President Barack Obama's administration named 54 alleged Mexican drug cartel lieutenants and enforcers as drug kingpins Wednesday under a law that allows the U.S. government to freeze their bank accounts and penalize their business associates.
The action, carried out as part of the Foreign Narcotics Kingpin Designation Act, involves members of the Gulf Cartel and a gang of former Gulf cartel hit men known as the Zetas, Adam J. Szubin, director of the Treasury Department Office of Foreign Assets Control, said Wednesday in Washington.
Dozens of cartel-related businesses and individuals have already been named, allowing authorities over the past decade to seize $13 million and freeze $3 million in drug-related assets.
The administration's announcement came the day after top U.S. Cabinet officials led by U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton visited Mexico to underscore their shared responsibility for the drug-related violence that has left 17,900 dead since President Felipe Calderon took office in December 2006.
And it coincided with continued episodes of violence:
—Police in Tijuana, across the border from San Diego, California, were searching for the killers of a man whose charred and mutilated body was found near the border fence and a second man who was shot to death on a downtown street.
—Also in Tijuana, 150 federal workers poured into the streets following a bomb scare. No bomb was found, and workers returned to their offices within a few hours.
—Officials in the northern border city of Mexicali, fired the city's police chief, blaming him in part for the alleged failure of police officers to detain a possibly drunk local legislative leader after allegedly finding drugs in his car.
—In Ciudad Juarez, just across the border from El Paso, Texas, police were investigating the murders of four people at a funeral parlor late Tuesday.
The four young men in Ciudad Juarez were remodeling a storefront they had rented out to a funeral agency when assailants sprayed them with gunfire. The victims included two brothers, a cousin and a friend.
State police spokesman Arturo Sandoval said the mother of one of the victims said the youths, aged 17 to 23, had previously received threats from a criminal gang demanding they pay protection money if they wanted to operate the storefront. According to her, the victims refused to pay.
Mexico's drug gangs often branch out into kidnapping and extortion.
Meanwhile, authorities are investigating the case of a drug suspect who was arrested over the weekend and then turned up dead Monday, his body showing signs of torture. The incident happened in Santa Catarina, a suburb of the northern city of Monterrey.
The police officers who detained the suspect are being investigated, Alejandro Garza y Garza, attorney general of Nuevo Leon state told Milenio television.
Santa Catarina security chief Rene Castillo said he had no knowledge of the case.
"I don't know anything, I don't know anything, I don't know anything. That's my position," Castillo told The Associated Press.
Associated Press Writer Olga R. Rodriguez in Mexico City contributed to this report.
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