[an error occurred while processing this directive]
BBC News
watch One-Minute World News
LANGUAGES
Spanish
Brasil
Caribbean
Last Updated:  Thursday, 3 April, 2003, 18:16 GMT 19:16 UK
Mexico's drugs battle intensifies
Brigadier General Ricardo Martinez Perea
Such high-level convictions of figures in organised crime are rare
Three Mexican army officers have been jailed for 15 years each for protecting a reputed powerful drug baron, in a case the government hailed as a victory against organised crime.

The convictions follow last month's dramatic capture of the alleged drug baron Osiel Cardenas, for whose capture the FBI had offered a $2m reward.

The latest case was only the second time in Mexico's history that military officers had been tried by a military court on drug charges.

But these apparent successes against the drugs trade were tempered on Wednesday with the discovery of nine bodies - apparently executed with bullets to the head - in two cars near the Texan border.

The killings, the latest violence since the state began its drugs crackdown, appear to be part of the underworld war over leadership of the Gulf drug cartel.

Bloody fight

The cartel is said to ship tons of cocaine worth billions of dollars to the US every year.

Brigadier General Ricardo Martinez Perea, 2nd Captain Pedro Maya and Lieutenant Javier Quevedo were found guilty of encouraging drug trafficking by protecting Cardenas and warning him of anti-drug operations, said the Supreme Military Tribunal.

It was unclear whether the officers - who will be discharged from the army - would appeal.

The Mexican authorities have arrested key leaders of all five of Mexico's leading drug gangs in the last two years.

Osiel Cardenas
Cardenas: Arrest has left behind an increasingly violent vacuum
The Interior Minister Santiago Creel said the convictions were "another sign of the fight we are carrying out against organized crime, against corruption... Above all we want to show how efficiently a democratic government can work."

The US has long griped that Mexico does too little to stem the flow of drugs over its border.

However, Mexico's efforts to tighten its grip on drug-related crime seem to have had little effect on the cross-border trade - but do appear to have stirred greater violence.

The nine shooting victims whose bodies were discovered on Wednesday appeared to have been tortured before they died.

They were found in two parked cars on the outskirts of Nuevo Laredo, on the Mexican border with Texas.

Three of the four bodies found in one car were wearing the shirts of federal police, state police reportedly said.

"What we are seeing is a power struggle within and among the cartels," said Mexican newspaper editor Jesus Blancornelas, according to the New York Times newspaper.

"It's going to be a bloody one."




SEE ALSO:
'Drug boss' captured in Mexico
15 Mar 03  |  Americas
'Drug lord' arrested in Mexico
28 Mar 02  |  Americas
US hails Mexico drugs crackdown
28 Jun 02  |  Americas


INTERNET LINKS:
The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites


PRODUCTS AND SERVICES

News Front Page | Africa | Americas | Asia-Pacific | Europe | Middle East | South Asia
UK | Business | Entertainment | Science/Nature | Technology | Health
Have Your Say | In Pictures | Week at a Glance | Country Profiles | In Depth | Programmes
Americas Africa Europe Middle East South Asia Asia Pacific