Sunday, August 8, 2010

Anatomy of a Mutiny: The Federal Police Revolt in Juarez

From Diario's account (click here): It began shortly after 4 a.m. when federal police agent Victor Manuel Desid, assigned to the Third Group of the Federal Police of Juarez, was arrested for possession of drugs. He was arrested by personnel escorting Third Group commander (the exact title is First Inspector) Salomon Alarcón Romero, nicknamed "El Chamán." Angered at what they considered an illegal arrest, some of Desid's co-workers called news reporters as early as 7 a.m. to assert his innocence. By 8 a.m. a group of Desid's co-workers had decided to go on strike demanding Desid's release.

But some of them also marched to the Playa Hotel where commander Alarcón was staying, bursting into some of the rooms occupied by his escorts and lieutenants. Alarcón retreated to one of the rooms (not his), guarded by a phalanx of his officers. Rebel officers burst into room 105, Alarcon's, and discovered weapons, ammunition, and small packages of cocaine and marijuana. By this time numerous photographers, camaramen, and reporters were on the scene. Some of the rebels explained that drugs were planted on officers who refused to cooperate with some of Alarcón's illegal activities. This, they believed, was why Desid had been arrested. Other rebels shouted out complaints about working 12 hour shifts, about the poor quality of the food, lack of support for uniforms, and that they were being charged between 500 and 2000 pesos ($40-$160 US) to obtain a pass to visit their families. As the morning passed, between 250 and 300 federal officers, wearing masks, joined the mutiny. They blocked off Ave. Lopez Mateos from Benjamin Franklin to Hermanos Escobar, keeping traffic from passing by the Playa Hotel, which is located right across the street from the old U.S. Consulate building.

Officers complained that Alarcón, who took command of his unit just a month ago, boasted from the beginning that he was well connected in the division of internal affairs at the PGR (the cabinet department that supports the federal police) so they could take no action against him. He informed his troops "Que todo aquel güey que no quisiera trabajar con él se iba a chingar" (rough translation: anyone who refused to work with him would be screwed), said one officer.

A policewoman from the prosecutor's office arrived on the scene and began to negotiate with the rebels. She promised the release of agent Desid by 3 p.m. and to bring federal officials dispatched that morning from Mexico City to negotiate with the mutineers. She explained that the prosecutor's office was not open on Saturday, which is why officers had not been dispatched to the scene to record the presence of drugs found in Alarcon's room.

At 3 p.m., however, Desid had not been released and no agent from Mexico City had arrived. The mutineers began insulting the guards protecting Alarcon, pointing their weapons at them. Alarcon's guards relinquished their weapons, but Alarcon himself kept his assault rifle in his hands. As the mutineers moved toward the small command group, Alarcon declared that commander Ricardo Duque Chavez had arrested agent Desid. Duque was then beaten severely, in front of photographers. Alarcon was then disarmed and "arrested" and forced to walk to a table containing the drugs discovered in his room. They tried to force him to kneel down in a mock presentation as federal police often do before the press to criminals with evidence found against them, but, fighting back, he remained standing. "I'm also a person, I don't know what they are talking about, I didn't arrest the officer, I'm defending him. I don't know what they are accusing me of," he said to television cameras that were rolling.

Then the area motorcycle coordinator, Mario Montano Alcocer arrived on the scene, telling mutineers that while they were dealing with a matter of internal affairs, the rest of the federal agents were working, and one agent had already been killed in the morning, and four wounded. He assured them that officials from Mexico City were on their way, but a Special Forces group was organizing to move against them.

At about 5 p.m. the officials from Mexico City, headed by Rafael
Avilés arrived, heavily escorted by hundreds of heavily armed troops. After private negotiations that lasted more than half an hour, reporters heard all parties shout in unison, "Federal Police, Federal Police: Protect and Serve the Community." Aviles later announced that four commanders, including Alarcon and Duque, had been separated from their responsibilities; an investigation would be launched in response to the accusations made by the mutineers; the 25 agents who had initiated the mutiny would be identified; and other complaints would be addressed. By 6:30 p.m. agents of the Third Group were patrolling again, in the Chihuahua Sector of Cd. Juarez. At 7 p.m. agent Victor Manuel Desid, whose arrest had provoked the mutiny, was released on his own recognizance pending investigation.

Among the accusations reporters heard against Alarcon were that he is tied in with organized criminals; that he has participated in kidnappings, executions, and extortions, and that his officers have been forced to go along with these illegal activities. Photographs were displayed of persons who, mutineering agents asserted, had been kidnapped by federal agents under Alarcon's command.

1 comment:

teampurochile said...

This amazing, just miles down the road a war no one is really talking about here in the U.S. I just read ex President Fox wants to legalize all drugs. What do you think of that? The U.S drug war is lost in my honest opinion. It appears that the corruption on both sides is at the top. Thanks Dr. Garcia for keeping us informed on this issue.