Feb 3, 2012

Drug War: U.S. and Mexico share protected witness central to murder of U.S. agent and investigation of Tamaulipas governors

This is complex and important story for several reasons. Soto Para is a big "catch" in the drug war and he is emerging both as being the reason behind the murder of American immigration agent Jaime Zapata and as the informer regarding the possible corruption of the threeTamaulipas governors. The story also reveals more about the growing cooperation between the U.S. and Mexico governments in their use of informants in the drug war. Translated by CIP intern Michael Kane.

La Jornada: Miguel Ángel Soto Para, founder of the Los Zetas cartel, is one of more than 50 protected witnesses who U.S. and Mexican authorities have shared. According to officials involved in the national security cabinet, he was being transported by agents from Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) when they were attacked on a highway between Mexico City and Querétaro, resulting in the death of the American, Jaime Zapata.

The information shared by the authorities also refers to the accusations Soto Para has leveled against former governors of Tamaulipas, Eugenio Hernández, Manuel Cavazos and Tomás Yarrington, which has led the Attorney General to consider the former PRI leaders as collaborators with the Gulf Cartel, for which they reportedly received varying amounts of money.

The officials interviewed indicated that Soto Parra, who was detained in 2009, is considered by US agencies to be an “internationally-protected person” and has provided information on both his own Los Zetas cartel as well as the supposed links between Gulf Cartel members and public officials. Los Zetas and the Gulf Cartel parted ways after the extradition of Osiel Cárdenas Guillén and they have battled to maintain control over their zones of influence.

The sources reported that the armored, luxury SUV with diplomatic plates that members of Los Zetas attacked on February 15, 2011, leaving the American Jaime Zapata dead, was ferrying a protected witness from Nuevo León to Mexico City.  The “internationally-protected person,” according to the information obtained, was Miguel Ángel Soto Para, who aided ICE agents in the identification of centers of operations of Jesús Enrique Rejón Aguilar, El Mamito, another founder of Los Zetas who focused his activities on the states of Querétaro and San Luis Potosí. 

The attack against the ICE agents was led by Julián Zapata Espioza, El Piolín, who recently was detained in the United States, charged with “the crimes of murder of an American federal employee or official; attempted murder of an American federal employee or official; attempted murder of an internationally-protected person and using a firearm in the commission of a violent crime.”

After the attempt, Soto Parra was moved out of the country, but he continues to cooperate with the Attorney General and has become the only witness who has claimed that three former governors of Tamaulipas have alleged links with organized crime. However, at press time, they had not been charged with any crimes nor had the Federal Public Ministry issued a summons to any of them so that they may clarify or confront the assertions of the protected witness." Spanish original

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