Murder trial opens can of worms for Mexico and US

MEXICAN government officials are accused of obstructing justice, accepting bribes on a grand scale, and protecting drug traffickers. US authorities face allegations of paying millions of dollars to criminal witnesses, after illegally abducting a defendant from foreign turf. It is a nasty can of worms.

Details have begun unfolding in a Los Angeles courtroom with the the trial of two men accused of participating in a crime which has been a source of stress in US-Mexican relations since it occurred more than seven years ago - the torture and murder of Enrique 'Kiki' Camarena, an undercover agent with the US Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA).

The case became internationally notorious in 1990, after the US government arranged for one of the defendants, Dr Humberto Alvarez Machain, to be seized by armed kidnappers in Mexico and flown secretly to Texas, where he was arrested. Despite an outcry from many countries and civil liberties groups, the US Supreme Court narrowly ruled that the abduction did not violate an extradition treaty.

With the opening of his trial, the conflict has again revived. Last week the Mexican government denounced the Los Angeles trial as 'illegal' and 'unacceptable'. The issue has arisen at a sensitive time: the US, Mexican, and Canadian governments have yet to finalise the North American Free Trade Agreement, which Mr Clinton intends to review.

Camarena disappeared in February, 1985, shortly after the DEA completed an investigation that lead to the destruction of dollars 5bn (pounds 3.1bn) worth of marijuana - a colossal amount, even by Mexican standards, and a triumph in President Bush's otherwise ineffectual 'war on drugs'. A month later Camarena's body was discovered in a grave outside Guadalajara. He had, prosecutors say, suffered lengthy interrogation under torture before being killed by members of a powerful drugs cartel.

Dr Alvarez, 44, a gynaecologist, is accused of administering drugs to Camarena to keep him alive while information was being thrashed out of him. The prosecution believes his role was that of 'house doctor' to drugs barons; when they overdid the cocaine, he was there to revive them. A second man, Ruben Zuno Arce, 62, a brother-in-law of a former Mexican president, Luis Echeverria, is charged with helping plan Camarena's kidnap. Both men say they are innocent.

The case, which opened last Wednesday, has already proved damaging to both governments, as well as producing extraordinary testimony about the power of Mexico's drugs cartels. Take, for example, the evidence of a former cartel aide, a so-called communications specialist called Lawrence Victor Harrison, who claims Dr Alvarez regularly kept company with traffickers.

His evidence suggested the drugs barons bribed the Mexican authorities on a breathtaking scale. He described how he and several cartel henchmen once spent five weeks counting out dollars 400m in cash. He claimed it was a pay-off to a top government official from his boss, Ernesto Fonseca, a notorious narcotics trader.

In addition, a senior DEA agent has outlined how the Mexican authorities repeatedly attempted to protect traffickers. But the case is also proving embarrassing to the US authorities, who appear to have been willing to go to considerable lengths to avenge the murder of one of its agents. The US government has lavished vast sums on witnesses - a total which has reportedly reached dollars 2.7m.

Meanwhile, there have been exotic accounts of the exploits of drugs lords. These include an instance in which Mexican officials allegedly went to great lengths to frustrate US agents on their soil.

It happened in 1985, while the DEA was still searching for Camarena and concerned a suspected drugs baron, a colourful figure, Rafael Caro Quintero. The Americans found out that Caro was about to flee from Guadalajara airport. According to Salvador Leyva, a DEA agent who testified last week, Caro was not arrested when they arrived at the airport. Instead a senior Mexican policeman let him go.

As the aircraft taxied down the runway, Caro appeared in the doorway, holding an AK-47 in one hand and a glass of champagne in the other. He toasted the infuriated Americans with the valediction: 'My children, next time bring better weapons.'

