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MEXICO'S DRUG CZAR FIRED, ARRESTED.

Byline: Associated Press

Mexico's drug czar has been fired and arrested on suspicion of accepting payments from one of the country's most powerful drug lords, the defense secretary said Tuesday.

Gen. Jesus Gutierrez Rebollo, director of the Institute of Combat Against Drugs, and a number of officers who worked for him were under arrest, said Defense Secretary Gen. Enrique Cervantes Aguirre.

Authorities suspect that Gutierrez has been cooperating with Amado Carrillo Fuentes, who is among Mexico's most notorious drug lords, Cervantes Aguirre said.

It was the first time in memory such disciplinary action was taken against a Mexican senior career officer. Gutierrez was appointed to the top drug post in December after a 42-year career in the military. He had been highly praised for his efforts to combat the drug trade.

President Ernesto Zedillo called the episode a betrayal, and promised that the offenders would be punished.

While he did not mention Gutierrez by name, Zedillo said he ``deplores that in the performance of such a delicate task as combating drugs, there has been actions involving simulation and deceit . . . and betrayal of the army.

In Washington, U.S. drug policy czar Barry McCaffrey supported Mexico's decision to oust Gutierrez but said he was ``extremely disappointed that corruption may have reached such a level in Mexico.''

Cervantes Aguirre said Gutierrez appeared perturbed and confused and has been confined to the military hospital in Mexico City since Feb. 6.

Until his appointment as drug czar, Gutierrez had been living in Guadalajara, the capital of western Jalisco state and a notorious center of the drug trade. By U.S. estimates, roughly three-quarters of South American cocaine smuggled into the United States passes through Mexico.

Cervantes Aguirre said Gutierrez did a credible job in Jalisco tracking down drug traffickers. But he said when Gutierrez moved to Mexico City, he ``occupied an apartment of great luxury, with a rent that his salary as a public official could not pay for.''

That apartment was provided by Eduardo Gonzalez Quirate, believed to be a top aide to Amado Carrillo Fuentes, Cervantes Aguirre said. He said he interviewed Gutierrez on Feb. 6.

Local media reported Tuesday that troops searched various properties belonging to Gutierrez and raided one with an armored car. Law enforcement sources, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said a number of police officers were arrested.

The daily Siglo 21 reported Tuesday that Mexico City-based soldiers had raided three of Gutierrez's houses and several other properties linked to the institute and its agents since Sunday night.

Gunfire broke out during one of the raids, the newspaper reported.

In Zapopan, the Guadalajara suburb where Gutierrez's primary residence is located, troops and federal police occupied an auxiliary police base and reportedly arrested both the police manning the base and local police who responded to their call for assistance.

A federal law enforcement source, speaking on condition of anonymity, said that more than two dozen police or anti-drug agents were arrested in the raids.
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Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Date:Feb 19, 1997
Words:495
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