Transparency & accountability

Federal crackdown on corruption in Michoacán: Nearly 30 local officials arrested

Gernaro Guizar Valencia-Apatzingán-PRD
Uriel Farias Alvarez-Tepalcatepec-PRI
Jairo Germán Rivas-Arteaga-PRI
Antonio González Rodríguez-Uruapan-PAN
Audel Méndez Chávez-Coahuayana-PRI
Osvaldo Esquivel Lucatero-Buenavista-PRD
Adán Tafolla Ortiz-Tumbiscatio-PRI-PVEM
Juan Antonio Ixtlahuac Orihuela-Zitácuaro-PRI
José Cortez Ramos-Aquila-PRI
José Luis Ávila Franco-Ciudad Hidalgo-PAN

The Federal Preventive Police (PFP) and the office of the Special Assistant Attorney General for Organized Crime (SIEDO) detained several mayors and other local officials in the state of Michoacán, the home-state of President Felipe Calderón and a long-time locale for the production and transit of drugs. The local officials arrested are believed to have ties to the “La Familia” organization, one of multiple cartels operating in the state, including the Gulf Cartel and the Cartel del Milenio organization. For all those in federal custody, SEIDO had 96 hours to decide its next legal steps, and to implement the use of arraigo —detention without sentencing— if necessary.

Ten mayors were arrested simultaneously on May 26th and transported to Mexico City during an unprecedented federal operation in at least 12 of the state’s 113 municipalities. The next day, el Universal reported the arrest of an eleventh mayor —Francisco Estrada García a PRI mayor from the municipality of Nuevo Urecho— who was transported immediately to Mexico City. However, Milenio subsequently reported that Estrada García was not arrested, and was attending to his public duties in Nuevo Urecho. In addition to the mayors in federal custody, the press reported that Armando Medina Torres (PRI mayor of Nueva Italia and leader of the state’s mayoral organization) and Manuel Sánchez Pardo (PRI mayor of Parácuaro) were also wanted and still at large in the wake of the operation. Including these two fugitive mayors from the PRI, the arrests netted eight mayors from the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI), and two each from the National Action Party (PAN) and the Party of the Democratic Revolution (PRD).

At least 18 other state and local officials were also arrested in the operation. These officials included Mario Bautista Ramírez (the state’s former-director of public security and head of the state’s police training institute), Ricardo Rubi Bustamante (state director of industrial promotion), Ramon Ponce Ponce (coordinator of the states prosecutor’s office), Miguel García Hurtado (a former state attorney general who turned himself in voluntarily on March 26th), various heads of local police agencies, as well as highranking officials and advisors in the administration of PRD Governor Leonel Godoy Rangel. PRD officials complained that the state’s governor, also from the PRD, had not been informed prior to the operation.

Given the proximity of the July 2nd midterm elections, the arrests have major implications for the electoral contest in Michoacán and perhaps nationally. The electoral atmosphere in Michoacán was already tense, given that the PAN appeared poised to rally in the PRD-governed state. Earlier in May, one poll in the state indicated that 38% of respondents supported the PAN, while 33% supported the PRD and 24% supported the PRI. PRD officials rejected the idea that the arrests would damage the party’s prospects in the upcoming election.

Yet, the timing of the operation in the weeks before the election raised suspicions that the federal government was intervening in state politics to give an advantage to the PAN, the president’s party. Adding to these suspicions, President Calderón’s sister, Luisa María Calderón Hinojosa, is in charge of the PAN’s campaign operations in the state, and had clashed publicly with one of the fugitive mayors, Medina Torres, over electoral issues.

PRD party chairman Jesús Ortega urged that the fight against crime not be used for political purposes. Governor Godoy indicated that he had informed the federal government about possible corruption among local mayors in Michoacán since 2008, and questioned the government’s decision to act only two months before the election. Andres
Manuel López Obrador, who narrowly lost the 2006 election to President Calderón, charged that the operation was part of a long line of distractions —from the chupacabras to the
H1N1 scare— orchestrated by both the PRI and the PAN to manipulate Mexican public opinion. Campaigning in Oaxaca for candidates in the midterm election, López Obrador further charged that an operation is needed to root out the “cartel de Los Pinos” (referring to the Mexican White House).

The operation was unprecedented in scope and brought to national attention to the pervasiveness of local corruption in Michoacán. In light of this revelation, the civic group Mexico United Against Crime urged other states to investigate other local officials for possible ties to organized crime. The group’s director, Ana Franco, said that “it seems to me that there are also governors involved in narco-trafficking and that they should also be detained and arraigned.”

Indeed, the fallout from the operation may go well beyond those officials already arrested, with reports circulating that dozens more —possibly including some federal legislators— are currently under investigation and may be indicted for organized crime ties.

From the Justice in Mexico Project’s Monthly News Report: May

Rivera, Rafael. “Hermana del presidente Calderón reta al PRI ‘cuidarle las manos’.” El Universal May 4, 2009.
Rivera, Rafael. “Federales detienen a otro alcalde michoacano.” El Universal May. 27, 2009.
Cuenca, Alberto. “Ebrard lamenta no se haya avisado a Godoy de operativo,” El Universal May 27, 2009.
“Rechaza Ortega que detenciones en Michoacán afecten al PRD,” El Universal. May 27, 2009.
De la Luz González, María and Francisco Gómez. “Histórico: PGR pega al gobierno en Michoacán” El Universal May 27, 2009.
“Desmiente ayuntamiento de Nuevo Urecho detención de su alcalde,” Milenio May 27, 2009.
Morales, Alberto. “Muñoz Ledo percibe uso electoral de operativo en Michoacán,” El Universal May 27, 2009.
“Llaman a estados a investigar gabinetes,” Reforma May 27, 2009.
Sánchez, Virgilio. “Operativos deben ser en Los Pinos—AMLO.” Reforma May 27, 2009.
De la Luz González, María. “PGR retiene a funcionarios detenidos en Michoacán.” El Universal May 27, 2009.
“Están diputados bajo la lupa por narco,” Reforma May 28, 2009.
Notimex, “Citan a 36 personas más por caso Michoacán,” El Universal May 28, 2009.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *