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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Mexico Drug Arrest Raises Questions

MEXICO CITY -- The arrest of Mexico's drug czar on suspicion of taking money from a cocaine kingpin has raised disturbing questions about whether sensitive intelligence was compromised in the U.S.-Mexican drug war.


The scandal surrounding General Jesus Gutierrez Rebollo, fired as head of the Institute to Combat Drugs, may reduce the involvement of the Mexican military in the drug war, Attorney General Jorge Madrazo said Wednesday.


Gutierrez, 62, is accused of taking payments from Amado Carrillo Fuentes, the fugitive head of the powerful Juarez drug cartel. Fuentes earned the nickname "Lord of the Skies'' for his practice of using converted jetliners to smuggle South American cocaine into the United States.


Gutierrez was given detailed briefings on what the United States knows about Mexico's cocaine cartels shortly before he was detained, The New York Times reported Thursday.


The Clinton administration is trying to determine if secret information was compromised or if U.S. drug informants have been placed in danger, the Times said, citing officials who spoke on condition of anonymity.


A State Department statement said the scandal demonstrates that criminal activity has reached "serious levels'' in the Mexican government.


In Washington, department spokesman Glyn Davies credited Mexico for arresting Gutierrez, but added that, "it's sad and troubling that, in fact, corruption has reached an individual at this level.''


At the time of Gutierrez's appointment, Barry McCaffrey, director of the U.S. Office of National Drug Control Policy, said Gutierrez had a reputation of "impeccable integrity.''


Gutierrez had been confined to a military hospital because of a heart and diabetes condition since Feb. 6, when he was first questioned. On Wednesday, he and three other officers allegedly involved in the scandal were taken to Almoloya maximum-security prison in the neighboring state of Mexico.


An undisclosed number of others also are under arrest, all on drug-related charges.


U.S. officials said they had no warning of the accusations against Gutierrez, and did not know he had been detained since Feb. 6. They only learned of the charges Tuesday, when Mexican authorities made them public.


The scandal comes at a particularly bad time for Mexico: March 1 is the deadline for the Clinton administration to recommend to Congress whether to certify Mexico as a drug-fighting country worthy of continued U.S. aid.


Three-quarters of the cocaine smuggled into the United States goes through Mexico, according to U.S. estimates.