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Fourth top Mexican army officer arrested for drug trafficking

The Americas Post - Mexican drug cartel territories are shifting quickly as the body count soars

A fourth high-ranking Mexican army officer has been arrested for possible connections to a drug trafficking cartel.

Mexico’s department of defense announced that Lt Col Silvio Hernandez Soto had been detained for questioning.  Three generals, including a former deputy defense minister, have been arrested since Tuesday as part of an ongoing investigation.  They are accused of involvement with the Beltran Leyva cartel – charges which the generals have denied.

After retiring from the army in 2002, Col Hernandez Soto became a senior police commander in Sinaloa state, in Mexico’s Pacific coast.  The defense department says the investigation against him and the three generals was based on a case from 2009.

Gen Tomas Angeles Dauahara and Gen Roberto Dawe Gonzalez were detained for questioning Tuesday.  A judge put them under house arrest for 40 days, while  investigators and prosecutors prepare their case.  A third general, Ricardo Escorcia Vargas, was detained on Thursday.

They are suspected of collaborating with the Beltran Leyva cartel, a group known to smuggle cocaine, heroin and other illegal drugs into the United States.

Mexico’s powerful drug cartels have been under systematic attack since President Felipe Calderon launched a war on drugs six years ago.  The military has played a key role in that effort, with troops deployed across the country.

Drug-related violence since 2006 has killed over 50,000 people in Mexico.

The three generals detained this week all occupied strategic posts in Mexico’s anti-drugs effort.  Gen Angeles was assistant defense minister from 2006 to 2008, when he retired – a decision which surprised Mexican commentators.  Gen Dawe commanded an army division in Colima state, in Mexico’s Pacific coast, an important trafficking route.  Gen Escorcia was in charge of the military in Morelos state, the command centre of the Beltran Leyva cartel.

A statement from the Mexican attorney general’s office said multiple witnesses have already testified against the generals.