MONTERREY, Mexico – MONTERREY, Mexico (AP) — The governor of a Mexican border state said Wednesday he will give state police officers a 20 percent pay raise in an effort to deter them from being lured into helping drug cartels.
Nuevo Leon state Gov. Rodrigo Medina said the increase would be given only to officers who pass "confidence control checks" proving they had no links to drug gangs.
The low pay of Mexican police is often blamed for the ease by which cartels recruit officers.
Medina said state troopers in Nuevo Leon, across the U.S. border from Texas, now earn 8,800 pesos ($687) a month. Two-thirds of local police officers are paid $315 a month or less, according to the federal Public Safety Department. Mexico's minimum wage is about $145 a month.
Medina's announcement came a day after seven local officers were accused of working for the Zetas drug gang and helping kidnap and kill Mayor Edelmiro Cavazos last week in retaliation for the mayor's attempts to cut corruption.
Nuevo Leon state Attorney General Alejandro Garza y Garza said the Zetas paid the seven officers monthly salaries of around 6,000 pesos, about $468.
"If we don't make it so that police have something to lose, they will hardly give their best to fight crime and protect citizens," the governor said.
He also announced an improved package of benefits for state police, including extra life insurance coverage.
Mexican police work at three levels — municipal forces under city and town hall control, state police under the governor, and a federal force.
Medina said the pay raise he announced affects only Nuevo Leon state troopers. Local mayors will have to decide whether to follow suit with municipal forces, he said.
Meanwhile, in the border city of Tijuana, former local police officers have filed a complaint with state prosecutors against the city's public safety chief and police director alleging the officers were tortured into confessing to having links to organized crime.
Former police officer Miguel Mesina said Wednesday that he and at least four other officers also filed a complaint with the National Commission for Human Rights.
The officers claim Tijuana Public Safety Chief Julian Leyzaola and Police Director Gustavo Huerta were present when some of the officers were tortured and say they gave the order to keep the officers from talking with anyone.
"The complaint is against Leyzaola, Huerta and against whoever else turns out to have participated in these events in which we were deprived of our liberty, were held incommunicado, were tortured ... I still have psychological damage," Mesina said.
The police chief's spokesman, Ernesto Alvarez, didn't return calls seeking comment Wednesday, but Leyzaola has denied the officers were tortured or abused in any way.
Mesina is one of 13 police officers recently released by a judge who ruled there wasn't enough evidence to prove drug links. The officers were part of a group of 25 police arrested by soldiers and sent to prison more than a year ago on charges of protecting drug traffickers.
Associated Press Writer Mariana Martinez in Tijuana contributed to this report.