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Following violence, Veracruz purges police

By Mariano Castillo, CNN
updated 3:51 PM EDT, Wed October 19, 2011
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Nearly 1,000 police were fired in the state of Veracruz
  • That represents about one-third of the officers tested
  • They underwent so-called "reliability tests"
  • Veracruz has seen a spike in violence

(CNN) -- People in the Mexican state of Veracruz, which has witnessed a spate of violence in recent weeks, now have confirmation that any lack of confidence in the state's ability to keep them safe was justified. Nearly 1,000 police officers have been fired because they failed so-called "reliability tests," the state's Secretariat of Public Security said.

In all, Veracruz state employs 21,000 officers, including the secretariat's own police force, and smaller auxiliary forces and municipal police forces.

Of those, about 3,150 police have undergone the tests, which include a lie detector examination, the head of the secretariat, Arturo Bermudez Zurita, said Tuesday. Of those, 980, or about one out of every three officers, failed the test, he said.

The goal is to have all police in Veracruz undergo the tests, he said.

If the remaining officers fail at the same rate as the initial batch, Veracruz can expect to let an additional 5,500 officers go.

At the same time that the state is letting police officers go, it also is recruiting.

Nearly 400 new officers have passed the stringent entry requirement and another 900 are in the process of being evaluated to join the force, Bermudez Zurita said.

The police purge follows what has been a violent few weeks in Veracruz.

Last month, a total of 67 bodies were found dumped in two Veracruz cities. In one instance, 35 bodies were left inside two trucks that were ditched on a main road during rush hour.

After those discoveries, a video emerged introducing a group of masked men who called themselves the Mata Zetas, or Zeta Killers, referring to the ruthless drug cartel that operates in the state.

The men described themselves as an "extermination" force that works as the armed front "of the people and for the people." Members of the Mata Zetas are prohibited from committing crimes such as extortion or kidnappings, according to the video.

It looked like the entrance of a vigilante group into the landscape of Mexico's drug war, but authorities later said that was not the case.

The so-called Mata Zetas were not a vigilante group, but members of the Jalisco New Generation cartel, authorities said.

The Jalisco New Generation cartel is linked to Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman's Sinaloa cartel, security expert Eduardo Guerrero told CNNMexico.

This month, authorities arrested eight people in connection with the dumped bodies.

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