Arrests rise in Mexican drug lord protest

AP News
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Posted: Mar 03, 2014 2:25 PM

CULIACAN, Mexico (AP) — The number of people reported arrested during a demonstration in favor of captured drug lord Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman rose to 211 Monday.

Police and local courts earlier reported that about 100 had been detained as police tried to break up Sunday's protest in Guzman's home state of Sinaloa in northern Mexico. But by early Monday the final tally of those detained on disturbing-the-peace charges had more than doubled.

Marchers chanted "Freedom!" and "Chapo!" as they walked the streets of Culiacan, the Sinaloa state capital, and carried signs opposing possible extradition of the drug lord, something Mexican authorities have already said won't happen any time soon.

Local Judge Gabriel Pena Gonzalez said all but 30 of the 211 people arrested at the protest had been freed. Many paid fines that averaged about 500 pesos ($37) apiece, but others said they had been unfairly detained just because they were walking in the area.

Protester Aida Hermosillo complained about the heavy presence of local and federal police at the march, saying, "They want to arrest us all and I think we have a right of free speech. We are the people. Are they going to take us all because we want to march?"

The Sinaloa state human rights commission said it was investigating the arrests.

The march ended with gunshots, though it was unclear who fired those shots.

Sunday's demonstration followed a Wednesday march in which hundreds of people shouted pro-Guzman slogans and demanded his release, saying he had provided local residents with jobs, income and protection from violent crime.

The show of support for Guzman has sparked fears he may become some sort of folk hero, though some marchers said they had been offered 700 pesos (about $53) paid to participate and some men and women could be seen at the end of the march writing down participants' names in notebooks.

In an editorial published Sunday, the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Mexico decried what it called the country's "Chaponization" — an apparent play on "canonization," part of the process of declaring a person a saint.

"Events in society suggest an alarming decline in society and the government. It is amazing to see a public invitation to march in favor of a criminal and demand his release," the Archdiocese wrote in an editorial on its magazine web site, "Desde la Fe."

"This is not only regrettable ... it also raises questions," the editorial continued. "Who was corrupted by Chapo's money to support this march?"

The church editorial said "we should worry about the narco-culture and the mythologizing of a capo, the corruption of authorities who protect and cover up for drug cartels, and worry about the situation of the people of Sinaloa, manipulated and abandoned by those responsible for public welfare."

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AP Writer Mark Stevenson contributed to this report


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