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Former head of Mexico’s anti-drug force linked to kidnappings

March 9, 1997

MEXICO CITY (AP) _ The former drug czar charged with taking payoffs from one of Mexico’s most notorious drug lords now is being tied to several recent kidnappings, The New York Times reported Sunday.

The bulk of the victims had no proven links to the drug world, although some had had run-ins with authorities, The Times said, citing relatives, human rights officials and media accounts.

``They tend to be businessmen, students and other citizens who were going about their lives,″ said Oscar Loza of the Commission for the Defense of Human Rights in the state of Sinaloa, where some nine people have disappeared.

In one case, a notebook dropped in the victim’s car and other evidence collected by military investigators implicates the former top anti-drug official, Gen. Jesus Gutierrez Rebollo, the paper reported.

That victim, Romulo Rico Urrea, a department store owner kidnapped in the south-central city of Culiacan in September, is still missing.

Other evidence suggests Gutierrez ordered the abductions of at least five other people in northern Mexico since September, and that his deputies carried out the crimes, The Times said.

The general’s lawyers did not return calls seeking comment, the paper reported.

Gutierrez’s appointment was part of the government’s effort to give the military a more visible role in the drug war, partially to replace corrupt police forces.

Since his arrest last month after only three months in office, a number of families of kidnap victims have emerged to tell their stories, the paper said.

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