Saturday, February 24, 2007

Mexico City: "Supercop" dies of cancer -- in prison

Alberto Pliego Fuentes, once admiringly called "Supercop", has died from cancer. He died in the El Altiplano prison (formerly known as La Palma) where he had been allowed to leave periodically for cancer treatments.

Pliego Fuentes was the policeman who tracked down and finally captured Daniel Arizmendi and the rest of his gang in 1997. Arizmendi, known as "Mochaorejas", was the bloodiest and most feared kidnap gang leader in Mexico and maybe in the world. His nickname means, literally, "ear muncher". He was so named for his proclivity to cut off an ear of his victim and mail it to the family to impress upon them the urgency of his ransom demands. He also would send along other pieces, like fingers and toes, if the family did not immediately pay up. There was a reference to this during the opening credits of the movie "Man On Fire".

In 1992, Pliego Fuentes caught noted kidnapper Andrés Caletri in a Mexico City suburb. Somehow, Caletri got loose. In 2000, Pliego Fuentes also participated, along with other federal forces, in tracking down and capturing Caletri once again, this time in Pinotepa Nacional, Oaxaca.

But, as is so often the case here, he couldn't resist the lure of big money offered by the drug cartel leadership. He was arrested in another Mexico City suburb in February, 2005, and charged with aiding and abetting, in the form of information and protection, the Juarez drug cartel operating in Morelos. Pliego Fuentes was charged with using his position and information he gained to protect Juan José Esparragoza Moreno, "El Azul", one of the principals of the Juarez cartel.

A truly sad end for what had been the spectacularly successful career of a much admired law enforcement officer.

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