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Drug Cartel execution video - FYI


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  • Drug Cartel execution video - FYI

    Exclusive: Video offers brutal glimpse of cartel
    Execution raises questions about tangle of corruption

    10:02 PM CST on Wednesday, November 30, 2005
    By ALFREDO CORCHADO and LENNOX SAMUELS / The Dallas Morning News

    MEXICO CITY -- The four men sit bruised, bloody and bound on the floor before a curtain of black garbage bags. Prodded by an unseen interrogator, they coolly describe how they enforce the rule of Mexico's Gulf cartel: Enemies are kidnapped, tortured and shot in the head, their bodies burned to ashes.

    Among those killed, the men say in a video sent to The Dallas Morning News, were a radio reporter who "didn't want to work anymore" for their cartel and a chamber of commerce leader who called too loudly for federal help against the drug gangs. "Break him because he is causing controversy," was the order from his cartel boss, says one of the men.

    After six minutes of such confessions, a 9 mm pistol held by a black-gloved hand enters the picture and fires a bullet into the head of one of the self-proclaimed killers.

    After unseen interrogators question the men, the video ends when a pistol enters the frame and shoots this man in the head. Authorities on both sides of the border said the interrogation video appears genuin! e, offering a rare and extraordinary look into the Gulf carte! l's inne r workings and its well-armed allies, known as the Zetas. They also said the crude home movie raises unsettling questions about the cartels' possible reach into Mexico's government, military and media -- though a government spokesman said that impression could be misleading.

    For instance, the suspected Zeta members said on the video that they are collaborating with some Mexican law-enforcement officials. Two of the captives say they are former soldiers, trying to recruit military colleagues, federal agents and others to work for the cartel.

    The video never reveals the interrogators or the identity of the gunman. But experts who reviewed the video say they believe some of them were with the military, perhaps hired by a vengeful private citizen whose relatives were harmed by the Gulf cartel.

    "All four guys appeared to work for the Zetas. All were exe! cutioners whose duties involved recruiting from the military, AFI [Mexico's version of the FBI] and gangs for the Zetas," said a law enforcement investigator who has seen the video. "This is probably the most graphic and telling look into how these guys operate. They are ruthless, cold-blooded and sinister."

    A senior official in Mexico's intelligence service, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the video "essentially confirmed some of our worst concerns. Corruption is endemic, as is the collusion between organized crime and regular residents."

    Asked how credible the video is, another law enforcement investigator said: "Credible 100 percent. A guy gets his brains blown. You can't make that [expletive] up."

    Jose Luis Santiago Vasconcelos, head of the anti-organized crime division of the Mexican attorney general's office, said the video is being investigated, but he disputed the captive men's allegations that high-ranking law enforcement official! s were cooperating with drug gang leaders.

    Authorities don't doubt the authenticity of the video, but its source is unknown. He said he believes their statements were coerced. "When you look at the video, the men, after answering a question, constantly look to someone for approval. They were tortured, we believe, precisely so they could make certain statements," he said.

    He called it a "counterintelligence strategy" by a rival cartel "aimed at turning the federal government against the Zetas in even greater ways since we're already going after them."

    Mexican officials say that more than half of the original Zetas -- mostly former military commandos -- have been arrested or killed, but the gang still has c! ells scattered around the country, engaged in a savage war for supremacy in the drug trade.

    Source unknown
    Though investigators expressed no doubts about the authenticity of the video, none claimed to know its source or how the men were captured. Investigators say it may have been made by rivals of the Zetas to intimidate them.

    Mexican authorities said they received a DVD containing the video in June. U.S. officials declined to discuss the disc in any detail. Some said they didn't even want to see the video because it could force their agencies to confront awkward questions of governmental corruption.

    Sometime after federal authorities got a copy of the DVD, The Kitsap Sun in Bremerton, Wash., received a disc in the mail, with no explanation and no return address. The Sun forwarded a copy to The Dallas Morning News because the men on the video referred to the killing of a Mexican journalist writ! ten about by The News.

    Guadalupe "Lupita" Gar! c

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