Monday, January 12, 2009

Dirty Tactics in Operation Clean-Up

Operation Clean-Up's arrests of Mexican officials are based on hearsay and contradictory testimonies; many of the accused could be set free

by Ricardo Ravelo, Proceso

translated from the original Spanish by Kristin Bricker

The attempt to clean up the Attorney General's Office (PGR) appears to be threatened by deficiencies in the investigation which have already resulted in judicial losses in favor of some of the accused. And what's worse, it might have to face an international denunciation for employing "dirty means" in its zeal to find culprits.

Inconsistencies, contradictions, and statements based on hearsay produced by protected witnesses may lead to the downfall of the so-called Operation Clean-Up, which is led by Federal Attorney General Eduardo Medina Mora. The operation's aim is to "clean up" the institution responsible for combatting organized crime. The PGR has been infiltrated by drug traffickers for years.

The vices and failings in compiling the dossier PGR/SIEDO/UEIDCS/0241/2008 have begun to surface: the ex-chief of the Assistant Attorney General's Office for Specialized Investigation of Organized Crime (SIEDO), Noe Ramirez Mandujano, won an injunction in the 6th District Criminal Court which blocked the extension of his administrative detention for 40 more days. However, the PGR announced on December 25, 2008, that it had requested an appeal of the injunction, which is why the ex-federal official remains detained, but not under administrative detention, and his legal situation could be resolved in another month.

That's not all: Despite being accused by three protected witnesses of forming part of a network that protected the Beltran Leyva brothers, judicial authorities denied imprisonment pending trial for Miguel Colorado Gonzalez, ex-technical coordinator of the SIEDO who is implicated as part of Operation Clean-Up, because they say the PGR did not prove his ties to drug trafficking.

However, Colorado Gonzalez remains detained in the Puente Grande maximum security prison--the same prison Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman Loera escaped from, and the same prison where Alfredo "El Mochomo" Beltran Leyva has been imprisoned since January 2008. The reason: the United States government formally requested his extradition on December 24. A court in that country has summoned him to be prosecuted for the crime of conspiring to traffic drugs.

In a telephone interview on Wednesday December 30, Miguel Colorado Luke, son of the ex-PGR official, said that his father is prepared to face the United States court "as soon as possible," and for that reason his lawyers will demand that the Foreign Relations Ministry speeds up his transfer.

"Every other person fights in Mexican courts to not be tried in the United States. Why does your father prefer to be immediately extradited?" Luke was asked.

"In Mexico the PGR doesn't want to prosecute him because, according to what we've seen in the dossier, there isn't any evidence against him. All of the witnesses that implicate him rely on hearsay. They're false accusations.

"Faced with this reality, the family has decided to stand trial in the United States, where we are sure that we're going to win, and afterwards we'll initiate a countersuit so that the international community sees that the PGR is an institution that uses dirty means to try to push on with its Operation Clean Up."

Miguel Colorado is the person that, under Noe Ramirez Mandujano's orders (Ramirez led the SIEDO from January 2007 until July 2008), began to spy on Captain Fernando Rivera Hernandez after the then-assistant attorney general received reports from the DEA in March 2008 that accused Rivera and another group of soldiers and civilians--all of them SIEDO officials--of being in collusion with the Beltran Leyva brothers and of receiving monthly payments of up to USD$450,000 (Proceso 1674).

Colorado is the only soldier that has not taken refuge in the witness protection program, but in the dossier PGR/SIEDO/UEIDCS/0241/2008 he appears to be splattered with drug corruption, according to statements from his accusers.

Protected witnesses Saul, Moises, and David incriminate Miguel Colorado in the Beltran Leyva organization's payments to officials.

For example, an addition to his statement before the SIEDO on August 8, 2008, the witness Moises (as Captain Fernando Rivera, Colorado's boss, is identified by the PGR) states that Miguel Colorado and Jose Antonio Cueto (who is indicated in the same dossier as the main recruiter of officials to serve the Beltran Leyva brothers) have known each other for a long time.

Additionally, the witness David (code name of soldier Roberto Garcia Garcia, who was a member of the Mexican Military's High Command Special Forces Airmobile Group), when he elaborated on his September 25, 2008, testimony, said that he learned that a federal agent known as El Pinocho "received money from the [Beltran Leyva] organization" and that the same man was the one who "handed over the money to Miguel Colorado."

However, David does not specify how he learned of such facts, nor if there is any record of them, which is why Miguel Colorado's family considers him to be a "hearsay witness."

