the narco-politicians

Is Mexican drug trafficking as bad as the situation in Afghanistan? At least one expert believes so. Having spent the majority of his career in the PGR and some time as head of the organized crime unit SIEDO, Samuel Gonzalez Ruiz was contracted as a consultant to work in Afghanistan a while back. He noted that 30 percent of the Afghan parliament was involved in drug trafficking business in the country.

“You can’t be naive about these things,” Gonzalez Ruiz told me. “If this happens in Afghanistan, the same happens in Mexico.”

Allegations that federal politicians in Mexico are involved in drug trafficking have always fallen short. Beltrones bashed the New York Times for publishing DEA allegations against him in the 1990s, Carlos Hank Gonzalez always denied allegations (and certainly was never investigated, given his connections), and so on.

But there is no doubt that some politicians are deeply in bed with the narcos. The government basically used to run the drug business, back in the 1970s, after all. Last year, dozens of public officials were rounded up in Michoacan, alleged to have links with La Familia. Low-level politicians throughout the country admit that the narcos come their way, often.

The case of Jesús Vizcarra Calderón, the current mayor of Culiacan, is a particularly interesting one. Reforma recently published a photo of him standing next to Ismael “El Mayo” Zambada (the No. 1, 2 or 3 in the Sinaloa cartel, depending on your perspective). The photo was taken 20 years ago, but it has caused quite a stir, particuarly because Vizcarra is planning a run for governor of Sinaloa.

Vizcarra, according to Gonzalez Ruiz, is the first true “narco-politician” Mexico has seen. VIzcarra apparently not only knows El Mayo, but owns ranches in Nicaragua that are very near landing strips used by the Sinaloa cartel. Coincidence? Gonzalez Ruiz thinks not.

Gonzalez Ruiz also believes that Vizcarra has people on his staff who also worked for President Calderon when he campaigned in Sinaloa for the 2006 elections.

Gonzalez Ruiz is now affiliated with the left-leaning UNAM, so his political views have to be taken into account. And I’d be willing to bet the entire 2010 Mexican drug trafficking budget that Vizcarra won’t be investigated. But a proven Calderon connection to the Sinaloa cartel, now wouldn’t that be interesting?

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