Permission Claimed for Drug Contacts
MEXICO CITY (AP) _ An ex-federal agent whose alleged contacts with a drug cartel are being investigated by Mexican authorities has argued that he had permission to meet with drug traffickers, according to documents obtained by The Associated Press.
The investigation came to light after Cuauhtemoc Herrera Suastegui, the former technical coordinator of the Mexican attorney general’s organized crime unit, was wounded in an ambush by unknown assailants Thursday at a Mexico City hotel. His bodyguard was killed.
At the time of the shooting, Herrera was carrying documents meant to explain his contacts with the so-called Juarez drug cartel, authorities said. His wife, Victoria Lopez, confirmed that in an interview with TV Azteca late Monday.
An official close to the case, insisting on anonymity, gave copies of some of the documents to The Associated Press. One is a letter Herrera wrote to an official in the anti-drug unit of the Mexican attorney general’s office; the other is a document from the internal investigation the attorney general’s office is conducting on Herrera.
In the documents, Herrera argues that the former head of the organized crime unit, Samuel Gonzalez, had authorized him to meet twice with Oscar Benjamin Garcia Davila, a former Quintana Roo police official suspected of ties to drug gangs.
``The intention was to bring him into the witness protection program of the unit,″ according to the documents.
Gonzalez left the attorney general’s office at the end of 1998 and was transferred to Mexico’s consulate in Seville, Spain. No one in the consulate was immediately available for comment.
Herrera was hospitalized and under heavy guard. Prosecutors announced Tuesday that none of the five people detained in connection with the shooting has been linked to the attack by witnesses. Three of the suspects were freed on Monday, while two others faced charges of car theft.
The documents are the latest development in the Herrera case, which was cited in testimony before the U.S. Congress on Feb. 29: A top Drug Enforcement Agency official said it was an example of the failure of the Mexican attorney general’s office to adequately deal with corruption. William E. Ledwith told a House subcommittee that Herrera continued to work for the attorney general’s office even after allegations surfaced that he had provided assistance to the Juarez organization.
In the documents, Herrera also said DEA operatives he worked alongside violated Mexican laws by carrying firearms and attempting to take an active role in interrogations. DEA officials in the past have denied violating Mexican law.
Herrera also explained his unwillingness to submit to a lie detector test, saying he was ``convinced there were anomalies in the application″ of it.
Before moving to the organized crime office at Mexico City headquarters, Herrera worked at the attorney general’s office in the border city of Tijuana, where many officials are on the payroll of drug groups. He helped capture two of Mexico’s most wanted suspects, kidnappers Daniel Arizmendi and Andres Caletri.