Craving for big cats: new twist in Mexico’s drug wars
October 20, 2008
Police seized weapons, tigers and lions when they raided an alleged drug-trafficking ring in an upmarket neighbourhood of Mexico City.
The sprawling mansion in Desierto de los Leones – whose walls, ceilings and furniture are made almost entirely of ornately carved wood – appeared to have been used by the traffickers for parties on nights and weekends, authorities said.
The house was equipped with a private zoo housing a collection of animals including two tigers and two lions. It was unclear what the authorities planned to do with them.
Eleven Colombians, a US citizen, two Mexicans and an Uruguayan were detained during a raid on the house at the weekend, organised-crime prosecutor Marisela Morales told a news conference.
Morales identified the gang’s leader as Teodoro Fino Restrepo, who allegedly arranged for sea-borne cocaine shipments from Colombia to Mexico’s Beltran Leyva cartel.
Also detained in the police raid was US citizen Raul Munoz Montalvo, of Texas. Police did not release the name of his home town and no one from the US embassy in Mexico was available to comment.
All the suspects are being held on suspicion of drug trafficking, money laundering and organised-crime activities, Morales said.
Nine Mexicans working as waiters and disc jockeys were briefly held and released.
Authorities had been investigating the group since 2005, the prosecutor said.
Almost 400 people have died in the past two weeks in an intensifying drugs war in Mexico despite a government crackdown on cartels, trafficking and related violence.
The killings include six people lined up and shot against a wall with a written warning promising a similar fate to all “rats”, and five others shot dead in a house where a gang lord’s corpse was found in a freezer.
The death toll this year has passed 3800 despite a massive state crackdown launched two years, including the deployment of about 36,000 soldiers across the country.
Some blame increased Mexican cocaine consumption for the spike in violence. Until recently, cocaine was exported mainly to the United States.
Mexico “is no longer only a country of drug transit to the United States, but has become an important consumer market”, federal prosecutor Eduardo Medina Mora said recently.
National drug consumption rose by about 30 per cent between 2002 and 2008, and by almost 100 per cent for cocaine, the prosecutor said, citing a federal investigation.
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