07/04/2010 Mexico’s National Election: Fear, Distrust Dominates Mexican Elections Held Amid Drug War Violence

CIUDAD VICTORIA, Mexico (AP) — A common theme haunts Sunday’s state and local elections across Mexico: drugs.

One gubernatorial candidate has been photographed with a powerful kingpin. Another was arrested for allegedly protecting two cartels. A third was assassinated after pledging to bring peace to his violent state.

Many Mexicans are scared to vote, and others wonder why they should bother if the cartels seem to be in charge anyway.

The elections for governors, mayors and local posts in 12 states is the biggest political challenge yet for the government of President Felipe Calderon, who declared war on the cartels in 2006 and deployed thousands of troops and federal police to wrest back territory from drug traffickers.

Assassinated Mexican Presidential Candidate Luis Donaldo Colosio

A low turnout in the most violent states would signal Mexicans believe the drug lords have more control than ever.

And Calderon’s conservative party is facing a resurgence of the Institutional Revolutionary Party, which ruled Mexico for 71 years through a combination of coercion and corruption that critics considered a veiled dictatorship. That party, known as the PRI, is favored to win in most of the 12 states and gain momentum to regain the presidency in 2012, just 12 years after losing it.

That would add uncertainty to the future of Mexico’s drug war, backed by millions of dollars in U.S. aid and marked by an unprecedented increase in the number of drug suspects extradited to the United States for prosecution under Calderon’s National Action Party.

Nowhere has drug violence so shaken campaigning as in the northern state of Tamaulipas, where PRI candidate Rodolfo Torre was assassinated Monday, less than a week before he was forecast to win the race for governor.

Even Calderon said the attack showed drug cartels were trying to sway the elections. He pleaded with Mexicans to vote and show they would not be intimidated. The PRI nominated Torre’s brother Egidio to run in his place.

For many, the attack was a frightening reminder of the growing power of drug traffickers in Tamaulipas, a state of cattle ranchers and oil wells that is both a PRI stronghold and the birthplace of the Gulf cartel.

Cartel henchmen extort restaurants, car dealerships and junkyards. People avoid highways where caravans of armed men travel openly, their luxury SUVs sometimes stamped with the Gulf cartel acronym. Local media stopped reporting on much of the violence after reporters were beaten and threatened — the Torre assassination being a notable exception.

“For a long time, authorities in Tamaulipas have pretended to govern while criminal groups impose their law,” political analyst Alfonso Zarate wrote in the Reforma newspaper.

Torre, a doctor who served as the state’s health secretary, had mostly campaigned on fighting poverty, even as turf wars escalated following a split between the Gulf cartel and the Zetas gang of hit men. Local politicians often avoid discussing drug trafficking, insisting it is the federal government’s responsibility to fight organized crime.

Rodolfo Torre Canto - Assassinated By Cartels

But Sunday, Torre announced that security would be a priority in his government. The next day, armed men ambushed his campaign caravan, killing him and four others, including his assistant and a state legislator.

Dozens of election workers have since quit, some because their homes were damaged by Hurricane Alex but others because they were afraid to show up at polling stations, said Arturo Miniz, a spokesman for the state election institution.

Many voters feel the same way.

“Here, wherever you go, you go with fear,” said Jose Torres, who sells newspaper and shines shoes at a shopping mall in Ciudad Victoria, the state capital. “You hear a noise and you throw yourself to the ground.”

Torres, who now shuts his newspaper stand three hours earlier than normal to avoid being out at night, can’t decide whether to vote Sunday. “If I go vote, I will go very early in the morning, hoping that nothing happens,” he said.

PRI supporters say Torre might have been targeted because current Gov. Eugenio Hernandez had appealed for more federal troops in his state. Calderon’s government has said there was no indication of corruption in Torre’s past.

But politicians in Calderon’s party have long insinuated that the PRI protects the Gulf cartel. National Action leaders complained they couldn’t find anyone to run for mayor in some Tamaulipas towns because of drug gang intimidation, and noted that the PRI had no trouble fielding candidates. In May, a National Action mayoral candidate was killed after ignoring warnings to drop his campaign.

