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Whoopsie! The pre-election surprise

23 June 2012

CNN (and just about everybody else) reported on Thursday:

The son of Mexico drug lord Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman was arrested in western Mexico on Thursday, officials said.

Alfredo Guzman Salazar was arrested in Jalisco state, the Mexian navy said in a statement.

“We congratulate the government of Mexico and the Calderon administration on another victory against the ruthless cartels,” said U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration spokesman Rusty Payne. “This is the first step in bringing another ruthless drug baron to justice.”

The arrest of El Chapo’s son comes less than two weeks before Mexico’s presidential elections.

According to a U.S. law enforcement official, the DEA was on the scene for the arrest and assisted the Mexican navy with intelligence to help locate Guzman Salazar.

A slight problem, and a bit troubling, given the information in the last two paragraphs (that I bold-faced) of that story:

From Friday’s Guadalajara Reporter:

The federal Attorney General’s Office (PGR) admitted on Friday that it misidentified a man arrested by the Mexican military in Zapopan Thursday as the son of Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman, the world’s most wanted drug capo.

The news of the arrest of “Jesus Alfredo Guzman Salazar” echoed around the world after he was flown to Mexico City Friday afternoon and subsequently presented to the capital’s media.

But just after noon on Friday, the arrested man’s lawyer told reporters that his client’s real name is Felix Beltran Leon and is not related to “El Chapo,” who allegedly runs the powerful Sinaloa drug cartel.

A PGR spokesperson said the erroneous identification of Beltran as El Chapo’s son was based on information supplied by U.S. security agencies.

U.S. Ambassador to Mexico Anthony Wayne said it would be up to Mexico to clarify everything related to the identity of the detainee.

There was quite a bit of speculation that the Calderón Administration was going to strike a major blow against Chapo Guzmán timed to come just before the Presidential election. While I don’t think all the speculation was just wishful thinking, there was a sense that it was based on two possibly wrong premises: first, that the Calderón Administration really wants to “strike a blow” against Sr. Guzmán’s organization; and second, that such an action would turn the election back towards PAN candidates.

ON the first premise, it’s been painfully obvious that when the “kingpins” are taken down (usually, and conveniently, killed before they can be sent to trial), they are rivals of the Sinaloans, or break-away factions from the Sinaloans. The government itself credits the “victory” of the Sinaloans over their rivals in Juarez in the fight for control of the export corridor with lowering that city’s murder rate to an almost acceptable level.

ON the second point, violence (and the response to violence) has not been the overriding campaign issue in this election, and Calderón’s faction within PAN has not been particularly thrilled with their party’s candidate, Josefina Vásquez Mota. While Vásquez Mota would possibly benefit from a strike against Chapo, a strike against his organization (or family) does little except undercut the first premise… which MIGHT cut into the votes for the leftist candidate, since neither Vásquez Mota, nor the PRI’s Peña Nieto have shown much initiative in outlining a real “strategy” that’s at all different from the present one.

More baleful is the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency’s attempts to get at least reflected credit for what turned out to be a botched operation.  Read this again: “…the DEA was on the scene for the arrest and assisted the Mexican navy with intelligence…”  All this means is something we knew, and which Mexican voters may not appreciate.  That the Mexican government is allowing foreign secret police agents to “ride along” (or participate in) operations here… and, that the DEA’s vaunted intelligence operations are of dubious value.  It’s not at all over the top to ask how much “DEA intelligence” was used to plan the extra-judicial murders of various other alleged kingpins… and maybe of other low level operatives.

Assuming they weren’t mistaken (or careless) in deciding who to target  — yes, I am saying it’s very probable that the DEA is involved in murders here.  With the U.S. Administration making the unilateral decision that it can order the execution of foreigners any where, any time for any reason, a good place to start the judicial reforms (something we were promised years ago, as sweetener for signing on to this U.S. backed “war”) would be to stop depending on dubious foreign sources with no compunction about “collateral damage.”


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