URGENT U.S. Consul Held Hostage; Gunman Demands Brother Be Put in Jail
VERACRUZ, Mexico (AP) _ A gun-toting lawyer who demanded that Mexican authorities imprison his brother for cheating his mother out of her inheritance stormed into the U.S. Consulate on Thursday and took the consul hostage, officials said.
U.S. Embassy spokesman William Graves said Edwin Culp ″is being held by a Mexican national. We have notified Mexican authorities and they have been in touch with the individual who is in Mr. Culp’s office.″
Culp is not a foreign service officer but is a businessman and a civilian consular agent serving as consul, Graves said.
Officials identified the gunman as Francisco Delfin Perez, a lawyer from Cordoba, which is near Veracruz. They said Culp and Delfin Perez apparently knew each other.
Delfin Perez wants his brother and a notary public imprisoned for allegedly cheating his mother in an inheritance dispute over stock worth about $347,000, said Alfredo Algarin Vega, subsecretary of the Veracruz state Interior Ministry.
Algarin said Delfin Perez’ mother, lawyer and a friend have all talked to Delfin Perez by telephone and urged him to give up.
The president of the state supreme court and the state attorney general have assured Delfin Perez’ mother, Berta Perez Ferrer, that they would investigate to see if anything had gone wrong.
″Son, I’m fine. There’s no problem with the case,″ Algarin quoted Mrs. Perez Ferrer as telling her son.
However, said Algarin, Delfin Perez said he wanted to see his brother Lucio and the notary, who was not identified, in jail.
″He wants to see the notary charged on television,″ Algarin said.
The building housing the consulate was surrounded by about 50 federal, state and local police officers late Thursday, said Jose Antonio Herrera, night editor of El Dictamen, but Algarin said the police were being kept out of sight to avoid antagonizing the gunman.
″We are trying through persuasion″ to get him to give up. ″We are very worried,″ Algarin said. Algarin said he had spoken to Delfin Perez for about 40 minutes.
Algarin said he had offered to give the man a helicopter, but Delfin Perez said he would not leave and warned authorities ″not to try to take the building by force because he could take measures that we would regret.″
″His mother told us that Delfin Perez had a cordial relationship with the consul,″ Algarin said. Algarin had no further details on that.
The consular office is located in a building in downtown Veracruz, and the consulate is in the building’s lower floor. Embassy officials were also on the scene, Graves said.
A man who answered a telephone call to the consulate identified himself as Culp and said in a calm voice before he hung up: ″There is nothing happening right now that we can talk about. There’s nothing that we can talk about. I’d rather not talk right now.″
Graves described Culp as in his mid-40s, a long-time resident of Veracruz who owns a restaurant, discotheque and a clothing factory.
Graves said the Veracruz consular post was created about ten years ago, but did not know how long Culp had filled the position.
Veracruz is a port city about 140 miles east of Mexico City on the Gulf of Mexico.