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Top U.S. officials praise Mexican crime-fighting agency

Associated Press Writer

MEXICO CITY- Key leaders from the FBI and DEA on Monday applauded the efforts of Mexico's elite Federal Investigative Agency in capturing notorious drug suspects and top U.S. fugitives who have fled south of the border.

"The bilateral relationship between Mexico and U.S. authorities is excellent," Raul Carballido, head of the FBI in Mexico, said at an event at the headquarters of the Mexican agency known by its Spanish initials, AFI. "The environment for justice has never been better."

Added Larry Holifield of the DEA, "we very much appreciate the work against the biggest and most-dangerous drug traffickers."

Both Carballido and Holifield saluted Genaro Garcia Luna, director of the AFI, often described as the Mexican equivalent of the FBI.

President Vicente Fox created the agency shortly after taking office in December 2000 as a replacement for the notoriously corrupt and inept Federal Judicial Police.

"Before they created the AFI, this connection didn't exist, there was a lot of distrust," Carballido said of an exchange of information between authorities in Mexico and the United States. "Now the opposite is true, the difference is drastic and the AFI is a model police agency."

Mexican Attorney General Daniel Cabeza de Vaca said the Fox administration has captured 827 foreign fugitives, 363 of whom were wanted in connection with homicides. He didn't say how many of those were from the United States.

The AFI has not been without its problems, however. In November 2004, the remains of three of its agents were among five corpses discovered with gunshot wounds to the head on a dirt road just south of Cancun.

A day later, two AFI agents were discovered with gunshot wounds to their legs before dawn outside Cancun.

Those killing led federal authorities to begin investigating the Cancun office and prompted widespread speculation that drug violence had returned to the Caribbean coast region in a way not seen since the early 1990s, when it was a major cocaine smuggling corridor.

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