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Newsmagazine reports top Mexican military had contacts with drug lords

July 27, 1997

MEXICO CITY (AP) _ Military court documents appear to show that several senior officers had contacts with Mexican drug traffickers, the respected news magazine Proceso reported Sunday.

Secret files lifted from the defense secretary’s office indicated that a recently retired army general and at least five colonels had contact with a number of Mexican drug traffickers.

A colonel who specialized in intelligence and a captain are facing court martial for taking the confidential computer files from Maj. Gen. Enrique Cervantes Aguirre’s private office, the magazine reported.

Proceso did not say how it obtained the files, and the report could not be immediately confirmed. No government or military officials in a position to comment were available on Sunday.

But if the report turns out to be accurate, it would suggest that the military’s link to drug traffickers is stronger than previously believed _ and not limited to a single general, the former drug czar, now on trial.

The magazine said the files showed some of the officers involved had contacts, protected and helped the drug lords as far back as 1990.

A scandal broke out in February when Brig. Gen. Jesus Gutierrez Rebollo was arrested and fired three months after he was named head of the government’s Institute for the Combat Against Drugs.

Gutierrez Rebollo, along with four aides are now on trial before a civilian criminal court.

They are accused of having been in the pay of the late Amado Carillo Fuentes, head of the powerful Juarez Cartel.

Gutierrez Rebollo, 62, also is accused of helping Carrillo Fuentes escape arrest during the seven years he was commander of the 5th Military Zone before being named drug czar.

As chief of that zone with headquarters in the western city of Guadalajara _ a nerve center for drug traffickers _ Gutierrez Rebollo made a name for himself arresting several powerful drug lords _ all of them Carrillo Fuentes’ rivals in the illegal drug trade.

Gutierrez Rebollo, a career officer for the past 42 years, has denied any wrongdoing.

Carillo Fuentes was nicknamed The Lord of the Skies for pioneering the use of old jet liners to fly into Mexico tons of South American cocaine for smuggling into the United States.

He died July 4 in a Mexico City hospital after checking in the day before under an assumed name to have extensive plastic surgery to change his appearance.

The attorney general’s office says it is still investigating if a powerful analgesic that killed him, administered after the eight-hour operation, was done deliberately or by mistake.

In a related incident Friday, gunmen shot and wounded Ricardo Cesareo Vazquez Tafolla, whom authorities described as a key prosecution witness in the case against Gutierrez Rebollo and his aides.

Vazquez Tafolla was slightly injured in the shooting as he left his home in the western city of Guadalajara. Authorities said he recognized at least one of his attackers as being linked to Gutierrez Rebollo.

A statement issued late Saturday by the attorney general’s office and the Defense Department said Vazquez Tafolla had valuable evidence to convict Gutierrez Rebollo and four of his aides on multiple drug charges.

The statement did not further identify Vazquez Tafolla. It gave no details about the attack, and the attorney general’s office and the Defense Department had no additional information Sunday.

Update hourly