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“I am not a narco…” Rogaciano Alba

10 May 2008

In telephoning in his resignation as Guerrero Cattlemen’s Association, Rogaciano Alba Álvarez — whose two sons were killed in one massacre, his daughter kidnapped and was the target of a hit at a hotel meeting in Iguala (where seven more people were gunned down) said he has no idea who wants him dead… but that he’s not involved in the narcotics trade.

I’m tempted to believe him, or at least assume that it isn’t narcos that want Alba dead. Mark Stevenson’s report for the Associated Press begins with the assumption that whomever it is behind the attacks are connected to narcotics, tending to downplay other facets of Alba’s career that might make him enemies.

Although AK-47s and AR-15s were used in the Iguala attack, and “luxury cars” were mentioned on the attack that killed his sons, this doesn’t have the feel of a narcotics hit. Stevenson’s article in Bandaras News is headlined “Massacre of Mexican Strongman’s Family Breaks All the Rules”… a While the attacks may yet turn out to be related to the narcotics industry, these attacks don’t fit the “rules.” Narco hitmen don’t normally shoot up a whole meeting room just to get one guy (and miss), nor do they go after families.

(– added before posting — However, Joaquin “el Chapo” Guzmán‘s son and another gangster’s kid was taken out last night with a bazooka in a Cuilican parking lot. Young Guzman was a student working on a degree in Business Administration, so maybe the second generation in family “enterprises” are now legitimate targets).

Maybe “goodtimebob” (who know his Latin American weaponry) will correct this, but I don’t think sawed off shotguns (used in Petatlan where Alva’s sons and seven others were lined up and shot) are normally used by narcos.

Alva’s cattle operations have dislodged a lot of local farmers, and he may be the kingpin of an illegal logging operation. Despite assurances from his successor as Mayor of Petatlán that “everybody knows everyone, and we all get along,” as a politician, and as a cattle baron — and as a timber smuggler — Alva was going to make a lot of enemies. Including environmentalists.

In rich countries like the U.S. and Canada, we think of environmentalists as middle-class people. And, in Mexico, there are the middle-class and urban environmentalist types too. But there are also the dirt farmers, for whom issues like over-logging and over-grazing are life and death issues. Guerrero is in the middle of a prolonged drought, and the small farmers, already threatened by NAFTA rules changes and transgenetic corn (at the same time that corn producers are feeling pressured to adopt a mongenetic strain, cattlemen are welcoming genetic variety), are in a double bind. The big cattlemen are a theat, as are the loggers.

Violent confrontations between Alba’s people and the farmer/environmentalists are nothing new. Alba remains a suspect in the dummied up suicide of Mexico City attorney Digna Ochoa, who represented several Guerrero farmers who were accused of murder. In 2004, several Guerrero farmers were imprisoned in connection with blockades to stop timber harvesting and the alleged murder of timbermen connected to Alba.

Which makes me wonder whether the release this week of Palemón Cabrera González, who was accused of murder, battery and cattle rustling back in May 2000 might be significant. The cattle were owned by, and the murder victims worked for, one of Alva’s “lieutenants,” according to Jornada.

If the original charges are not completely bogus, it suggests that the environmentalists (or pissed-off dirt farmers) are willing to kill those only slightly connected to the operation (like the cowboy Cabrera was alleged to have murdered), or… the attack on the cattlemen’s association may have been aimed at the association in general, and not just Alba, the then-leader.

Of course, by calling one potential set of suspects “environmentalists” I may be doing what I’ve accused others of doing… applying modern political labels to Mexican traditions. A few years ago, rumors about Marxist guerillas, right-wing death squads and other ills of modern life were circulating after a massacre in Oaxaca. Which turned out to be a 500 year old feud between two neighboring village over water rights (and water is worth killing for in rural Oaxaca… and Guerrero). The attacks in Guerrero — for all their flashy cars and high-powered arms — may just be an old “kill the rich bastard” movement… nothing even particularly Mexican.

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