angeles Times. They added, "The mix of huge drug profits and the small salaries of [Mexican] police and military officials make it rational for counternarcotics forces to 'trade' their enforcement capability for a share of the profits." Bertram and Sharpe, who are co-authors of Drug War Politics: The Price of Denial (University of California Press, Berkeley, CA) (reviewed in NewsBriefs, Summer 1996), conclude: "The drive to corrupt is, to a disturbing degree, fueled by U.S. [anti-drug] enforcement strategies and by Americans' continued demand for drugs ... " (Eva Bertram and Kenneth E. Sharpe, "U.S. Policy Corrupting Mexico Army," Los Angeles Times (Washington Edition), August 13, 1997, p. A2).