Reporting on the Mexican Cartel Drug War

Colonel Lujan Ruiz and the Buenaventura 3

Saturday, February 25, 2012 |

By Chris Covert
Rantburg.com


A Mexican rifle battalion commander is on trial for ordering the 2010 murder of two soldiers in Chihuahua state, according to Mexican news accounts.

Colonel de Infanteria Elfego Jose Lujan Ruiz is accused of ordering soldiers to torture, then kill Mario Alberto Leon Guerrero AKA El Janos, and Mario Alberto Rodriguez Peralta, AKA El Capulina after the two had deserted their posts. Both men were alleged to be part of La Linea, the enforcement wing of the Juarez cartel.

The charges come from statements from 15 soldiers in Colonel Lujan Ruiz's 35th Infantry Battalion that the colonel had ordered an interrogation detail to extract information from the two detainees about their involvement with La Linea. Allegations are that electric shock treatment was used to obtain the information. 

Following the end of the interrogation when an unidentified lieutenant in charge of the interrogation detail presumably phoned the colonel asking for further instructions.

Colonel Lujan Ruiz allegedly said, “Kill them.”

The victims were then led to a location on the road near the army base, were strangled to death with plastic bags and then incinerated using gasoline.

The bodies were discovered a day later by local police agents.

According to press reports, elements of La Linea inside the rifle unit had gained contact with the families of several elements in the rifle unit, making threats and sufficiently striking fear to influence counternarcotics operations. The actions taken by the colonel appear to be that of a senior commander invoking rule number one in war: protection of command. If in fact La Linea were relying on information provided by the two deserters, it is clear that that means of information probably stopped with the two murders.

According to press reports, Colonel Lujan Ruiz was recommended for his promotion to colonel in 2007, which was approved by the Mexican Chamber of Deputies in 2008. He was assigned to the 35 Infantry Battalion based in Nueva Casas Grandes in far western Chihuahua sometime in 2009 under the command of General Jose de Jesus Espitia, commander of the Mexican 5th Military Zone.

Colonel Lujan Ruiz was arrested in February, 2010 and then formally imprisoned in March, 2010 on the charges.

Colonel Lujan Ruiz could be facing charges in another more well known disappearance case that took place only a few days before the murders.

In August, 2011, three bodies were found inside an abandoned mine near the town of Buenaventura in Galeana municipality in far western Chihuahua state. It is unclear in concurrent news reports if the three cadavers found were the three individuals reported taken from their respective residences by men dressed as soldiers 19 months before, or if tests begun by Chihuahua state authorities shortly after they were discovered were conclusive.

According to news and human rights accounts, at around 2000 hrs December 29th, 2010 three individuals were taken from residences in Buenaventura in Galeana municipality, Jose Alvarado Herrera, 30 and Nitza Paola Alvarado Espinoza, 31 and Rocio Irene Alvarado Reyes, 18 in two separate incidents.

Relatives had said the three were taken to the Nueva Casas Grandes army base, while officials both at the local garrison as well as at higher commands denied having them. A human rights report stated that on February 4th, a friend of one of the victims, received a brief telephone call from Nitza Paola Alvarado Espinoza. A local prosecutor in Galeana attempted to trace the call but failed.

The army has consistently denied knowing where whereabouts or fate of the three victims, a contention which appears to be true.

According to an article in the leftist weekly Proceso,  soldiers dropped the three off at a facility run by the Chihuahua state Agencia Estatal de Investigacion (AEI) .  The detail that detained the three was led by Colonel Lujan Ruiz.  The colonel's involvement in the detention was confirmed by three other Chihuahua state officials, however the report fails to state whether the colonel was physically present when the arrests were made, and when the three were dropped off to the AEI. It is clear by virtue of the colonel being in command of the rifle unit, it was his operation. But it is also unclear if the three officials who claimed the colonel led the expedition to arrest the three either saw, or knew that a witness had seen him in that detail at that time.


A January 9th 2010 meeting was set and attended by Luz Estela Castro Rodriguez, a human rights activist, Emilia Gonzalez Tercero, a lawyer for the families,  Maria de Jesus Alvarado Espinosa , a sister of one of the victims, Colonel Lujan Ruiz, General de Jesus Espitia, Major Carlos Sergio Ruvalcaba, head of the Department of Rights International Human Rights and the Directorate of Military Justice, and another, unidentified army general.

