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José Francisco who?

15 July 2010

(A couple minor updates, in italics)

Felipe Calderón has gone through four Secretaríos de Gobernacíon in as many years.  The first — who lasted just over a year — was the former Governor of Jalisco, Francisco Ramírez Acuña. Among other things, the Secretarío de Gobernacíon is charged with overseeing national security.

While privately, many whispered about his possible connection to narcotics traffickers, he was more condemned for his well-documented contempt for human rights (like having 1500 kids rounded up at gun point during a rave to confiscate a whopping 65 grams of marijuana… and earn himself sixty never-to-be-investigated denunciations before the Jalisco Human Rights Commission, not to mention the condemnation by Amnesty International for allowing, if not encouraging, torture and abuse of protesters during the 2004 Summit of Caribbean, Latin American and European leaders in Guadalajara). None of which probably disqualifies him for the security chief part of the job — not really, anyway — although he was widely seen by everyone except his own party as an incompetent boob.

What really did him in was that the Secretarío de Gobernacíon is also the de facto Presidential Chief of Staff, and the guy was not a good negotiator. It’s not like he could torture opposition deputies into backing administration initiatives.

No one was sorry to see Ramirez Acuna go in January 2008, but Juan Camillo Mouriño Terrazo brought his own baggage to the office. First off, he was born in Spain, which led to open speculation about his Mexican nationality. Mexico does not have a Vice-President, and the Secretarío de Gobernacíon is — along with everything else — the #2 guy in the Executive Branch. While it’s not clear that he automatically assumes the Presidency if anything were to happen, it is assumed that the Secretarío de Gobernacíon would — as he does when the President is out of the country — become acting President.

While Mouriño was a much better negotiator than Ramírez, evidence presented by the PRD that Mouriño had used a previous job with PEMEX to steer contracts to his (Spanish) family businesses suggested he was not exactly Sr. Limpio, those nagging constitutional questions hung on… never to be answered, as Mouriño, along with José Vasconcellos (son of THE José Vasconcellos), the top Federal Narcotics prosecutor, were both killed in an airplane accident that many still believe was no accident after only 10 months on the job.

The replacement, something of a surprise at the time, was Fernando Gómez-Mont Urueta, best known as a defense attorney specializing in fraud and white-collar crime. Of course, being a conservative pro-business administration, the left had a field day looking for dirt on Gómez-Mont. As a national security guy, he’s a typical right-wing hard-ass, and he’s a social conservative, but then again, he’s a PAN appointee, and that’s to be expected. Nothing particularly scandalous in his background ever emerged although he was closely tied both through legal business and politically to the missing (and controversial) “Jefe Diego”.

There were no major political reforms (meaning changes, not necessarily for the better) coming from the Executive Branch during Goméz-Mont’s tenure, so it’s hard to assess his skills in negotiating with the Legislature.   However, digging into the past, David Agren (one of the few foreign reporters… probably the only foreign reporter… ever assigned to cover the Mexican legislature) writes:

No one ever questioned Gómez-Mont’s negotiating talents. He formed a formidable PAN negotiating tag-team with his legal and political mentor, the currently missing former presidential candidate Diego Fernández de Cevallos – who is eroneously mentioned in many press reports as being a close friend of Calderón. They negotiated many of the early electoral reforms that led to an independent IFE and, it’s believed, in exchange for recognizing the scandalous 1988 election of Carlos Salinas, they brokered a deal so the PAN victory in Baja California would be permitted – the first time a state government slipped away from the PRI.

Still, he’s somewhat inflexible, having expressed extreme unhappiness over a deal between PAN and PRI not to challenge each other in next year’s State of Mexico Governor’s race, in exchange for PRI support for the PAN proposed national budget. He went so far as to resign from the party  earlier this year in protest of PAN’s alliance with the PRD in several state elections . And, lately, he has been raising questions about his administration’s prosecution of the “drug war”. Rumors that he was about to be sacked, or planned to quit have been circulating for a while now, and his resignation, just after the elections, really isn’t all that unexpected.

What is unexpected is his replacement. José Francisco Blake Mora is very much an unknown outside of his home state of Baja California.  Baja may loom large in “expat” and tourism circles, but it’s the other side of the moon in Mexican politics. He served in the state governor’s cabinet, was in the state legislature and was once an also-mentioned candidate for the Procurador General (Attorney General) slot. Let’s put it this way: his three paragraph entry in the Wikipedia (Spanish edition only) was only updated today, based on wire service reports from one of the Tijuana papers. The guy’s apparently a PAN loyalist (the opposition is already sneering that he’s a Calder’on “yes man”),  a competent enough (as these things go) official from a minor state and… that’s about all anyone can say.  My guess is that having been in the Gobernacíon office in the Baja, perhaps he’s made connections with U.S. drug officials, who have put some pressure on the Mexican administration to appoint him to this sensitive position.   But, like I said, the guy’s basically a cypher at this point.

(I received a couple of emails, a comment and noticed in the press that Blake’s reputation in Baja California is as a police organizer, bringing down the death toll in the “drug war” — which makes me think it’s ONLY the drug war that is in Calderón’s thinking… that and Blake is a personal acquaintance from their law school days).

It’s as if the Calderón Administration has given up on everything BUT pursuit of the drug war, and is just going with party faithful and true believers, as it runs out the clock until the 2012 elections. It also, PERHAPS, opens the way for Goméz-Mont to mount a challenge for the PAN presidential nomination… something he said he doesn’t want, but then, when politicians lips move…

“Hernandez” on the “evolution” of the Secretaries during Don Felipe’s tenure appeared in this morning’s Jornada:

One Comment leave one →
  1. humberto permalink
    15 July 2010 10:21 am

    One thing Blake is not is a “right winger”. PAN in baja is full of pragmatic politicians, like the old PRI.
    In Baja, everyone is in shock as his fall was expected for he is seen as responsible for pushing most of the candidates that lost.
    It seems Calderon just wants someone he can trust, which does not bode well for the rest of the Nation.

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