By Daniel Hernandez/La Plaza
A recently retired Mexican army general who oversaw a controversial military operation against drug-trafficking was shot dead in a Mexico City suburb over the weekend, the military said in a statement (link in Spanish).
A tough-talking career soldier, retired Gen. Jorge Juarez Loera was in civilian clothes and in a compact civilian vehicle Saturday when he pulled over after being struck from behind in the Ciudad Satelite area of northwest Mexico City, witnesses told reporters. After exiting his vehicle and confronting the other driver, Juarez Loera was shot and killed, reports said.
Federal investigators have taken over the case from local authorities, reports said Tuesday. One possibility being investigated is "premeditated execution," said El Universal (link in Spanish). The general was considered an expert in drug-trafficking issues and had access to sensitive intelligence, raising the possibility he was targeted in the shooting, sources told the daily Reforma.
Juarez Loera rose to third in command in the Mexican military, and left his most recent post upon reaching the mandatory retirement age of 65 earlier this month.
Near the end of his 48 years of service in the Mexican armed forces, Juarez Loera oversaw Joint Operation Chihuahua (previously known as Joint Operation Juarez), the military-led campaign against drug gangs in the Mexican border state where violence-ravaged Ciudad Juarez is located. Homicide and human rights abuse claims against the Mexican military skyrocketed in Ciudad Juarez after President Felipe Calderon dispatched the army to combat the cartels in the region in late 2006.
Juarez Loera sometimes courted controversy in public remarks (link in Spanish). He once rebuffed critics of rising death tolls tied to the government's military-led campaign by saying that homicide victims should not be described as "one more citizen dead" but rather "one less delinquent ."
Responding to complaints of heavy-handedness in the Chihuahua operation, Juarez Loera once boasted, "Mi orden de cateo es el marro," or "My search warrant is the sledgehammer."