Suggested Topics
News
people
News
people And here is why...
News
peopleStella McCartney apologises over controversial Instagram picture
Life and Style
Laid bare: the Good2Go app ensures people have a chance to make their intentions clear about having sex
techCould Good2Go end disputes about sexual consent - without being a passion-killer?
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Arts and Entertainment
Richard Burr remains the baker to beat on the Great British Bake Off
tvRichard remains the baker to beat as Chetna begins to flake
News
i100
Sport
footballArsenal 4 Galatasaray 1: Wenger celebrates 18th anniversary in style
Arts and Entertainment
Amazon has added a cautionary warning to Tom and Jerry cartoons on its streaming service
tv
News
people
News
The village was originally named Llansanffraid-ym-Mechain after the Celtic female Saint Brigit, but the name was changed 150 years ago to Llansantffraid – a decision which suggests the incorrect gender of the saint
newsWelsh town changes its name, but can you spot the difference?
Arts and Entertainment
Kristen Scott Thomas in Electra at the Old Vic
theatreReview: Kristin Scott Thomas is magnificent in a five-star performance of ‘Electra’
News
Destructive discourse: Jewish boys look at anti-Semitic graffiti sprayed on to the walls of the synagogue in March 2006, near Tel Aviv
peopleAt the start of Yom Kippur and with anti-Semitism flourishing, one Jew can no longer ignore his identity
Life and Style
Couples who boast about their relationship have been condemned as the most annoying Facebook users
tech
Arts and Entertainment
Hayley Williams performs with Paramore in New York
musicParamore singer says 'Steal Your Girl' is itself stolen from a New Found Glory hit
News
i100
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Associate Recrutiment Consultant

£18000 - £23000 per annum + Uncapped OTE: SThree: SThree Group have been well ...

Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£18000 - £23000 per annum + OTE: SThree: Real Staffing Group is seeking Traine...

Year 6 Teacher (interventions)

£120 - £140 per day: Randstad Education Leeds: We have an exciting opportunity...

PMLD Teacher

Competitive: Randstad Education Manchester: SEN Teacher urgently required for ...

Day In a Page

Italian couples fake UK divorce scam on an ‘industrial scale’

Welcome to Maidenhead, the divorce capital of... Italy

A look at the the legal tourists who exploited our liberal dissolution rules
Time to stop running: At the start of Yom Kippur and with anti-Semitism flourishing, one Jew can no longer ignore his identity

Time to stop running

At the start of Yom Kippur and with anti-Semitism flourishing, one Jew can no longer ignore his identity
Tom and Jerry cartoons now carry a 'racial prejudice' warning on Amazon

Tom and Jerry cartoons now carry a 'racial prejudice' warning on Amazon

The vintage series has often been criticised for racial stereotyping
An app for the amorous: Could Good2Go end disputes about sexual consent - without being a passion-killer?

An app for the amorous

Could Good2Go end disputes about sexual consent - without being a passion-killer?
Llansanffraid is now Llansantffraid. Welsh town changes its name, but can you spot the difference?

Llansanffraid is now Llansantffraid

Welsh town changes its name, but can you spot the difference?
Charlotte Riley: At the peak of her powers

Charlotte Riley: At the peak of her powers

After a few early missteps with Chekhov, her acting career has taken her to Hollywood. Next up is a role in the BBC’s gangster drama ‘Peaky Blinders’
She's having a laugh: Britain's female comedians have never had it so good

She's having a laugh

Britain's female comedians have never had it so good, says stand-up Natalie Haynes
Sistine Chapel to ‘sing’ with new LED lights designed to bring Michelangelo’s masterpiece out of the shadows

Let there be light

Sistine Chapel to ‘sing’ with new LEDs designed to bring Michelangelo’s masterpiece out of the shadows
Great British Bake Off, semi-final, review: Richard remains the baker to beat

Tensions rise in Bake Off's pastry week

Richard remains the baker to beat as Chetna begins to flake
Paris Fashion Week, spring/summer 2015: Time travel fashion at Louis Vuitton in Paris

A look to the future

It's time travel fashion at Louis Vuitton in Paris
The 10 best bedspreads

The 10 best bedspreads

Before you up the tog count on your duvet, add an extra layer and a room-changing piece to your bed this autumn
Arsenal vs Galatasaray: Five things we learnt from the Emirates

Arsenal vs Galatasaray

Five things we learnt from the Gunners' Champions League victory at the Emirates
Stuart Lancaster’s long-term deal makes sense – a rarity for a decision taken by the RFU

Lancaster’s long-term deal makes sense – a rarity for a decision taken by the RFU

This deal gives England a head-start to prepare for 2019 World Cup, says Chris Hewett
Ebola outbreak: The children orphaned by the virus – then rejected by surviving relatives over fear of infection

The children orphaned by Ebola...

... then rejected by surviving relatives over fear of infection
Pride: Are censors pandering to homophobia?

Are censors pandering to homophobia?

US film censors have ruled 'Pride' unfit for under-16s, though it contains no sex or violence