Similar allegations have dominated the campaign for governor in the Caribbean state of Quintana Roo, home to Cancun, and northern Sinaloa state, the cradle of the powerful drug cartel by the same name.

In Quintana Roo, Cancun Mayor Gregorio Sanchez was arrested last month on charges of protecting two cartels, ending his campaign for governor for a leftist party. He has dismissed the charges as politically motivated.

“People start to think that voting is unnecessary,” said Alejandro Ramos, a civil servant in Cancun. “People have long thought that the politicians have ties to organized crime.”

In Sinaloa, a scandal broke out when the newspaper Reforma published a photograph of PRI candidate Jesus Vizcarra Calderon attending a party many years ago with kingpin Ismael “El Mayo” Zambada.

Cartel Victims Executed With Hands Tied Behind Their Backs, San Ignacio, Sinaloa

During a televised debate, his opponent, Mario Lopez, demanded to know if rumors were true that Zambada is the godfather of one of Vizacarra’s children. Vizcarra refused to answer.

Lopez shot back: “To fight crime, you can’t be a part of it.”

Vizcarra in turn brought up a scandal from Lopez’s own past: allegations that one of Lopez’s underlings protected drug dealers when he was mayor of Ahome six years ago.

But cartels are so entrenched in Sinaloa that many voters believe politicians have no choice but to work with them.

“I think the best option is Jesus Vizacarra because he did a good job as mayor,” said Jorge Vargas, 29. “Drugs are a very important factor of power in Sinaloa and I think you have to negotiate with the capos to stop the killings.”

Pedro Angulo, a 22-year-old university student, said the same thing about Lopez. “For me, the best choice is Mario Lopez Valdes, and he can do what it takes to reduce the problem of violence in Sinaloa. Let him negotiate with whoever he needs to but all the deaths in the street have to stop.”

Lopez is backed by both the conservative National Action and a major leftist party, one of several awkward alliances that Calderon’s

Former Mexican Presidental Candidate Diego Fernández de Cevallos Kidnapped - Feared Dead

 party formed in the hopes of ousting the PRI from its strongholds.

Polls suggest the strategy has the best chance of succeeding in the southern state of Oaxaca, one of the few states where the election has not been dominated by the drug war.

Campaigning has been tense anyway, with widespread fears of violence if the outcome is tight. In 2006, deadly protests broke out for five months over allegations that Gov. Ulises Ruiz of the PRI rigged his 2004 election victory against Gabino Cue. This year, Cue again is running for a National Action-backed allegiance against Ruiz’ hand-picked successor, Eviel Perez.


Mexico Suspends Search for Missing Ex-Candidate

Photo of Diego Fernandez de Devallos Posted By Kidnappers on Twitter

Mexican authorities suspended their investigation into the disappearance of a former presidential candidate Saturday at his relatives’ request.

The Attorney General’s Office said in a brief statement that the investigation in the case of Diego Fernandez de Cevallos has been halted “out of respect for the family’s wishes.”

Fernandez de Cevallos, who ran unsuccessfully for office in 1994, was reported missing May 15 after his abandoned vehicle was found near his ranch with traces of blood on a pair of scissors.

Diego Fernandez de Cevallos Gutierrez, the politician’s son, released a statement to the media late Friday asking authorities to “stay out of this process in order to help the negotiation.

The statement appeared to confirm that the family believes Fernandez de Cevallos was kidnapped. However, the Attorney General’s Office has said it cannot confirm an abduction, and police have given no indication of his whereabouts.


Also see:

The Immigration Debate: Could The Mexican Democracy Collapse? A Marxist Narco State On Our Southern Border

The Immigration Debate: Could The Mexican Democracy Collapse? A Marxist Narco State On Our Southern Border?

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.

'The Zetas support you, and we are with you to the death.'

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.

Assassinated Mexican Presidential Candidate Luis Donaldo Colosio

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.

