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Disgraced ex-Mexican drug czar dies at age 79

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ADRIANA GOMEZ LICON | December 19, 2013 09:25 PM EST | AP

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MEXICO CITY (AP) — Gen. Jesus Gutierrez Rebollo, a Mexican drug czar disgraced by his arrest and conviction for aiding a powerful drug cartel, died Thursday after a long bout of prostate cancer, his lawyer said. He was 79.

Gutierrez Rebollo had been sick for more than two years at a military hospital in Mexico City and died of complications from the cancer, including respiratory failure, lawyer Javier Marban Corral said.

The general, who was one of the highest-level officials to ever have been convicted of drug-trafficking in Mexico, was hailed as a seasoned general of "impeccable integrity."

But his celebrated career, which peaked when President Ernesto Zedillo appointed him head of Mexico's anti-drug agency, crumbled two months later when police arrested him in February 1997. He was found to be living in a luxury apartment owned by cocaine kingpin Amado Carrillo Fuentes, also known as the "Lord of the Skies."

Gutierrez Rebollo was first convicted of drug trafficking, racketeering and corruption and sentenced to 40 years in prison. Later, prosecutors got an additional 31 years tacked on for delivering military firearms to drug traffickers. However, in 2011, a court reduced his sentence again to 40 years and gave him back his military title.

The case was such a scandal in the late 1990s and early 2000s that he inspired the character of the Mexican drug czar in Steven Soderbergh's 2000 film "Traffic."

To his last day, the general maintained he was innocent. He repeated accusations that he was prosecuted for political reasons, having exposed drug ties of the then-president's father-in-law.

His lawyer, Marban, said Gutierrez Rebollo's son has said he will file a posthumous appeal seeking to have the general acquitted of the charges.

Marban said his client had been notified the night before his death that he could serve his remaining sentence under house arrest because of his health and old age.

"He had plans to spend Christmas eve with his family. He was hopeful," Marban said.

Gutierrez Rebollo married twice and had four children and three grandchildren.

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Adriana Gomez Licon on Twitter http://twitter.com/agomezlicon