At the meeting, General de Jesus Espirita attempted to divert focus on the issue by claiming the three detainees had criminal records for theft. The Proceso report does not deny that contention. The meeting erupted when Colonel Lujan Ruiz continually denied that any element of the 35 Infantry Battalion were conducting operations in the vicinity of Buenaventura on the date of the disappearance, a contention which was heatedly contested by Ms. Alvarado Espinosa, the sister of Nitzla.

The colonel as commander of the rifle unit is in the unique position to know if operations had taken place in the area, since by definition of his position as commander, he is operations chief. Unit logs and other data would presumably available to easily confirm Colonel Lujan Ruiz contention that the army did not detain the three victims.

However, to date none of that data has been released by the Mexican Army.

According to the Proceso account the meeting was then concluded, and then Colonel Lujan Ruiz was later relieved of command. The report doesn't say however, the colonel was likely relieved not because of the triple disappearance but because of the murders of the two La Linea operatives within his ranks only a few days after the disappearance.

Less than six months later General de Jesus Espitia was relieved of command as well.

General de Jesus Espitia has been the subject of press reports detailing alleged links with the Sinaloa Cartel, a charge that former alleged subordinates have denied. The general during his tenure also maintained close ties with Patricia Gonzalez, who ended her term as Chihuahua state's attorney general under a cloud of suspicion that she had links to La Linea, the Sinaloa Cartel's rival in Chihuahua state. Both General de Jesus Espitia and Ms. Gonzalez worked closely together during the their times in office.

Neither Ms. Gonzalez nor General de Jesus Espitia have been charged with any crime relating to a nexus with organized crime.

Proceso's treatment of the disappearance yields several questions.

First is Colonel Lujan Ruiz himself. The Proceso article said that the colonel was being sought by families of the victims for his role in the disappearance. But the article also states that ten men dressed as soldiers arrested the three victims, and then transported them to AEI facilities in western Chihuahua.
Mexican Army Panhard AFV

That would track with army practice. Army units even if they develop their own intelligence, do not act on said intelligence unless they are allowed to by the respective state or federal prosecutors.  Army units do not operate in secrecy;  someone in police agencies or prosecutors' offices almost always knows what is going on when a detachment is sent out.

A second question is whether Colonel Lujan Ruiz himself was present at the arrest. It is very unlikely such a senior commander would have led an expedition to arrest three petty thieves even if ordered by a superior prosecutor. Not that senior commanders don't go out on army security missions; they do. But as the commander of the 35th Battalion, it would follow that the colonel likely had better things to do.

A third question arises about the three victims. In the meeting General de Jesus told the two human rights activists and Maria de Jesus that the three has criminal records as thieves. If the three were wrongly denounced and were killed by authorities, then the question would be who directed the military detail to the three victims.

We know now that Colonel Lujan Ruiz had a severe security problem in his unit being infiltrated by members of organized crime. He is being tried for killing two of his subordinates who were allegedly in the the pay of La Linea. It impossible to think those two were the only traitors in his unit because of the events of the summer of 2011.

In July, 2011 Jose Antonio Acosta Hernandez, AKA El Diego was finally arrested by a team of Policia Federal agents in Chihuahua city after a brief pursuit and firefight. Acosta Hernandez had his hand in a number of major security incidents in Chihuahua state, including the Juarez car bomb in July, 2010. He also admitted to well over 1,500 murders during his reign of terror. He must have been at the time of his arrest a wealth of information.

The next month the bodies of the three disappeared were found and were tentatively identified. A news report suggested that Acosta Hernandez had directed authorities to the abandoned mine near Buenavertura, but a news release later refuted the reported fact that he knew where those bodies were.

But Acosta Hernandez was apparently at the time of he disappearance, getting his people inside military units, and probably still has some in the army to this day. Assuming the three never left army custody, which is a stretch given what is now known, what if Colonel Lujan Ruiz identified either the wrong two or two more that only Acosta Hernandez knew about reported to Acosta Hernandez what they knew. Or a new infiltrator to enter the unit after the deaths of the two men under his command?

