Mexico drug czar lived in luxury

Published Feb. 20, 1997|Updated Sept. 30, 2005

For a general on army pay, it was a lot of apartment.

It was, as the defense minister put it, "an apartment of great luxury with a rent that his salary as a public official could not pay for."

Even worse, authorities say, it was an apartment provided to the general _ Mexico's No. 1 anti-drug official _ by a top aide to Juarez drug cartel chief Amado Carrillo Fuentes.

On Wednesday, Gen. Jesus Gutierrez Rebollo, who was drug czar for less than three months, was taken into custody, charged with taking money from drug smugglers. He was being held in a maximum security prison.

The government increasingly has brought in the military in an effort to clean up Mexico's legendary police corruption. Many officials think military discipline helps officers resist the temptation of the drug lords' riches.

The arrest of Gutierrez raises questions about Mexico's ability to stem drug smuggling through its territory. An estimated two-thirds of the cocaine that enters the United States passes through Mexico.

"The military has been contaminated by drugs . . . so it isn't any more resistant to that than any other institution in society, particularly because of the amount of money involved," said Rodric Camp, a political scientist at Tulane University in New Orleans.

On March 1, the U.S. Congress will decide whether to certify Mexico as doing enough to fight drugs. Failure could mean an end to drug-fighting aid and a U.S. vote against the country in international lending institutions.

Gutierrez had been well-regarded as military commander of the Guadalajara area, and in the middle-class Guadalajara neighborhood where he lived, neighbors were surprised at the charges against him.

But after taking his new job, Gutierrez moved to a luxurious apartment in the Bosque de las Lomas area of Mexico City's posh west hills.