Guerrero and Narco-Politics

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By: Luis Hernández Navarro

A two metre long narco-banner was found in the early hours of October 16. It appeared on the rear fence of secondary school number 3 in Iguala, Guerrero, less than one kilometre from the 27th infantry battalion. On it, in a message written with letters printed in red and black paint, El Choky asks President Peña Nieto for justice. He denounces, with (first) names, last names and pseudonyms, those responsible for the murder and disappearance of the Ayotzinapa students.

The state’s attorney general, Iñaky Blanco, recently pointed to El Choky as chief of the Guerreros Unidos (Warriors United) gunmen, and the one responsible for ordering the massacre and disappearance of the youths last September 26, after the attack on them from police and gunmen.

The list of those associated with the criminal group and denounced in the banner is long: eight mayors, directors of Public Security, the Secretary of Agrarian, Territorial and Urban Development’s delegate and different personages. According to the denouncer, “they are the ones who the government allows to walk around free and committing so much crime against the population.” Finally it clarifies: “I don’t have all the blame.” He signs: “Sincerely: Choky.”

The criminal climate denounced in the narco-message is not exclusive to Iguala and to seven municipal presidencies of Tierra Caliente. The kind of relationship between Mayor José Luis Abarca, his local police and organized crime, uncovered with the massacre of last September 26, is present in many Guerrero municipal governments. We’re dealing with a relationship that also involves important local politicians, state and federal legislators, party leaders, police chiefs and military commanders. Thus, we are able to characterize the existing political regime in the state as a narco-state.

Denunciations like El Choky’s run from mouth to mouth among Guerrerans. Business leaders, social leaders and journalists have documented this nexus. Part of the local and national press has published it. In some cases, like in Iguala with the assassination of the Popular Union’s three leaders, formal accusations have even been presented to the relevant authorities. Everything has been in vain.

Those who have warned of the extent and depth of the narco-politics in the state have been eliminated and threatened. When the businessman Pioquinto Damián Huato, the leader of the Canaco in Chilpancigo, accused Mario Moreno, the city’s mayor, of having ties with the criminal group (called) Los Rojos, he was the victim of an attack in which his daughter-in-law died and his son was injured.

The politicians pointed to have invariably denied the accusations and have explained them as the result of political quarrels, or that they are not responsible for the behaviour of their friends or relatives. They have said that the authorities ought to investigate them and that they are in the most willing to clarify things. But nothing has been done. The pact of impunity that protects the political class has acted together time after time.

According to Bishop Raúl Vera, who headed the Diocese of Ciudad Altamirano [1] between 1988 and 1995, impunity is the most lacerating characteristic of Guerrero and its most important challenge. Its extent and persistence –he points out– encourages crime and the violation of human rights and dignity.

But the violence is not only an issue of disputes between political-criminal groups for production centres, routes and plazas. It is also the result of the decision of the behind-the-scenes powers to get rid of opposition social leaders and to offer protection from (State) power to those who liquidate or disappear them.

The victims of forced disappearance and extrajudicial executions during the government of Ángel Aguirre are many. The correlation of murders and the detained-disappeared during his administration is enormous.

Among many others, the ecologists Eva Alarcón Ortiz and Marcial Bautista Valle; the students Jorge Alexis Herrera and Gabriel Echeverría; the leaders of the Emiliano Zapata Revolutionary Agrarian League of the South, Raymundo Velázquez and Samuel Vargas; the environmentalist Juventina Villa and his son Reynaldo Santana; the Iguala council member, Justino Carbajal; members of the Popular Union Arturo Hernández, Rafael Banderas and Ángel Román; Rocío Mesino, who was the face of the Campesino Organization of the Southern Sierra; campesinos Juan Lucena and José Luis Sotelo, promoters of a self-defence group in Atoyac; the campesino organizers José Luis Olivares Enríquez and Ana Lilia Gatica Rómulo all make up part of it.

The narco-politics is not an issue exclusive to the old PRI. Members of various currents within the PRD have been pointed out as part of it. A member of the New Left [current] and president of the state Congress, Bernardo Ortega, has repeatedly been pointed to as the boss of the Los Ardillos group. His father was in prison for the murder of two AFI agents and was executed on being released.

Servando Gómez, La Tuta, revealed in a video that Crescencio Reyes Torres, brother of Carlos, state leader of the Aztec Sun [meaning the PRD] and part of Grupo Guerrero [2], led by David Jimenez, is one of the principal “owners” of laboratories for the manufacture of synthetic drugs, allied with the Jalisco Nueva Generación Cartel.

At the same time, Governor Aguirre has repeatedly been linked with the Independiente de Acapulco Cartel. It is said that its leader, Víctor Aguirre, is the governor’s cousin. Of course, the governor, as well as the rest of those accused, have emphatically rejected the links with criminal groups.

Despite the multitude of denunciations against mayors and state officials, arrests have been scarce. Feliciano Álvarez Mesino, mayor of Cuetzala del Progreso, was arrested for kidnapping and organized crime. He was freed from blame as part of Grupo Guerrero. The official PRI mayor of Chilapa, Vicente Jiménez Aranda, was put in prison for kidnapping.

The murder and forced disappearance of the Ayotzinapa students has uncovered the sewer of Guerreran narco-politics. It remains to be seen whether they can put the lid back on.

[1] Ciudad Altamirano is a large city on the Guerrero side of the border with the state of Michoacán.

[2] Grupo Guerrero is a current, or faction, within the Party of the Democratic Revolution (PRD) in the state of Guerrero.

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