March 27, 2009 / 1:25 AM / 10 years ago

Body of US marshal found in violent Mexican city

CIUDAD JUAREZ, Mexico, March 26 (Reuters) - Mexican police have found the decomposing and badly beaten body of a fugitive U.S. marshal in the border city of Ciudad Juarez, the main battleground in Mexico’s drug war.

Deputy U.S. Marshal Vincent Bustamante, who was wanted in the United States for theft and failure to appear in court, was found on Wednesday, the U.S. Marshal Service said, declining to give a cause of death.

Bustamante had been shot in the head, according to Mexican police, who said his body was dumped in an irrigation channel near a factory in Ciudad Juarez, across the border from El Paso, Texas.

"There was an active warrant on deputy Bustamante at the time of his death for his failure to appear in court on charges of criminal theft of public property," Deputy U.S. Marshal Gerald Payan said in a statement.

The U.S. Marshal Service is a federal law enforcement agency that specializes in catching fugitives.

Mexican police said Bustamante was not wanted in Mexico.

The discovery of his body came amid a surge in Mexican drug-related violence that has hurt the local economy and sparked concerns and offers of help from Washington.

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton visited Mexico this week and pledged greater support for President Felipe Calderon’s effort to battle the drug cartels who are fighting over control of smuggling routes to the United States.

Calderon has sent thousands of troops across Mexico to fight the gangs, while the growing violence and spillover northward has put the drug war high on President Barack Obama’s agenda.

Some 6,300 people died in drug violence last year in Mexico in a brutal conflict fueled by assault rifles and grenades smuggled in from the United States. (Reporting by Julian Cardona; Editing by Paul Simao)

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