As a bonus to the public’s incredulity, the Calderon administration is spinning these agency scandals as “Operation Clean House” (“Limpiaza”), an in-house investigation into drug war corruption. Moreover, the Calderon administration promotes the revelations of dirty dealing as a “victory” in its anti-drug crusade. “Operation Clean House” has triggered a flood of soplones (“snitches”), many of whom are being held incommunicado at the fortress-like SIEDO headquarters in Ixtapalapa. Other key whistleblowers are in U.S. custody. Reportedly, it was Washington that tipped Mexican authorities to the Sinaloa Cartel pay-offs after an informer known only as “Felipe” spilled the beans to Drug Enforcement Administration agents.
The current round of recriminations is reminiscent of the 1997 arrest of General Jesus Gutierrez Rebollo. At the time of his arrest General Gutierrez was the head of the Mexican Drug War apparatus under president Ernesto Zedillo. He was arrested for providing protection to Juarez Cartel kingpin Amado Carrillo. Carrillo earned his nickname “The Lord of the Skies” by flying DC-6s loaded with Colombian cocaine into Mexico under the nose of the military. General Gutierrez, who is now serving a 45-year sentence, was found to be living in a luxury apartment paid for by Carrillo’s agents who showered him with lavish gifts of fine tequila and classic cars. At the time of his arrest, General Gutierrez had just returned from Washington, where he had attended a White House drug conclave and was lauded by Former President Bill Clinton’s drug czar, General Barry McCaffrey, as having “an impeccable reputation for integrity.”
One of the more enigmatic personages swept up in the Operation Clean House dragnet is Javier Herrera. Herrera was once number two at the Federal Investigation Agency or AFI, a knock off of the U.S. FBI, and an entity deemed so corrupt that Calderon has ordered it dismantled. Herrera was dismissed from his position after his brother, a police commander in the Gulf coast state of Tamaulipas, was cited on a narco-list compiled by murderous “Zetas.” The Zetas are former elite soldiers in the Mexican army who have switched sides and are now enforcers for the Gulf Cartel.
To even further complicate the drug war in Mexico, the AFI and a rival police organization, the Federal Preventative Police (PFP), which operates under the aegis of the Secretary of Public Security, have gone nose to nose over drug war jurisdiction ever since the election of Calderon in 2006. The PFP is run by a Calderon disciple, Genaro Garcia Luna, and there is evidence that he, too, may be somehow involved on the wrong side of Mexican Law.
While cleaning out his desk at the AFI, Javier Herrera carried off a raft of documentation that appears to implicate PFP Chief Garcia Luna in what is termed “a simulation” favoring the Sinaloa Cartel over other drug gangs.
Indeed, the former AFI commander was en route to an interview with a prime time news show when he was arrested and his documents confiscated on November 17 by the PFP. According to his lawyer, Sylvia Raquenel Villanueva, who presented x-rays to the press, Herrera was beaten so badly that he suffered several broken ribs.
Raquenel Villanueva is herself a Mexican drug war legend. The lawyer, who has represented many of the nation’s most notorious drug barons, has been repeatedly shot by her clients or their rivals (lung, head, buttocks, and stomach) – one cartel gunslinger plugged her eight times. Bombs have been tossed at her Monterrey offices and she was once imprisoned for her alleged involvement in the kidnap-killing of a police commander. Raquenel wears the ultimate badge of her trade – two narco-corridos (drug ballads) have been composed in her honor: “La Mujer de Acero” (“The Woman of Steel”) and “The Ballad of the Bullet-proof Lawyer.”
Despite the daily dollop of scandal hanging over his head, The Secretary of Public Security, Garcia Luna, continues to cling to his job, an “Untouchable” in the Chicago sense of the word. On November 25, Garcia Luna’s former personal secretary Mario Arturo Velarde, was dragged into the SIEDO headquarters in Ixtapalapa for questioning. Yet, Velarde is being defended by one-time Attorney General Antonio Lozano and high-priced litigator, Diego Fernandez de Cevallos, both prominent members of President Calderon’s PAN party. Speculation about why Calderon continues to stick by Garcia Luna centers on two hypotheses: (a) Calderon is reluctant to fire his Secretary of Public Security because it would be the final blow to the president’s credibility and (b) Garcia Luna knows too much.
Calderon’s current Attorney General, Eduardo Medina Mora, who preceded Garcia Luna at the SSP, seems to be cloaked in a similar shroud of impunity.
The disarray in Calderon’s drug war hierarchy has grave implications for both U.S. and Mexican national security. In an interview with Proceso magazine, White House drug advisor, John Walters, warned that Mexico is at risk of becoming a narco-state.
The threat of compromised intelligence looms large. Nonetheless, Washington now has the legal and diplomatic wherewithal to take matters into its own hands. Under the recently ratified Merida anti-drug Initiative and the North American Security and Prosperity Agreement (ASPAN), which provides a framework for the integration of the security apparatuses of the three NAFTA nations, Washington reserves the right to take action south of its border should it feel its national security threatened.
One possible scenario available to the incoming U.S. President, Barack Obama, could be to launch preventative incursions into Mexico to neutralize the drug cartels.
Clearly, much more could still go up in flames.
John Ross is back in the Centro Historico ring to fight the final round with “El Monstruo – True Tales of Dread & Redemption from Mexico City.” If you have further information write him at email@example.com or visit www.johnross-rebeljournalist.com