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Juan Camilo Mouriño, Secretarío de Gobernacion, killed

5 November 2008

Like most U.S. citizens abroad I was following the U.S. election returns all night, and was out all day. It’s only now — at one in the morning — that I can sit down and write about what is likely to be a more dramatic and immediate change in the political landscape — here — than the overwhelming victory of Barack Obama.

At just past 7 P.M. (Mexico City time), a Lear Jet, carrying nine persons, including former deputy chief Federal Prosecutor José Luis Santiago Vasconcelos, who had resigned after complaints about his ineffectiveness as a “drug warrior” but stayed in the government as an official with the Public Security Secretariat and Secretarío de Gobernacion, Juan Camilo Mouriño, fell out of the sky, crashing into Lomas de Chapultepec, at the Periferico Miguel Aleman — near the monument to the oil expropriation, and killed all on board.

The Federal District Prosecutors’ Office has already opened an investigation.

This is a huge issue, with both national security, political and international implications. Mouriño, who was only 37 years old, but was the second most powerful figure in the Mexican executive branch. Secretaria de Gobernacion has no real equivalent in English. His title is sometimes translated as “Interior Mininster” or “Home Secretary” but the closest U.S. counterpart would be the Secretary of Homeland Security … as well as Director of National Security, and the closest thing Mexico has to a Vice-President.

His selection last March, as a replacement for President Calderon’s original Secretaria de Gobernacion, Francisco Ramírez Acuña, was highly controversial. Ramírez was widely despised even in his own party for his alleged ties to narcotics dealers, and accused of being AWOL — or at least negligent — in the anti-narco war, on top of his tolerance of human rights abuse during his tenure as Governor of Jalisco. Mouriño, though seen as a young, fresh face came with his own baggage. As a dual Spanish-Mexican national, there were lingering questions about his constitutional qualifications for the position (the Secretaria de Gobernacion is the acting President if the President dies or is unable to perform his duties until Congress elects an interim President. Mouriño was born in Spain, and Mexico — like the United States — requires Presidents to be “natural born citizens”).

In addition, Mouriño’s own ties to companies with contracts with PEMEX , and his family business’ dealings with PEMEX, have been under investigation in the Chamber of Deputies. AND… Mouriño was the point-man on the anti-narcotics crusade.  And, as head of internal security, Mouriño was responsible for the recent scandal that involved federal agents spying and wiretapping opposition legislatators, and for attempts to tie all domestic dissent to narcotics dealers.  As the national security chief,  Mouriño collaborated closely with his United States and other nation’s counterparts in anti-terrorist and criminal prosecution issues.

It’s going to be impossible NOT to speculate on the narcotics angle… but given that among Mouriño’s political activities during his short tenure was his attempt to “sell” PEMEX de-nationalization, the location of the crashsite is either an odd coincidence, or a very werid ironic statement.

The Calderon Administration has been trying — with less and less success — to claim the war on drug dealers will make Mexico safer.  The recent arrests of high level police and security officials (including people working in the United States Embassy) for passing information to the narcos has only been the latest (and so far most serious) security breach to come out of the narco-war.  Politically, resistance to the Administration’s proposed PEMEX reforms — pushed by Mouriño– will mean the Calderon Adminstration will be in even more difficulty and resistance from the opposition parties to other domestic programs is likely to increase.

Political murder is a possibility, but assasinations at this level of governance are very, very rare.  A few EX-Presidents were murdered after coups, but had technically resigned office (Madero was the last one this happened to, back in 1913, and Venustiano Carreneza was killed while trying to set up a rebel government in 1920), but the only high-level political murders I can think of were that of President-elect Alvaro Obregon in 1928) and  PRI presidential candidate Donaldo Colosio in 1994.

But there are the unexplained accidents that many believe to this day to be murders:  Carlos Madrazo, the father of former PRi leader and 2006 Presidential candidate Roberto Madrazo … himself an important party leader… was killed along with his wife and several other reform PRI officials in an plane crash in 1969.  Manuel Clouthier, the PAN presidential candidate in the highly controversial 1988 Presiential election (which he lost badly, and was never a viable candidate) and Adolfo Aguilar Zinzer, a leader in several leftist parties and Mexico’s Ambassador to the United Nations during the Fox Administration (when Mexico — then a member of the Security Council — defied the United States and Great Britain in denying support for an invasion of Iraq) both died in car accidents some believe to be too “convenient” to have been accidental.

Whatever the truth, this is both a tragedy for the victims and their families, for Mexico and for Mexican-U.S. relations.  With a new administration about to take office in the Untied States with a very different approach to domestic and foreign policy this will create a huge challenge for both nations.

5 Comments leave one →
  1. 5 November 2008 4:17 am

    I am really surprise to see how the Mexican Press is reacting in this serious matter, it looks like the crash is just another accident more, rather than a fact that will really shake the politics in the country.

    It is amazing how fast Luis Tellez -Minister of Communication and Transport- determinate that it was an accident and how the government is calling to “not speculate” of the possibility of an attack.

  2. 5 November 2008 8:16 am



  1. Global Voices Online » Mexico: Plane Crash Carrying Top Government Officials Leaves Doubts
  2. Global Voices em Português » México: Queda de avião com membros do governo levanta suspeitas
  3. Better Dead Than Said? « The Mex Files

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