Since, however, news reports stated the three did leave army custody and were presumably under the custody of Chihuahua state, and since the prosecutor may have had ties with La Linea, it is possible it was through those offices that Acosta Hernandez knew where the three bodies had been dumped.

A last question is why, in light of the fact the victims were left to Chihuahua state authorities would the family of the disappeared and their representatives be going after the army for information when it is at least as likely Chihuahua state government officials would know more?

The Procuradoria General Republica (PGR) had throughout the case consistently declined investigation or prosecution in favor of military proceedings, which until last year was de riguer for such cases involving the military and civilians. The case, however eventually made its way to the Inter-American Court of Human Rights in Washington DC.

A July, 2011 decision of the Mexican Supreme Court ruled that when a civilian is involved with wrongdoing by the military, investigations and prosecutions must be made by civil, not military authorities. The chief justice of the court Juan Silva Meza later walked back the ruling saying federal judges have total discretion, as to whether a case gets moved to civilian courts.

On February 9th a meeting of officials with Secretaria de Gobiernacion (SEGOB) recommended the case be turned over to the PGR.

If the PGR does move vigorously on the case it will conceivably bring Ms. Gonzalez back under investigation, if it turns out agencies under her command knew or covered up the disappearances of the three victims.

That may not means that Ms. Gonzalez was privvy to those actions,but it doesn't rule out any delegates under her administration weren't.

Chris Covert writes Mexican Drug War and national political news for Rantburg.com

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23 Borderland Beat Comments:

Anonymous said...

They should kill this SOB

Anonymous said...

God Bless colonel Ruiz.

Anonymous said...

If you consider this a war, a soldier who deserts to the enemy is subject to the firing squad by his commander! EOM

Anonymous said...

They should promote him again - and give him a medal. Human rights and Proceso will be the ruin of Mexico.

Can someone point out some anti-narco reports in Proceso for me?

Thanks

Anonymous said...

So sick and tired of this human rights BS. Calderon should unleash the military so that they can kill at will, no questions asked. Sure a lot of innocents will be killed but it's the only way to wipe out the Zetas. The problem in Mexico is not too much killing, it's not enough killing!

Alex said...

Is this not war or is this sometype of war when it needs to bring out the tanks bring out.the big guns.u cant half ass a war start from the south and in march all thr way to.the american frontea have cbp and.nation guards ready for scalawags trying escape just my thoughts nothing more

ROMPE CULOS said...

IT IS WHAT IT IS.........

Recon19Delta said...

Considering what is going on in Mexico, this officer should be promoted and applauded for the way he deals with ANYONE that supports the cartels, or betrays their country. This is the approach that is needed ro help turn the tables on the scum that is destroying Mexico. Bravo Colonel Ruiz, I hope the good citizens of Mexico find the balls to support you and maybe have a chance in winning this war you find yourselves in....

Recon19Delta said...

This officer should be promoted and appaluded for his efforts to rid Mexico of the parasites that has infested her. These pieces of shit betrayed their country, worst of all they betrayed and endangered thier brothers that are fighting to make Mexico safer. Bravo Colonel Ruiz I salute you sir.

Jetlife said...

Why would this guy get arrested? Clowns on his watch were working with the enemies and the idiots paid the price whats the problem??? The Mexican army is dealing fucking terrorists.....

PUEBLO said...

@10:52 am yeah i guess you would be saying more killing if it was one of your family members killed by the military. they killed my mother but oh well, as long as the military has a high body count, thats all that matters. SMH. Human Rights exists so that soldiers or police don't come to your home every week and rape your wife or steal your car. f*ck the narcos they don't deserve human rights, but innocent citizens do.

Anonymous said...

Pueblo, this is war and in a war a lot of innocents get killed. A lot of innocent civilians died in WW2 but that was the price to be paid for dealing with a tyrant like Hitler. Thugs like the Zetas are as bad as Hitler and the only way to wipe them out is all-out war. SHOOT TO KILL! TAKE NO PRISONERS!

Anonymous said...

