Decapitated body of a Ministerial Police Agent, Culiacan, April 13, 2011
Ministerial Police agent murdered in Mazatlan, April 27, 2011
A unit of 11 Grupo Elite police officers are ambushed in Guasave, 1 officer is killed. May 26, 2011.
July 15, 2011
With the murders of 11 Grupo Elite state police officers in Guasave, 2 state police officers in Culiacan and a municipal police commander in the municipality of Angostura last week, the death toll for police in the state of Sinaloa for the year has reached 61.
The 61 police deaths are part of the approximately 1,100 deaths linked to organized crime this year in Sinaloa. This has been a bitter pill to swallow for Governor Mario Lopez Valdez who took office on January of this year after running on a law and order platform and promising an immediate improvement in the levels of violence and insecurity in his state.
It would be hard to point to any progress that has been made in Sinaloa, and in the case of the northern and southern areas of the state the violence and insecurity has actually worsened.
Lopez Valdez, known universally by his nickname Malova, was a PRI mayor and senator in Sinaloa and changed to the PAN party to run for the Governor’s office. Both him and his PRI opponent were accused of ties to the Sinaloa cartel during the campaign.
The Governor has again come under heavy criticism for not improving on the performance of his state police after promises were made for better equipment and training in the aftermath of an earlier ambush in March of this year by Mazatleco (Beltran Leyva loyalists) gunmen, also on highway 15 in Guasave, when 7 state ministerial police agents lost their lives.
On May 26 a unit of 11 Grupo Elite officers was ambushed on highway 15 outside of El Burrion, located in the municipality of Guasave. The officers were able to repel this attack with the loss of only one officer.
Grupo Elite is a tactical unit of Sinaloa’s state police that was formed in January 2011 to combat organized crime.
State and municipal police have been especially hard hit in northern Sinaloa and in Mazatlan where an alliance of Mazatlecos and Zetas have declared war on Malova’s government who they accuse of siding with their enemy Chapo Guzman (and the Sinaloa Cartel) in his attempt to take over drug trafficking and organized crime in those areas and wipe out the remnants of the Beltran Leyva Organization.
Although it would probably be inaccurate to call the Malova administration a “narco” government, what is troubling, and what lends credence to the Mazatleco accusations, is the recycling of police officials with histories of corruption and links to the Sinaloa cartel who have served in previous administrations and are again in positions of power within the state security apparatus.
This, unfortunately, is an all too common practice in many state governments in Mexico.
Two names stand out to people familiar with Sinaloa’s recent history, Jesus Antonio “Chuytoño” Aguilar Iñiguez and Alfredo Mejia Perez.
Chuytoño was hired earlier this year as an advisor to the Sinaloa Attorney General’s office and is currently serving as the interim director of the state ministerial police. Ministerial police primarily serve as the investigative arm of prosecutors in Mexico.
Chuytoño has already served as director of the state ministerial police during a previous administration but was forced to resign when it was discovered during the investigation of the murder of Rodolfo Carrillo Fuentes and his wife on September 9, 2004 in Culiacan, Sinaloa that ministerial police agents under his command were providing security for the executed kingpin. Rodolfo was the brother of the late Amado Carrillo Fuentes and current head of the Juarez cartel, Vicente Carrillo Fuentes.
The investigation also revealed that the ministerial police were allegedly providing security for other kingpins such as the Beltran Leyva brothers, who at the time were key lieutenants in the Sinaloa Cartel, El Mayo Zambada and Chapo Guzman.
During his time with the ministerial police Chuytoño, allegedly at the service of the Sinaloa cartel, successfully fought its main rival the Tijuana Cartel, who in the late 1990’s and early 2000’s was considered one of the strongest drug cartels in Mexico.
Chuytoño was the commander responsible for the pursuit and capture of Lino Portillo, a former Michoacan police officer and a ruthless sicario of the Tijuana cartel, in Badiraguato, Sinaloa in 2002. Portillo was murdered in his prison cell in Culiacan in 2003.
Ministerial police agents under his command confronted and killed Ramon Arellano Felix in Mazatlan, who was at the head of a group of killers hunting Ismael “el Mayo” Zambada, during carnaval festivities in 2002. Ramon was the enforcer among the Arellano Felix brothers at the head of the Tijuana cartel. In order to hide the fact that the ministerial police were acting as a Sinaloa cartel hit squad, a story was created that Arellano Felix was killed by transit police during a traffic stop.
In 2004 the Sinaloa newspaper Rio Doce published an expose highlighting Chuytoño’s ownership of properties and residences in Mazatlan worth millions of pesos. A state prosecutor was appointed to investigate charges of corruption. However the investigation slowed and was later dropped after the prosecutor’s boyfriend was executed by gunmen.
Chuytoño went into hiding, reportedly fleeing to Cuba, in late 2004 while being investigated by Siedo (Mexico’s federal organized crime task force) for his connections to organized crime, after which the PGR (Federal Attorney General’s office) put him on its most wanted list with a reward of 5 million pesos for his capture.
After a federal court in 2009 granted him an “amparo”, a form of injunction blocking his arrest warrant and any further prosecution, Chuytoño returned to Mexico and re-entered the law enforcement establishment. He had been a fugitive from justice for 5 years.
Malova has defended Chuytoño, noting that he has been cleared of any wrongdoing and that his skills are needed to defend the people of Sinaloa against the forces of organized crime.
Others in Sinaloa say that the return of Chuytoñio to a top position of power in law enforcement is one of the favors Malova was forced to grant in return for votes that were delivered by the Sinaloa cartel.
Also problematic is the recent appointment of retired Army major Alfredo Mejia Perez as the interim director of Sinaloa’s state preventive police (PEP), the police force that operates under the state department of public safety (SSPE).
Mejia Perez is another former commander of the state ministerial police and state preventive police during previous administrations that has been suspected of corruption and links to organized crime.
In his previous position as a state police commander, Mejia Perez formed an infamous unit known as the Centauro group, that was known for its pervasive human rights violations and commission of crimes such as kidnapping, homicide and robbery.
In December 2008 the Reforma newspaper published evidence that was gathered from the home of Alfredo “el Mochomo” Beltran Leyva after his arrest in Culiacan in January 2008. At the time of his arrest El Mochomo was a top lieutenant in the Sinaloa cartel under Chapo Guzman.
Among the most important pieces of evidence were lists of payments made by el Mochomo to state and federal prosecutors, police commanders and military officers.
On one list that contained the amounts of cash payments to Sinaloa officials was the name of Alfredo Mejia Perez with the corresponding amount of 130,000. Whether the payment was in dollars or pesos was not known.
Mejia Perez has denied receiving bribes from the Sinaloa cartel or having met or known Alfredo Beltran Leyva and explains away the list as falsified evidence.
In response to a statement by Malova that men like Alfredo Mejia Perez and Jesus Antonio “Chuytoño” Aguilar Iñiguez are important because they know how organized crime functions, citizens and officials angered by these appointments answer that this is true precisely because they are part of organized crime.