At least El Pinocho isn't David's own invention, according to what is inferred from the same SIEDO investigation. El Pinocho is Francisco Javier Jimenez Sanchez, accused by Saul (another witness whose real name is Milton Cilia Perez) as Sergio "El Grande" Villareal Barragan's protector. This man was ministerial agent and was assigned to the Stolen Vehicles department in Coahuila, but he switched sides to work with the Gulf cartel is now a Beltran Leyva employee in La Laguna and in the state of Morelos, one of their main refuges.

Fabricated Evidence

Amongst the group of soldiers and civilians who worked in the SIEDO, Miguel Colorado is known as "the old man of the heavens" for his fondness of reading the Bible. And it's by this nickname that Emiliano, another protected witness, refers to him. On September 9 of last year, Emiliano said "that he recognizes the old man of the heavens or 'the elderly man' as a member of the organization" led by the Beltran Leyva brothers.

"All of this," says Colorado Luke, "is made up. That's why the accusation didn't stick in my father's case, and now they want to extradite him, because the PGR doesn't want to look bad in Mexico. Moreover, the majority of the soldiers implicated in Operation Clean-Up have stated that they weren't under orders from Attorney General Medina Mora nor from Noe Ramirez Mandujano, but rather from the Brigadier General Luis Rodriguez Bucio," ex-head of the Anti-Narcotics Intelligence Center.

According to his record, Rodriguez Bucio was dismissed after becoming caught up in Operation Clean-Up. Previously he was involved in the dossier 55/2001 for "misuse" of the 4310 certificate, earmarked for "transfers for national and public security expenses." This incident came out of a statement against him in the PGR, along with Wilfredo Robledo Madrid and Genaro Garcia Luna (who acted as head of the Federal Investigative Agency during the past administration) for purchasing aircraft without soliciting bids. Afterwards, the Internal Affairs Department released him from responsibility.

Meanwhile, Operation Clean-Up's voluminous dossier PGR/SIEDO/UEIDCS/0241/2008 shows inconsistencies: the protected witnesses--whose statements this weekly had access to--have fallen into contradictions regarding the places where the Beltran Leyva brothers' agents handed over payments to the SIEDO "informants" accused of protecting them.

For example, Jennifer says in her statement that the money was delivered to Captain Fernando Rivera (ex-coordinator of SIEDO intelligence and also a protected witness) in the El Caballito tower, on Paseo de la Reforma Ave., although, she says, other meet-ups took place near the National Auditorium. Saul testified that Rivera was paid in the house of Roberto Garcia Garcia (who is now the witness "David"), in Satelite.

Another witness, Felipe, (as the ex-federal agent Alberto Perez Guerrero is identified), whose statements set off Operation Clean-Up, has been testifying since mid-2008 in the Mexican Embassy in the United States without a lawyer present, "because that's how he requested it." The two additions to his testimony happened in the presence of a US lawyer, but the ministerial act does not specify if the lawyer speaks Spanish or if s/he is familiar with Mexican laws.

Multiple witnesses don't remember or refer to incidents that they were made aware of through a third party, which demonstrates "the porosity" of a good part of the accusations against civilians and soldiers presumably implicated in drug trafficking.

Zambada's Infiltration

In the tangle of statements produced by the protected witnesses--one of the investigation instruments utilized by the PGR in this case and that, incidentally, was not submitted for revision during the recent legal reforms approved by Congress--stories arise that are now part of the accusatory dossier put together by the SIEDO against its ex-officials.

Likewise, old arrangements are getting back on their feet: the pacts, for example, that have been alleged between the Ernesto Zedillo administration and brothers Rey and Ismael "El Mayo" Zambada, that latter being one of the emblematic figures in the Sinaloa cartel.

In his ministerial statement on August 20, 2008, David says that a person named Oscar the Lawyer (an alias that Rey Zambada used to hide his identity) made payments to the administrative coordinator of the defunct Special Prosecutor for Attention to Crimes Against Health, Hiram Gonzalez, as well as Mariano Herran Salvatti, who took the place of General Jesus Gutierrez Rebollo in the PGR's anti-drug prosecutor's office after his dismissal and imprisonment for being in collusion with the drug baron Amado Carrillo Fuentes.

The witness tells of

an event that occurred a little over a year ago, without remembering the exact date, [where] Jose Antonio Cueto [a recruiter of civilian and military officials in SIEDO to put them to work for the cartels] called the witness by Nextel radio to tell him that they would go to eat with other people in a Chinese food restaurant that was located on Paseo de la Reforma Ave. at the intersection with Palmas...

The witness waited for him at the door. Upon arriving, Cueto entered and took the witness to a table in the back where there were six men. One of them presented himself to Jose Antonio Cueto as Oscar the Lawyer; he was surprised that the witness was present. Cueto Lopez told [Oscar the Lawyer] that the witness was his friend and that it was as if the witness were Cueto himself because he trusted the witness completely.

