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Mexico: One day troops have him in custody, the next he's dead

Marines arrest drug dealer

With a violent drug war raging daily across the country, we get a lot of blood, gore and lifeless faces in our morning newspapers in Mexico. But few have produced such a chill as that of the alleged drug dealer that appeared on the front pages this week.

Several papers carried side-by-side images of the alleged dealer, who was arrested on Sunday in a suburb of Monterrey after a shootout between police and narco hitmen. In one photo, the suspect is alive, being hauled from a truck to a helicopter by masked Mexican marines. In the other, a man with the same facial features and clothes is seen Monday -- dead, wrapped in a blanket and tossed by the side of a road.

What happened in between?

The Mexican navy distanced itself on Tuesday from the incident, saying its marines were only assisting the local authorities of the suburb of Santa Catarina during the operation in which the man was arrested. The Santa Catarina police say they never asked for the marines' assistance. No one is saying how the man -- identified as 26-year-old Jose Humberto Marquez Compean by his mother (subscription required) -- wound up dead.

"I don't know anything, I don't know anything, I don't know anything. That's my position," the Santa Catarina security chief, Raul Castillo, told the Associated Press.

The mystery has raised further concerns about the role of Mexican troops in the drug war.

Since President Felipe Calderon enlisted Mexico's military in the fight against the country's narco cartels, claims of human rights violations by the armed forces have skyrocketed. The watchdog group Human Rights Watch has paid special attention to the military in the antinarco campaign, saying in a 2009 report that the armed forces have been blamed for unpunished torture, killings and arbitrary detentions.

U.S. secretary of State Hillary Clinton visited Mexico on Tuesday to present a new approach in the drug war, emphasizing the need for better social and economic strategies in the fight against drug smugglers. The Times' Ken Ellingwood has this report on the doubts being raised about the role of Mexico's military in the campaign.

"There is a growing feeling that, despite the army's firepower and resources, it has been less than effective as a police force," Ellingwood writes.

Jose Marquez's young widow wants justice, the AP reports. But if Mexico's track record in solving drug-related fatalities provides any indication, she may find answers elusive. A second alleged drug dealer was arrested along with Marquez on Sunday. El Universal is now reporting that the second suspect detained in Santa Catarina is unaccounted for and missing.

-- Daniel Hernandez

Photo: Jose Humberto Marquez Compean being arrested by Mexican marines. Credit:

Comments () | Archives (35)

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I thought two wrongs did not make a right. These people in Mexico trying to run the justice system have as much intelligence about these guys as my nephew has about the guys he kills on his PSP. I say they should atleast ensure they have the right person and then if he deserves it kill him but don't be at the level of the people you claim to want to control. It's a cycle these drug lords don't wake up and say I'm going to kill a couple of guys today. They wake up with the feeling of being disrespected and then decide to kill a couple guys. So now that the police is doing the same thing there will be no end to this massacre they choose to call war! In that case they should all be executed! All of them!

sounds about an appropriate and fitting end for a drug by the sword die by the sword. If only police in the USA were as efficient. For instance, Mexicans police and military maintain order and control over their southern border (that they are corrupt and allow their narco buddies a free pass is another story) Yet, we coddle, protect, feed, and craddle illegal immigrants who break our laws and come here illegally.

These events bolster my conviction that Mexico is a very unsafe place, unsuitable for even a short visit by this American tourist. Under the most positive scenario imaginable, it will take years to resolve this problem. In the interim, we should take major steps to improve border security, in order to limit the spread of this violence to our own country. It doesn't really matter if the problem is attributed to drugs, money or a political power struggle. It has a huge potential to destabilize the region and must be contained.

We have another Taliban across the American south border.

Hey Kyle,

These drugs have been illegal since, forever.

The reason that this is occuring is a long trend of permissiveness and a lack of any real forceful opposition.

The one good thing I see in this murder. Is the sheer determination, as a group, to commit to this fight. A fight that I hope isn't undermined by the legalization of marijuana. A step that would only legitimize these hoodlums and murderers and allow them to walk proud amongst you and yours, run for office and begin to infiltrate our government and our lives increasingly over time.

That may be your Utopia, but it sure the Hell isn't mine.

Hey, afmolina.

I guess the beheadings, assassinations of public officials, mass executions of unarmed citizens, and the killing of tourists is, in reality, a mass cover up. Those people were really undercover cops bent on killing the drug smugglers.

