Transparency & accountability

Zacatecas senator takes a leave of absence on allegations of family drug-ties

Ricardo Monreal Ávila, former-governor of Zacatecas (1998-2004), took leave of his senatorial position in response to charges that his brother, Cándido, is involved in drug trafficking. Rumors about the Monreal family have circulated for several months, with the recent charges bringing national attention to a series of allegations and counter-claims that reveal long-standing tensions in local Zacatecas politics.

The Monreal family has been at the center of several controversies in the state of Zacatecas in recent months. According to El Universal, in the fall of 2008, a series of anonymous e-mails —attributed to the Monreal family— charged that Governor Amalia García was involved with Los Zetas, a commando unit that is believed to have taken over the operations of the Gulf Cartel. Later, David Monreal, the mayor of Fresnillo and the brother of the senator, issued a complaint that the Zacatecas state government was distributing pamphlets bearing false claims against his family, including alleged ties to organized crime.

In the most recent round of allegations, Cándido Monreal was indicted on Friday, May 22, on charges of harboring more than 14 tons of marijuana on one of his properties. Despite calls from political opponents for a full investigation of Senator Monreal as well, the Federal Attorney General’s office (PGR) indicated that there were presently no charges or inquiries pending against him. In proclaiming his leave of absence, Senator Monreal issued a formal statement defending his 33-year history as a politician, and describing it as one characterized by hard and honest work.

Further, the senator alleged that he and his family were the victims of a vicious “mud-slinging campaign” by Governor García, as well as members of the National Action Party (PAN). A fellow Workers’ Party (PT) senator, Alejandro González, also asserted that the affair was a “smokescreen” to distract from the 53 felons who escaped from the maximum security prison in Cieneguillas, Zacatecas a few days before. Ricardo Monreal went even further by intimating the possible complicity of the García administration with drug-traffickers as a factor that may have facilitated the prisoners’ escape. García responded that it was an act of “cowardice” to make such charges without proof.

The controversy belies long-standing tensions between the former- and current-governor, and brings national attention to local politics in Zacatecas. Over a decade ago, after several years of service in the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI), Monreal was passed over for his party’s gubernatorial nomination. After this snub, Monreal defected and ran instead as the candidate of the Party of the Democratic Revolution (PRD). His election in 1998 gave the left-leaning opposition party its third state-level victory (after Baja California Sur and Mexico City) in history.

At the end of his term in 2004, Monreal’s chosen successor for the PRD’s gubernatorial nomination was unable to defeat Amalia García, a challenger from a rival faction of the party. During the state’s midterm elections in 2007, Monreal ran afoul of the governor and the PRD’s national party leadership when he openly supported candidates for opposing parties (including his brother David’s successful mayoral candidacy in Fresnillo). The PRD thereafter initiated proceedings to expel Monreal from the PRD, finally leading him to defect to the PT in December 2008 (though his separation from the PRD was not finalized until May 10).

On Saturday, May 23, Monreal indicated that he and his family were analyzing the possibility of returning to his post in the Senate as early as the following week.

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


Mejía, Irma. “Se recrudecen ataques entre Amalia y Ricardo.” El Universal May 19, 2009.

“Acusa Amalia cobardía de Monreal.” Reforma, May 19, 2009.

Monreal, Ricardo. “Petición de licencia.” Reforma May 20, 2009.

de la Luz González, María. “Cándido Monreal, indiciado” El Universal May 20, 2009.

“PGR no investiga a Monreal por narco,” El Universal May 22, 2009.

Ramos Pérez, Jorge. “Monreal analiza su regreso al Senado,” El Universal. May 23, 2009.

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