(AP) MEXICO CITY - Mexico's federal police have replaced all 348 officers assigned to security details at the Mexico City International Airport in the wake of the June 25 shooting deaths of three federal policemen killed by fellow officers believed to be involved in trafficking drugs through the terminal.
Federal Police regional security chief Luis Cardenas Palomino said the police agents have been reassigned to different states. They have been replaced by federal police who have passed double vetting and background checks.
One of the three officers sought in the shooting has been captured. Two others are still at large.
Cardenas Palomino said Sunday there is a reward of 3.4 million pesos, or $259,000, for information leading to their arrest.
The rogue officers were allegedly part of a trafficking ring that flew in cocaine from Peru.
Cartels are known to pay off police, cargo companies, security firms and even pilots and flight attendants to carry drugs and money, including more than $1 million packed into food cans and more than half a ton of cocaine in 13 cardboard boxes with tape bearing the logo of Mexicana Airlines.
Last year, customs agents found $2.5 million rolled up in spools of telephone cable headed for Venezuela, and an Aeromexico pilot was stopped in Madrid carrying 90 pounds of cocaine. That was several months after three Aeromexico flight attendants were caught in the Madrid airport with 300 pounds of cocaine in their luggage, a case that also saw the arrests of private security company employees operating the security checkpoints in Mexico City's airport.
In 2008, federal police chief Edgar Millan was gunned down inside his Mexico City home possibly in retaliation for investigating drug trafficking at the airport. The previous year, the severed heads of three employees of a customs brokerage firm were found near the airport and in the nearby state of Mexico. The decapitations were apparently retaliation for the seizure of a half-ton of Colombian cocaine at the airport, officials said at the time.
Benitez said Mexico's main airport has, in fact, become an alternative route for drugs from Colombia, Peru and Ecuador headed to Europe, while cash comes in from the United States.
It's the same problem in many international airports. U.S. federal agents swept through Puerto Rico's largest airport earlier this month, arresting dozens of baggage handlers, airline workers and others suspected of smuggling millions of dollars' worth of cocaine aboard commercial flights for at least a decade. Airline workers have been arrested in international smuggling operations involving airports in Detroit, Houston and New York, to name a few in the U.S.