And the accuser isn’t some minor politico or crime figure, but a former state governor from the long-time ruling party, the Partido Revolucionario Institucional (PRI) . According to Borderland Beat, Mexican presidents from Miguel de la Madrid through Ernesto Zedillo, nearly 20 years, bought social peace by telling the cartels which routes they could use to bring their drugs to the United States and which areas they had to leave alone:
In a conference with students held on Wednesday, February 23, at the Law School of the Autonomous University of Coauhuila in Saltillo, Socrates Rizzo delivered a bombshell that has rocked Mexico as the campaign for the 2012 presidential election approaches.
During an interview session the former PRI Governor admitted that previous PRI presidents held strong control over drug trafficking routes that prevented the attacks on civilians and the violence that Mexico is undergoing today.
Although an open secret in Mexican society and a charge occasionally leveled publicly by the country’s two other major political parties, the National Action Party (PAN) and the Democratic Revolutionary Party (PRD), this is the first time in recent history that a former or current PRI politician has admitted publicly that this arrangement existed.
“Somehow the problems with drug trafficking were avoided, there was a strong State control and a strong President and a strong Attorney General and a tight control of the Army.”
“Somehow they (drug traffickers) were told: ‘You go through here, you here, you there’, but do not touch these other places,” he said in his speech.
The former Governor added that this strategy allowed the State to ensure the social peace that has been lost in the war on drugs launched by the PAN administration of Felipe Calderon.
“What the old guard says is that we had control by the Government and the Army. The big problem is consumption, and while consumption exists in the U.S. there will be drug trafficking in that direction.”
“What control by the PRI governments guaranteed was that drug trafficking did not disturb the social peace.”
Former Governor Rizzo also said Mexico’s current troubles with violence began with the electoral victory of the National Action Party‘s (PAN) presidential candidate, Vicente Fox, in 2000. They knew nothing of the deal with the cartels, didn’t want to know, and indeed tried to crack down, with the bloody results we’ve seen in years since, especially since President Calderón took office in 2006. In fact, the PRI candidate in 1994, Luis Donaldo Colosio, may have been assassinated by the cartels because he didn’t want to play along, breaking the deal. Rizzo laughably says the problem with the PAN presidents was a lack of “professionalism.” I guess “professional” in his book means “willing to play along.”
Not that the three PRI presidents, de la Madrid, Salinas de Gortari, and Zedillo were just honest brokers trying to spare their people as much as possible. Concern for their people may have been part of it, but they and those under them were getting their cut, too. In fact, the corruption grew so bad under Salinas that his predecessor, de la Madrid, was shocked at his greed. (Sort of like Louis in “Casablanca?”)
Rizzo retracted his story the next day under heavy criticism, especially from two Mexican senators from the PRI Party, Manlio Fabio Beltrones and Fernando Baeza Melendez, both former governors themselves and both reputedly in tight with the cartels. Fabio Beltrones, in particular, is mentioned as a possible presidential candidate next year, should the party’s golden boy, Enrique Peña Nieto, falter. Wouldn’t that be sweet if he wins? “We’re back in business, boys!”
The trouble with Rizzo’s retraction, however, is that his accusations are just too plausible: not only are his critics rumored to have heavy ties to the cartels, but the problem with violence after Calderón started his crackdown didn’t spring from nowhere. Large cartels were known to exist in the 80s, for example, Rafael Caro Quintero’s Guadalajara Cartel. It’s hard to believe they could do the volume of business they did in the 80s and 90s without some sort of under-the-table official protection.
And corruption in Mexico is known to have crawled up into the federal ranks. With that much money at stake, it’s inevitable that a lot was spread around to ensure “cooperation.” But it didn’t happen overnight, and Rizzo’s allegations argue that these corrupted cops were just following El Presidente’s lead — at least until the new guys screwed up a sweet deal.
But don’t think that this can be solved by Calderón or his successor cutting another deal with the Devil. As the Borderlands piece points out, Mexico now has its own drug consumption problem, and these guys are fighting over markets inside the country, not just for prime routes north. It will be much harder for Fabio Beltrones, for example, to come to a new understanding with the cartels that allows him to tell them what to do.
Of course, the big question for us is “Isn’t this all history?” In a sense, yes. What those three presidents did years ago has done its damage in the United States, and Mexico is now paying the price of cleaning it up — if it can be cleaned up. The monster de la Madrid and his successors summoned may have grown too big for their successors to defeat without a lot more blood being spilled, which has predictable implications for our own security.
But one also has to ask what happens if PRI wins the next election, particularly if Fabio Beltrones or some other cartel-friendly candidate becomes president. If Rizzo’s accusations are true, then it is a dubious question whether almost any PRI president and his administration can be considered a reliable partner against the cartels — or whether he is their partner.
Do read the whole thing. It’s long and it relies in part on rumor and anonymous sources, but it has a disturbing ring of truth to it, too.
via Business Insider
(Crossposted at Sister Toldjah)