A 67-year-old Mexican Drug Lord is not getting the proper medications for his multiple ailments and is being mistreated in prison, according to a rare open letter published in newspapers throughout Mexico City from the drug lord's family.
Miguel Angel Felix Gallardo was the "godfather" of Mexican drug trafficking, but today he is in prison suffering from cataracts, deafness, ulcers and a hernia.
The letter was addressed to Public Safety Secretary Genaro Garcia Luna.
"For more than three years, without any justification, prison authorities have kept him segregated, isolated and without contact with other inmates, and have prevented him from participating in any physical, sports or educational activities," according to the letter in which the family also gave their address: in a swanky southern Mexico City neighborhood.
Historically, the families of top Mexican drug traffickers seldom, if ever, make public statements or publish their addresses, though authorities often know where they live.
By tradition, relatives are not usually targeted by law enforcement officials unless there is hard evidence they participated in the drug trade or laundered drug money, and occasional police raids on the homes or detentions of traffickers' relatives have drawn criticism and even retaliatory attacks from crime gangs.
In a rare 2004 protest, about 100 people who identified themselves as wives and relatives of drug suspects demonstrated outside the Mexican Congress to demand better conditions at the Altiplano maximum-security prison just west of Mexico City, the same facility where Felix Gallardo is being held. The protesters would not identify the inmates they were related to, however.
But Felix Gallardo's family said they were moved to publish the open letter -- in which they asked for a meeting with Garcia Luna -- because they claim he is being held in "inhuman" circumstances in a special lock-down section amid "unhealthy conditions, humidity, a lack of ventilation, bad odors and darkness." Arrested in 1989, he is serving a 40-year sentence on drug-trafficking, bribery and weapons convictions.
In the 1980s, Felix Gallardo commanded the Guadalajara cartel, then Mexico's most powerful gang, and what is considered a precursor of the brutal Sinaloa cartel. The gang also served as a training ground for many of today's top drug traffickers.
But lately, Felix Gallardo's biggest sin has allegedly been possessing cigarettes in his cell. Prison authorities canceled his rights to personal visits for four months starting in February as punishment, even though cigarettes are sold to inmates at the prison store, the family's letter claimed.
A spokesman from Garcia Luna's office said officials had no comment.
Felix Gallardo had been among the most flamboyant of the early drug lords in the 1970s and '80s. On one website, he appeared in old photos wearing tightly tailored shirts and bell-bottom pants. It was not clear if anyone connected to the imprisoned drug lord had operated the site, which has since been shut down.
It is hard for many Mexicans to think about Felix Gallardo as a victim, even though the drug trade in his days was far less violent than the current round of cartel turf battles, which have cost more than 34,000 lives since President Felipe Calderon launched an anti-drug offensive in late 2006.
Felix Gallardo is reputed to have punished a subordinate's alleged betrayal by killing the subordinate's children, cutting off the head of his wife, and sending the head to him in a box.
Based on reporting by the Associated Press.