My personal hunch (I live in Monterrey, Mexico): I highly doubt that the young man in question was killed by the Mexican Marines. In all probability he was killed by Monterrey municipal police in retribution for the drive-by murder of 3 San Nicolas officers several weeks ago. The young man's body was found in San Nicolas not in Santa Catarina where he was arrested. The torture and murder of this criminal in police custody is a very serious matter and is not to be taken lightly. I agree with what another commentor observed - that now the cartel operatives will fight to the death knowing that the police may torture and kill them anyway. It will only make things bloodier than they already are and turn public opinion against the police forces (who actually have enjoyed some levels of public sympathy after the 3 officers were so ruthlessly gunned down). All of this reminds me of Nietzsche's famous aphorism: "Those that fight monsters should be careful that they themselves do not become monsters." That is what's happening.

Then people wonder why they rather have a shoot out and get killed then to be arrested. They figure they are going to die anyway, this way they atleast die without torture. Unfortunately for those who try to do there job right they also put there life on the line and end up on the ground. It's a war all right.

Well this is obviously a case in which the mexican government is sending their own message. Mexico's drug wars is beyond fixing at this time. Maybe the best remedy to stop all that killing is to kill the killers. Diplomacy isn't working, maybe the government is doing this as a deterrent. Martial law however, is definitely in effect people.

Who cares? Kill them all and fix your damn country.

Based on the unalterable proviso that drug use is essentially an unstoppable and ongoing human behavior which has been with us since the dawn of time, any serious reading on the subject of past attempts at any form of drug prohibition would point most normal thinking people in the direction of sensible regulation.

By its very nature prohibition cannot fail but create a vast increase in criminal activity, and rather than preventing society from descending into anarchy, it actually fosters an anarchic business model - the international Drug Trade. Any decisions concerning quality, quantity, distribution and availability are then left in the hands of unregulated, anonymous, ruthless drug dealers, who are interested only in the huge profits involved.

Many of us have now finally wised up to the fact that the best avenue towards realistically dealing with drug use and addiction is through proper regulation, which is what we already do with alcohol & tobacco --two of our most dangerous mood altering substances. But for those of you whose ignorant and irrational minds traverse a fantasy plane of existence, you will no doubt remain sorely upset with any type of solution that does not seem to lead to the absurd and unattainable utopia of a drug free society.

There is an irrefutable connection between drug prohibition and the crime, corruption, disease and death it causes. If you are not capable of understanding this connection, then maybe you're using something far stronger than the rest of us. Anybody 'halfway bright' and who's not psychologically challenged, should be capable of understanding, that it is not simply the demand for drugs that creates the mayhem; it is our refusal to allow legal businesses to meet that demand.

No amount of money, police powers, weaponry, wishful thinking or pseudo-science will make our streets safer; only an end to prohibition can do that. How much longer are you willing to foolishly risk your own survival by continuing to ignore the obvious, historically confirmed solution?

If you still support the kool aid mass suicide cult of prohibition, and erroneously believe that you can win a war without logic and practical solutions, then prepare yourself for even more death, corruption, terrorism, sickness, imprisonment, unemployment, foreclosed homes, and the complete loss of the rule of law and the Bill of Rights.

The only thing prohibition successfully does is prohibit regulation & taxation!

Just taking out the trash, that's what needs to be done so be it.

Let em clean all the garbage .

For many years I have taught Mexican nationals, I have traveled extensively in Mexico, and I am extremely pessimistic about finding an end to the violence and crime there. Corruption is like a prerequisite to a job in law enforcement, the military, and government. So where would a reformer start?

I am a Mexican citizen. It may be true that the military is not an effective police force, but these are not regular criminals. That is why cops die and the soldiers do not every time they get in a gunfight. We are talking about criminals who once upon a time were army regulars or special forces. Men who are equipped with high-tech gear and weapons. Men who can easily best the Policía Municipal or Polícia Estatal. Men with special training. Men who in some cases used to be part of elite units in the police, men who used to belong to SWAT Teams. While they might not be an effective police force they make all of us feel safe. According to rumors here in Monterrey, the death of this drugdealer was at hands of the Santa Catarina police. Besides, the police chief of Santa Catarina does not need to call the Navy for support, as the fact that these men are carrying high powered weapons makes it a federal matter. Ask anyone here and we feel much safer than local police who have been seen and caught on tape helping blockade the city or acting as getaway drivers for narcos. If they want to return the army to barracks then let us arm ourselves first.

