Last updateFri, 24 Apr 2015 4pm
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South of North – Cartel kingpin busts, an attack by a brazen new cartel, growing possibility of high-level corruption

“Achieving the rule of law,” declared Luis Rubio, “requires a conscious decision: first, to construct government capacity and, second, for the government itself, the president, to accept submission to the resulting institutions.” 

Rubio wrote that in his book, “A Mexican Utopia, the Rule of Law is Possible,” published in English and Spanish by the Woodrow Wilson Center. He is director of the Mexico city-based think tank, Center of Research for Development (CIDAC).  

Presently, trouble doubles its fist as a public uproar forces a president on to the defensive in the wake of the disappearance of 43 student teachers, and home purchases by his wife and financial minister turn the stomachs of more than 50 percent of the Mexican electorate.  

Ancient, awkward political implements apparently convinced the present rulers of Mexico that they can bring back some of the ancient — if notoriously widespread — oligarchy of the Partido Revolucionario Institutional (PRI) and nobody would notice the rank fragrance. Not if enough political decorations were gifted about. 

And if harsh past memories were adequately ornamented with the pompadored, youthful-appearing son of a well-known political family, and his becoming soap-opera TV-star wife.  This unfortunate development not only offends many Mexicans but many observant/alert foreigners.  

(Simply because a fetid state of affairs occurs in the dominant, Spanish-speaking culture doesn’t mean such a nationwide cultural wounding should be embraced by foreign residents or long-run visitors. The Mexican government says it encourages bicultural friendships between hosts and visitors. The reason is obvious — money. Both visitors and Mexicans claim one million Americans live in Mexico.  One middle-class American with mathematic curiosity figured his family spends approximately 26,000 dollars a year, not counting trips back home. For many U.S. citizens living in the Lake Chapala area that can be a relatively modest sum.)   

Yet for many Mexicans — and for last year’s government plans for the future — circumstances at the moment have become bumpy. Peña Nieto’s optimistically imagined political/economical paradise is becoming tattered, say analysts at the National Autonomous University of Mexico, and think tanks such as the  Center of Research for Development (CIDAC), and the Department of Political Science at the Instituto Tecnológico Autónomo de México (ITAM).    

How could that happen?  It was so carefully planned. The right incorrigibly greedy and bloodthirsty civil enemies had been mollified, said hard-eyed insiders and much of the Mexican street. But enemies have a habit of never staying mollified for long no matter how they’re treated. They simply wouldn’t stay subdued, acting civilized made them restless.

And evidently from the presidential point of view so much of the citizenry seems obstreperous that it puzzles ruling and wealthy elites. The citizenry has not behaved as the nation’s rulers expected.  It’s true that the fall in the price of a major Mexican export product — oil — has climbed, slashing sales and also the economic moves Peña Nieto had planed to make; yet that price has been inching down a bit.   

Of course that change doesn’t bring back the 43 student teachers from the rural school of Ayotzinapa in the state of Guerrero who were kidnapped by local police and handed over to drug cartelistas, who killed them, then, the government says, cremated them.  Only one body has been convincingly identified.  

And while the jefes of two tough cartels, Jesus Salas Aguayo, of the Juarez gang, and Jose Tiburcio Hernandez Fuentes of the Gulf outfit, have been captured, this has been worrisomely offset by the aggressive Cartel New Generation of Jalisco. 

On April 9 the New Generation pulled off a brazen attack against security forces in this state. On a bridge near a lonely piece of road between Guadalajara and Puerto Vallarta, gunmen, using assault weapons and grenade launchers, killed 15 Jalisco state policemen and wounding five others. The New Generation attackers ambushed the police by setting a flaming truck on the road. When the police stopped to investigate, the cartelistas opened fire. The result brought the total number of police officers killed in the state to 21 in just over three weeks.  

The fortunes, especially for the long haul, rise and fall. Savvy journalists, for a change, are able to agree with government “analysts” on this occasion: The CJNG is today rising faster than any of its lethal competitors.

Many of cartels are in reorganization, or revising their police decimated leadership. The CJNG is relatively new, being a amalgamation of the former Mileno cartel, whose leader had been captured by authorities five years ago. Its present leader is a former police officer and the cartel thrives also by selling weapons, by extortion, kidnapping and selling government gasoline out of spiked Pemex lines. Locally, they’ve been linked to dozens of bodies found two years ago in mass grave in the Jalisco town of La Barca. 

Regarding ennui penetrating the presidential atmosphere that many Mexican observers have noted: the slow response to the murders and disappearance of the 43 rural students of Iguala, Guerrero, and the “purchases” by Nieto’s wife and his Minister of Finance Luis Videgaray of vastly expensive homes.  They were built by a subsidiary of a government contractor friend of Nieto, Mexican mogul Juan Armando Hinojosa. The “scandal” seemed to go no where until a female journalist, Carmen Aristegui, revealed the home was a product of Grupo Higa, a company headed by Hinojosa. Grupo Higa had won lucrative public works contracts when Nieto was governor of the State of Mexico. Earlier, in November 2014, it was part of a Chinese-Mexican consortium that won a 3.7-billion-dollar bullet train contract.  

Once rumor tinged the air that Aristegui’s report was about to become public, Nieto canceled the train deal. The collusion between the wife, the Hinojosa and the billion-dollar Chinese deal set a fuse under public accusations of presidential collusion. And a fit of ennui set in. Since then, talk of Peña Nieto’s problems has been oddly muffled. Except for mummers of press censorship slipping through the air.