Mexican Presidental Candidate Diego Fernández de Cevallos Kidnapped Feared Dead

 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.

Mayor Jesús Manuel Lara Rodríguez Murdered In Front Of Wife & Children

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

Asst. AG Sandra Salas Garcia's car was riddled with bullets

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.”


07/04/2010 Mexico’s National Election: Fear, Distrust Dominates Mexican Elections Held Amid Drug War Violence

Former Mexican Presidential Candidate Diego Fernández de Cevallos Kipdnapped, feared murdered by Drug Cartels:https://mcauleysworld.wordpress.com/2010/07/03/former-mexican-presidential-candidate-missing-kidnapping-by-drug-cratels-feared/

Rodolfo Torre candidate for Governor,Tamaulipas, Mexico, Assassinated by Cartels.

Assassinated Gubernatorial Candidate Rodolfo-Torre-Canto


Mario Guajardo Jose Valera, Candidate for Mayor of Valle Hermoso, Mexico, Slain By Drug Cartels


Cartel Gunman Assassinate Guadalupe Mayor Jesus Manuel Lara Rodriguez In Front Of His Wife & Children


Assistant Attorney General for the State of Chihuahua, Mexico, Assassinated in Ciudad Juarez by Drug Cartels


American Citizen Kidnapped From His Own Wedding, Tortured & Murdered By Mexican Drug Cartel. 4 Others In Wedding Group Murdered.


U.S. Embassy Employees In Mexico Assassinated For Providing Travel Visas To Rival Drug Cartel


Mexican Drug Cartel Kidnaps, Tortures And Murders 7 Police / Cartel Ambushes Bus – 12 Federal Officers Killed


28 Patients Killed At Mexican Drug Rehab Facilities – Cartel Killers Caught After Routine Traffic Stop


Bloody Border: 21 Killed in Mexican Gang Battle Near Arizona


Cartel Killer, A Suspect In 62 Homicides, Is Arrested


Cartel Killings: Two Headless Bodies Found In Juarez, Third Victim Dumped At Church


Drug Cartel Shootout In Mexico Leaves Eight People Dead


Photo of Diego Fernandez de Devallos Posted By Kidnappers on Twitter

Drug Cartel Shootout In Mexico Leaves Eight People Dead

Saturday, July 03, 2010

A shootout in the northern Mexican city of Torreón that began in a shopping mall and continued onto a highway left eight people dead, including seven alleged drug cartel members and one policeman.

Mexican federal agents responded to an attempted kidnapping at the shopping mall, where they were met by gunfire allegedly from members of Los Zetas, a paramilitary group aligned with the Gulf Cartel.

The main shootout occurred after police and soldiers chased the alleged cartel members onto a nearby highway. One suspect, three policemen and two kidnap victims were also wounded.

The shootout occurred on the same day as the La Familia cartel strung banners in the western state of Michoacán urging citizens and other gangs to form a front against Los Zetas, and only two days after 16 people were killed in the border city of Ciudad Juárez.


Mario Guajardo Jose Valera, Candidate for Mayor of Valle Hermoso, Mexico, Slain By Drug Cartels

Mario Guajardo Jose Valera, PAN candidate for mayor of Valle Hermoso, Tamaulipas, was found dead Thursday morning by gunshot wounds, told CNNMéxico Agency for Research of Public Prosecutions of that city.

The candidate’s son was also slain.

The staff of the agency said it will give full details of the alleged murder of James Guajardo in the coming hours, while local media report that also found the bodies of two others.

The state leader of PAN, Javier Garza de Coss, told Reuters the candidate’s death and announced that the game will offer more details of what happened in a press conference.

The bodies were located in agricultural suppliers Guajardo company, owned by the slain candidate, which is located in this border town today by the PRI government.

On Monday, the PAN candidate for governor of Tamaulipas, José Julián Sacramento, reported that candidates of that party were receiving threats from drug traffickers, Notimex reported.