Mexico is a sewer. Build a high and thick wall and patrol the wall with tanks and drones. Let the dead bury the dead. The U.S. needs to move on.

TTTT, I think it's kind of sadly hilarious the local police captains response, "I don't know anything, I don't know anything, I don't know anything, that's my stance". LOL. He knows exactly what happened. I feel bad for this poor guy though.

two things: either he was killed by someone that he had affected in a negative way/or the he was killed because he is a low life... or two, he was assassinated by inside sources to keep him from providing valuable intel. or maybe he would be potentially harmful to an ongoing task force operation.... idk. just some thoughts!

Press accounts indicate that Márquez Compeán was tortured. The High-Level Consultative Group has just agreed to justice system reform in Mexico. The common use of torture is a problematic aspect of the Mexican justice system. Do the new supporters of torture in US political system complicate its support for the abolition torture in Mexico?

This is a war. Mexico is at a ver percarious point in its history. If it is to survive, all gloves must come off. They killed a street thug, so what. By getting rid of this criminal, think of the lives they may have saved.

"Jose Marquez's young widow wants justice" - no, she wants something other than justice - it seems justice was had

Ending the drug war would stop all this senseless violence. Put the trillions of dollars spent into schools, health care, infrastructure, etc. When will the never ending, never winnable drug war end? What will it take? Whole countries are already corrupted by it; the prisons are full of the casualties and all the while, the huge drug gangs/cartels prosper. There must be a more common sense approach to this madness.

And the mexicans have the nerve to criticize our use of the death penalty. If it wasn't for all the mexican criminals in the US we wouldn't need the death penalty.

Justice Mexican style.

good, one less drug dealer to worry about. Kill 'em All I say.

Not that Americans care about Mexicans dying but it is our fault. We created this mess by buying "illegal" recreational drugs. Man's desire to alter conciousness will never change as long as man lives. We need to face that fact. The only way end this mess is legalization of ALL drugs. But of course this won't happen. We have to keep fueling our prison industry, our weapons industry, our bloated gov't drug war bureaucracy. But hey, it's for the children right?

We should start calling it Mexcanistan or something similar. Don't understand how we invade countries halfway around the world to fight terrorism, yet we neglect the atrocities being committed in Mexico even thought it's in worse condition, a much greater threat to our national security, and right next door. They even have oil(wink, wink)!

One dirt bag done, many more to go!

They are at war people. The article asks, "What happened in between?" I'll tell you what happened. The Mexican military took care of business and erased the problem.

More power to them. All is fair in love and war.

My comment - WHO CARES?

I dont think you can hug a blood thristy drug dealer to submission..

I would say "good!! one less parasite in this planet"

I'm having a hard time understand how this is a bad thing. If anything, the message this gives drug lords is that if you get arrested, there's no knowing if you'll make it out alive. The Mexican government needs to step up and be as brutal as these thugs have been on the people of Mexico.

Jose Marquez's young widow wants justice? What a joke! The way Jose Marquez was found to me is a clear indication that justice was served.

Perhaps the US should invade Mexico and cleans things wouldn't be the first time

I do not applaud what happened, but one cannot take it any more. They are fighting fire with fire. Do unto others as they do onto you. Military takes a bad drug cartel and kills him. Family fights for their rights. A drug cartel guns down a family in the middle of day and no one fights for the dead ones. Where is the justice in this. Keep your kids and husbands from joining the drug cartel or any illegal profession and then this will not likely happen to you or your family. Be smart and accept what happened. If he was not involved with the drug cartel then you have an argument and I would be on your side. I am sure more people would be on your side and simpathetic to your husbands ordeal.

Human Rights Watch? Are they serious? So these people go in and put in complaints against the Mexican military for acts of torture and detention. I have a suggestion for this group, before you complain against the military, go the narco's and ask them to fight fairly. Heck, I'm sure this Human Rights Group is in it with the narcos as well.


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About the Reporters
Ken Ellingwood
Daniel Hernandez
Efrain Hernandez Jr.
Chris Kraul
Richard Marosi
Tracy Wilkinson