Next, David describes "Oscar the Lawyer" as

55 years old, medium build, one meter and 68 cm tall, brown-skinned, short wavy hair combed back, normal face, small eyes, nose with a slight downward curve, normal eyebrows, small mouth... Dressed in a fine suit and an expensive watch. The other five subjects who were with Oscar the Lawyer were his bodyguards.

He adds:

Oscar the Lawyer asked him who he was and what his job was. The witness responded that he was a federal investigation agent and that he was assigned to the SIEDO.... He stated that Jose Antonio Cueto and Oscar the Lawyer talked about a sum of money without stating the amount because they had previously discussed the subject. Oscar wanted to unblock the money he referred to, which was frozen in Banamex and Banorte bank accounts. They alluded to Oscar's family member who worked in Banamex. Upon leaving, he went to the valet parking. Oscar's car arrived first: a blue armored BMW.

There was a second meeting between Cueto Lopez and Rey Zambada in his role as "Oscar the Lawyer." David states in his ministerial statement that he does not remember the date,

but that it was more or less a month after the first one, this time in the Champu Helices restaurant on Paseo de la Reforma Ave. in front of the American [sic] embassy. On this occasion Oscar was accompanied by another subject who presented him/herself with his last name, but the witness doesn't remember it. The subject said he wanted to discuss issues with Los Zetas in the SIEDO and that he represented that cartel's interests.

On another occasion Oscar the Lawyer asked if there was an extradition order against "el Chapito," that is, Joaquin Guzman Loera's son Archivaldo Guzman--I don't remember the his second last name. Cueto Lopez said that we should let him know immediately. He called Alberto Perez Guerrero [the witness Felipe who gave his testimony in the United States and whose statements set off Operation Clean Up], who worked in the American embassy. He didn't want him to go into the restaurant; he sent the witness in... Perez Guerrero only had to cross Reforma Ave. The witness met him on the street.... The witness told [Guerrero] that he was interested and responded that he didn't know if el Chapito had an extradition order or not, but he said he'd verify it in the embassy and [in] Interpol. The witness returned to the table and informed those gathered of what happened.

That time Oscar the Lawyer seemed very worried over the alleged extradition order. Both Cueto and the witness told Oscar the Lawyer that the SIEDO had information about houses where they were going to try to locate Joaquin Archivaldo Guzman Loera, aka El Chapo Guzman, and Alfredo "el Mochomo" Beltran Leyva.... Oscar the Lawyer said that he was interested in that information, but that they should give it to him another time.... When we left we went to the office of the lawyer who said he represented Los Zetas, because Cueto Lopez had gotten into legal problems with his cousin Rodolfo de la Guardia [ex-director of Interpol, currently held under administrative detention] and he was thinking about seeking a lawyer. Said lawyer took them to a white three-story building which was located behind the American embassy, [and] he said that he was the owner of the whole building.

After about a month, a third meeting occurred in the Camino Real de Polanco Hotel. The witness came with his resume. Jose Antonio Cueto Lopez had stayed with Oscar the Lawyer, who was going to give the witness the address of the Culiacan, Sinaloa, Public Security Ministry office, so that from there he could protect the both their interests and those of their bosses, El Chapo Guzman and the Beltran Leyva brothers. On this occasion, information was given to Oscar the Lawyer about places where the SIEDO could carry out operations to detain El Mochomo and El Chapo Guzman. For that, Oscar the Lawyer paid USD$10,000.

Finally, the witness David implicates ex-officials from the defunct Special Prosecutor's Office for Attention to Crimes Against Health (FEADS in its Spanish initials). After recounting the fear that Cueto had of Rey Zambada--when the FEADS was still in existence, Zambada had ordered the kidnapping and execution of a Federal Judicial Police commander--he stated: "Cueto says that Oscar (the Lawyer) was sending money, without saying how much, to Hiram Morales, who was the FEADS administrative coordinator, who gave part to the then-Special Prosecutor Mariano Herran Salvatti."*

Translator's Notes:

*In a twist of irony, Mariano Herran Salvatti is currently in legal trouble for fabricating evidence to imprison innocent people in Chiapas. Under pressure from a months-long hunger strike carried out by political prisoners in prisons across Chiapas, the Chiapas government reviewed their cases and many others. As a result of their review they released 137 prisoners (only 30 of them political prisoners, but more political prisoners have since been released) whom they say were most likely innocent of the crimes they were imprisoned for--but the prisoners remain on parole and must report weekly. The Chiapas Congress accuses Herran of inventing many of the charges that imprisoned the innocent men and women.

From Narco News: http://narcosphere.narconews.com/notebook/kristin-bricker/2009/01/dirty-tactics-operation-clean

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