MEXICO CITY: Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto fired federal police chief Enrique Galindo on Monday over allegations police summarily executed at least 22 suspected members of a drugs cartel and killed eight others during a protest.
“In light of the recent events and on instructions of the president, Police Commissioner Enrique Galindo has been removed from his position,” Interior Secretary Miguel Angel Osorio Chong said in a statement.
The move was aimed at facilitating “a quick and transparent investigation,” he added without providing further details.
The move comes after the National Human Rights Commission (CNDH) issued a scathing report earlier this month indicating police had “arbitrarily executed” 22 civilians during an anti-drug operation in May 2015 on a ranch in the town of Tanhuato, in the western state of Michoacan.
The operation against the powerful Jalisco New Generation cartel was one of the most violent clashes to have taken place since the government launched an anti-drug campaign in 2006. The gun battle killed 42 suspects along with a police officer.
The national security commissioner, Renato Sales, denied the accusations, saying the gun battle between security forces and heavily armed criminals broke out after they refused to surrender their weapons.
However, the CNDH accused police of tampering with evidence, recommending the government investigate the event and deliver financial compensation to victims’ families.
Rivalry between cartels has helped make Michoacan one of the country’s most violent states.
The authorities are also investigating police involvement during a confrontation with protesting teachers in the town of Nochixtlan, in southern Oaxaca state. It left eight dead, seven from gunshot wounds.
Federal police arrived in the village to remove a highway roadblock by the radical CNTE teachers union, which has led protests against Pena Nieto’s education reform since 2013.
Galindo initially said that uniformed police who arrived at the protest unarmed were forced to retreat before returning with weapons after they were confronted by some 2,000 angry protesters, some of them armed.
However, witnesses said the police opened fire first. Various media reports also contradict Galindo’s testimony.
The event was the most violent confrontation between civilian protesters and federal police since the force was instituted in 1999. AFP