Drug-Cartel Links Haunt an Election South of Border
The candidacy of Mario Anguiano, running for governor in a state election here Sunday, says a lot about Mexican politics amid the rise of the drug cartels.
A brother of the candidate is serving a 10-year prison sentence in Mexico for peddling methamphetamine. Another Anguiano is serving 27 years in a Texas prison for running a huge meth ring. A few weeks ago, a hand-painted banner hung on a highway overpass cited the Zetas, the bloodthirsty executioners for the Gulf Cartel drug gang, praising the candidate: “The Zetas support you, and we are with you to the death.”
Mr. Anguiano says his meth-dealing brother was just an addict who sold small amounts to support his habit. He says the man jailed in Texas, reported by local media to be his cousin, may or may not be a relative. “If he is my cousin, I’ve never met him,” he says. Denying any involvement with traffickers, he says the supposed Zetas endorsement was just a dirty trick by his election rivals.
If so, it backfired. In the weeks after the banner made local headlines, new polls showed Mr. Anguiano pulling ahead in the race. He is expected to be elected governor on Sunday.
Until recent years, Mexican drug traffickers focused the bulk of their bribery efforts on law enforcement rather than politicians. Their increasing involvement in local politics — in town halls and state capitals — is a response, experts say, to the national-level crackdown, to changes in the nature of the drug trade itself and to the evolution of Mexico’s young democracy.
Starting in 2000, a system of fiercely contested multiparty elections began to replace 71 years of one-party rule, the Institutional Revolutionary Party, or PRI. “In this newly competitive, moderately democratic system, it takes serious money to run a political campaign,” says James McDonald, a Mexico expert at Southern Utah University in Cedar City, Utah. “This has given the narcos a real entree into politics, by either running for office themselves or bankrolling candidates.”
In addition, the gangs have evolved from simple drug-smuggling bands into organized-crime conglomerates with broad business interests, from local drug markets to extortion, kidnapping, immigrant smuggling and control of Mexico’s rich market in knockoff compact discs. “There is more at stake than before. They need to control municipal governments,” says Edgardo Buscaglia, a professor of law and economics at both Columbia University and Mexico’s ITAM University.
Because of the federal crackdown and the warfare between rival cartels the drug traffickers also need more political allies than ever before.
Politicians who won’t cooperate sometimes are threatened. On Monday, in the drug-producing state of Guerrero, a grenade blew up a sport-utility vehicle belonging to Jorge Camacho, a congressional candidate from President Calderón’s National Action Party, or PAN. A message next to the destroyed car said, “Look, you S.O.B. candidate, hopefully, you will understand it is better you get out, you won’t get a second chance to live.”
Mr. Buscaglia says criminal groups’ one-two punch of bribes and threats has given them either influence or control in 72% of Mexico’s municipalities. He bases his estimate on observation of criminal enterprises such as drug-dealing and child-prostitution rings that operate openly, ignored by police.
According to a September 2007 intelligence assessment by the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation, the governors of the states of Veracruz and Michoacán had agreements with the Gulf Cartel allowing free rein to that large drug-trafficking gang. In return, said the report, which was reviewed by The Wall Street Journal, the cartel promised to reduce violence in Veracruz state and, in Michoacán, financed a gubernatorial race and many municipal campaigns across the state.
In Veracruz, the FBI report said, Gov. Fidel Herrera made a deal with the cartel letting it secure a drug route through the state. In an interview, Mr. Herrera said the allegation is “absolutely false, and has no basis in fact — it never happened.” The PRI politician said he has never had any dealings with a criminal organization and blamed a rival political operative, whom he declined to name, for trying to sabotage his career.
In Michoacán, the FBI report said, “in exchange for funding, the Gulf Cartel will be able to control the port of Lázaro Cárdenas, to.
continue to introduce cocaine and collect a ‘tax'” from other Mexican drug-trafficking organizations
The Gulf Cartel doesn’t appear to be the only gang with alleged influence in Michoacán officialdom. In May, soldiers and federal police arrested 10 mayors, as well as 17 police chiefs and state security officials, including a man who was in charge of the state’s police-training academy. They have been charged with collaborating with “La Familia,” the state’s violent homegrown drug gang. Those arrested, who have said they are innocent victims of political vendettas, represented all three of Mexico’s main political parties. On Monday, three more people, including the mayor of Lázaro Cárdenas, were arrested and charged with the same offense, according to the attorney general’s office.
Five hundred miles to the north in the wealthy Monterrey suburb of San Pedro Garza García, a mayoral candidate from President Calderón’s party sparked a scandal in June when he was recorded telling a gathering of supporters that security in the town was “controlled by” members of one of Mexico’s most fearsome drug cartels, the Beltran Leyva gang.
The candidate, Mauricio Fernandez, seemed to suggest he would be willing to negotiate with the Beltran Leyvas if elected. “Penetration by drug traffickers is for real, and they approach every candidate who they think may win,” Mr. Fernandez was recorded saying. “In my case, I made it very clear to them that I didn’t want blatant selling.”
Mr. Fernandez has acknowledged the audiotape’s authenticity, but says his statements were taken out of context and that he had never met with members of the Beltran Leyva cartel. He says the full tape captures him saying he would not negotiate with the drug traffickers. As the election nears, he leads polls by a wide margin.
Meanwhile, in the central Mexican state of Zacatecas, Mayor David Monreal of the town of Fresnillo denied having anything to do with 14.5 tons of marijuana police found months ago in a chili-pepper-drying facility owned by his brother. Mr. Monreal, who plans to seek the governorship next year, said his political enemies planted the mammoth stash.
In the campaign, the state of Mexico’s economy appears to trump the drug issue for many voters. The economy is shrinking amid slumps in oil production, in exports to the U.S., in tourism and in remittances from emigrants. Polls give the PRI, the party that ruled for seven decades, an advantage of about six percentage points.
The governing party has made President Calderon’s campaign against drug traffickers its main theme, and polls show his policy of using
the military in the effort is widely popular. But they also show a majority of Mexicans don’t think he is winning the narco-war.
“Our borders have neven been safer”
07/02/2010 ”The State Department, meanwhile, announced new travel restrictions Friday for U.S. government employees working away from the border in Mexico and Central America. As of July 15, they and their families are barred from crossing anywhere along Texas’ border, north or south, because of safety concerns. The U.S. government continues to urge Americans to exercise extreme caution or defer unnecessary travel to certain parts of Mexico.”
Former Mexican Presidential Candidate Diego Fernández de Cevallos Kipdnapped, feared murdered by Drug Cartels:http://mcauleysworld.wordpress.com/2010/07/03/former-mexican-presidential-candidate-missing-kidnapping-by-drug-cratels-feared/
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Filed under: Arizona Immigration Law, ICE, Illegal Immigration, Immigration, Immigration & Customs Enforcement, Mexican Drug Cartels Tagged: | Arizona Immigration Law, Illegal Immigration, Immigration, Mexican Drug Cartels, The Collapse of Mexican Democracy