Former Mexican Presidential Candidate Missing: Kidnapping By Drug Cartels Feared

Diego Fernández de Cevallos

MEXICO CITY—Mexican authorities scrambled over the weekend to locate Diego Fernández de Cevallos, a former presidential candidate and wealthy lawyer whose disappearance is the most high profile apparent kidnapping since 2006.

Mr. Fernández, who ran for president with the National Action Party, or PAN, in 1994, disappeared Friday night in the central state of Querétaro, officials from the attorney general’s office said.

His car was found abandoned with bloody footprints nearby. The officials said on Sunday they had no knowledge about who might have kidnapped him.

Mr. Fernández, 69 years old, is one of Mexico’s most-recognized political figures, and the news of his apparent kidnapping shook Mexicans.

Politicians of all stripes denounced the disappearance and Mr. Calderón, a member of Mr. Fernández’s party, ordered his cabinet on Saturday to help search for him.

Mr. Fernández’s disappearance could have major consequences for Mexico, further destabilizing a country where more than 23,000 have died since 2006.

If guerrilla groups are responsible, it could reignite fears of other armed separatist groups advocating the government’s overthrow at a time when the government is struggling against organized crime.

Since the spike in drug violence, many of the kidnappings in the country have been the work of drug-related criminal organizations—but never has the target been such an icon.

If Mr. Fernández was kidnapped by a drug cartel, it might indicate the groups were looking beyond the usual targets of local political and business rivals and are launching more direct and defiant challenges toward the national government.

Mexico has long feared the type of political terrorism that became the hallmark of drug wars in Colombia.“This strikes me as a cartel trying to show [it] can act with impunity,” says George Grayson, a professor at the College of William & Mary who studies politics and organized crime. “[Mr. Fernández] is the highest-profile figure who has been involved in a possible kidnapping and death. He was the poster boy for the PAN.”

Indeed, crime organizations already appear to be launching smaller-scale political attacks around the border ahead of coming elections.

Last Thursday, gunmen broke into the home of Jose Mario Guajardo Valera, a mayoral candidate in the northern town of Valle Hermosa, killing him and his son, after Mr. Guajardo Valera ignored warnings to end his campaign.

Other attacks have left Mr. Calderón’s PAN and the left-leaning Democratic Revolutionary Party unable to even field candidates in three towns in the northern state of Tamaulipas.

The violence did not let up this weekend. In the northern town of Torreón, hit men burst into a bar killing eight people. Four decapitated bodies were later found. In Ciudad Juárez, another eight people were found dead, believed to be linked to drug organizations.

The kidnapping could be the work of one such separatist guerrilla group, the Popular Revolutionary Army, or EPR, Mr. Islas and other analysts said, which has kidnapped several high profile business leaders in the past.

The small and shadowy group, which dates back to the 1970s, had been largely dormant until it re-emerged in 2007. Then, it twice blew up gas pipelines and caused $1.6 billion in damages, in an attempt to force the government to hand over two of its leaders.

Between 1988 and 2007, the EPR and its predecessor groups have carried out more than 30 kidnappings—which it calls “acts of expropriation”—and amassed $73 million, according to Mexican intelligence documents.

In 1993 it kidnapped several Mexican plutocrats including Alfredo Harp Helú, who at the time was co-owner of the country’s biggest bank, Banamex.

Mr. Harp was freed after four months in captivity when his family paid $25 million, according to ledgers discovered in a police raid.

Known as “El Jefe Diego,” or “Diego the Boss,” Mr. Fernández is a colorful and controversial figure in Mexican politics. He took the national stage by storm in the 1994 campaign by handily winning the country’s first televised presidential debates, using colorful and blunt language to blast the long-ruling Institutional Revolutionary Party, or PRI, and its candidate, Ernesto Zedillo.

But once in the lead, the cigar-chomping lawyer largely stopped campaigning during the home stretch of the race, fueling suspicions that he somehow threw the race for Mr. Zedillo, who became the PRI’s last president.


Police Search Residence of Diego Fernández de Cevallos

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