@9:09 AM...If this were considered a war time desertion with a penalty of death, it becomes a real big problem. There are entire battalions under orders and pay of cartels. Do y'all not understand that many have no choice but to do as they are told if they care about their wives, children and parents. The silver or the led, do it or their dead. All these brave arm chair warriors on this site know nothing about the true criminal culture in Mexico and what it takes to survive as a law officer, politician, or military. Should they slaughter an entire battalion because their general takes orders from El Chapo and their pay is increased from $300 a month to $2,300 a month? In war time that would be treason at it's finest and it happens throughout the military and police forces. These 2 victims in this case just happened to be working for the wrong cartel therefore to bad. You do not know what was used against them to get them to work for the cartel. My guess is, if you were a military officer in the Mexican Army and the Zetas kidnapped your 11 year old daughter and said you better keep your mouth shut and do what we say, you would do it quick fast and in a hurry. I would bet my last $10,000 bucks laying 10 to 1 odds that Colonel Ruiz is true died in the wool Sinaloa Cartel and for sure is no war hero. Wake up guys, the Mexican Military is pure evil. And El Chapo is the most evil, even more than the Zetas.

Legalize it, regulate it, bam, the war is over.

Anonymous said...

Sounds like Calderon is being advised by the democratic party of the USA including Obama

Anonymous said...

Col Ruiz should be given a medal, promoted to 4 star general and put in charge of all Mexico's armies.

Anonymous said...

"My guess is, if you were a military officer in the Mexican Army and the Zetas kidnapped your 11 year old daughter and said you better keep your mouth shut and do what we say, you would do it quick fast and in a hurry."

Probably, you're right. However what needs to happen is that if the military finds out you're working for the Zetas, your ENTIRE family is killed (ALL your children, you, your wife, your parents, your brothers and sisters and their families - ALL OF THEM!). In that situation, which do you choose? You would probably choose to go against the Zetas and remain loyal. THAT'S EXACTLY WHAT NEEDS TO HAPPEN. When the AUC attacked villages in Colombia for being FARC sympathizers, they killed everyone. EVERYONE! After a while most villages saw the handwriting on the wall and realized it was less fearsome to cross the FARC than the AUC. TOTAL RUTHLESS KILLING is what is needed.

Anonymous said...

9:56 PM...Legalization and regulation is the only way out. At what point do we admit that we cannot win this war on drugs. It is unfortunate but many US citizens will always use drugs. It will never change, you cannot change them and with each generation it worsens. We need to quit demanding Mexico slaughter it's people as we sure are sounding like Hitler. What's next, kill all the addicts in the US?

Anonymous said...

@404
Armchair warrior. You are describing yourself as you really don't know anyone psoting here. You don't know if the deserters families were threatened. You don't know really if the col. is paid by a cartel. But you know whole brigades are paid 2300$ a month per soldier. You are an idiot as sicarios repeatedly say they are paid 400$ to 900$ a month.
War is a dirty business and this is a war and ordinary civilized standards do not apply. If soldiers families are being threatened or kidnapped a counter strategy is developed or you just surrender. You would just surrender as you don;t have the will or intellect to fight.
EOM

Anonymous said...

calderon untie the hands of your military. if i were in charge this guy would get a medal but then i would have already ordered no prisoners taken for longer than it takes to get some intel on the next cartel to be killed.

Anonymous said...

There is no doubt that in Mexico for sure any position of power from Dog catcher up is and will be abused,the Military is just the same. So how can this be changed, reduced,How can Mexico be upgraded, If not Calderon Who? The PRI is not the answer ,but who or what is? Mexico will NEVER be functional,safe or reach any potential without a major cultural overhaul.

Anonymous said...

9:56 PM...If the threat of killing all the family members of military and police that go dirty is done, then will the US follow suit. We have plenty of dirty ones here too. Or does it only apply to Mexicans. Wow, I can just see teachers, judges, doctors, lawyers, and not to mention children murdered by the government because of their dumb ass cop uncle. Now your comments and ideas are just about as stupid as they come.

Anonymous said...

They need to give him a medal and a promotion! Mexico is so ass backwards!

Anonymous said...

6:19 PM He has a metal. It reads Pure Sinaloa Cartel. Dumb ass, wake up. Why do you think he is in court?

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