Two of the three fugitive suspects in last month’s shoot-out between federal police at Mexico City airport have claimed that it was the officers who died, not them, who were part of a drug trafficking ring.
The two fugitives, Daniel Cruz Garcia and Zeferino Morales Franco, contacted Proceso to give their version of the story. They contend that the other officers had, over the course of several months, attempted to coerce them into joining the trafficking ring. According to the men, the commander of the federal police in the airport tried to persuade them to join, telling them he was asking on behalf of the regional head of the federal police, Luis Cardenas Palomino.
The two officers claim that they refused to participate, and the pressure turned into direct threats, especially after they said they would report it to their superiors.
According to Cruz and Morales, the threats culminated in the June 25 shootout. They claim that the three officers, including their direct superior, Enrique de Jesus Pacheco Valdez, approached them in the food court in Terminal 2, and the ensuing confrontation boiled over when one of the others shot Morales in the leg. According to Morales, the third fugitive suspect, Bogard Felipe Lugo de Leon, was on shift at the time of the argument and came over to tell the group to calm down, unaware of the nature of the disagreement.
Cruz Garcia and Morales Franco accept responsibility for the deaths of the other officers, but deny any charges related to drug trafficking. They told Proceso that they planned to turn themselves in after a full investigation has been carried out, but not to the Federal Police, in whom they have lost trust.
InSight Crime Analysis
Authorities claim the three suspects were among more than 180 people identified as part of an 18-month investigation of cartel operations in the airport. According to their account, on June 25, the three officers who died were attempting to arrest the suspects in the food court when the shooting broke out. At a press conference, Cardenas presented video evidence of an agent identified as Morales spending 11 minutes in the bathroom that morning near the arrivals gate of a flight from Lima, and exiting with a package under his jacket, which they claim was filled with cocaine.
Cruz and Morales raise some interesting questions about in the official story. Firstly, they maintain that on the day of the shooting their boss, Pacheco, turned up at the airport in civilian clothes and carrying a gun, even though he was supposed to be on vacation. They also contend that an operation to arrest two armed federal officers identified in a counter-trafficking operation would involve more than just three officers. Finally, they point out that no surveillance camera captured the shooting, despite the fact that there are 430 closed-circuit cameras in Terminal 2.
The airport in Mexico City is an important hub for international trafficking. As InSight has reported, it is easy for traffickers to hide illicit shipments, including methamphetamine precursors and cocaine, among the annual 28 million passengers and 409,000 tons of cargo.