Saturday 16 June 2018

Jalisco's new governor will be staring down the CJNG

La politica es la politica has posted 32 articles - one for each state in Mexico, including Mexico City - in advance of the July 1, 2018, presidential election. For links to all 32 articles, scroll to the bottom of this post.

The Mexican state of Jalisco has a population of 8.25 million, with its capital being Mexico’s second largest city, Guadalajara. The state is bordered on the west by the Pacific Ocean, and extends far to the northeast over the Sierras, including an odd protrusion to the north.

Guadalajara is the home of mariachi, and is also known for being a bastion of the Roman Catholic faith. To the north is world-famous town of Tequila. To the west of the capital are two areas popular with foreigners: Lake Chapala, and Puerto Vallarta on the Pacific Coast.

Given Jalisco’s conservatism, it’s no surprise the left-leaning parties tend not to do well here. The governor is a member of Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI), which ruled Mexico for most of the 20th century, and is the party of the sitting president, Enrique Peña Nieto. Two federal senators are also members of the PRI, with the third belonging to the right-of-center and pro-Catholic National Action Party (PAN).

Jalisco is one of the eight states which will also be electing a new governor on July 1. It’s a full ticket. The following candidates are running: Carlos Manuel Orozco Santillán, (Party of the Democratic Revolution, or PRD); Carlos Lomelí Bolaños (for the Juntos Haremos Historia, “Together We Make History”, coalition, which includes Morena, the Workers Party, and Social Encounter); Enrique Alfaro Ramírez (Citizens Movement); Miguel Castro Reynoso (PRI); Miguel Ángel Martínez Espinosa (PAN); Martha Rosa Araiza Soltero (New Alliance); and Salvador Cosío Gaona (Green Party).

Let’s unpack this. The New Alliance party was created by the National Union of Education Workers, specifically its obscenely corrupt leader, Elba Esther Gordillo, and is in alliance with the PRI. The only reason this party is fielding a candidate in Jalisco is to peel left-leaning union votes from the Together We Make History coalition, specifically Morena.

Similarly, the Green Party, known in Mexico by its acronym PVEM, is a cynical law-and-order party that is allied with the PRI. The PVEM is promoting a platform that is devoid of any environmental message, with weak populist policies such as the expansion of food banks and the return of the death penalty. In this example, the PRI uses the PVEM to draw disaffected votes from independents and conservatives, specifically to weaken the PAN.

Citizens Movement is a minor party that, to date, has yet to win a governorship. This left-of-center party was first led by presidential candidate for Morena Andrés Manuel López Obrador (known as “AMLO”), and has partnered with the PRD in the past. Though it has no direct alliance with the PRI, fielding a candidate in this state election would appear to serve little purpose other than weakening Morena and the Together We make History coalition. However, recent polls suggest that candidate Enrique Alfaro Ramírez, who has a long political history in Jalisco, could win this.

The fact that the PAN and the PRD are fielding candidates at the state level in Jalisco contradicts the cynical coalition between the two parties at the federal level. The PRD, traditionally leftist, effectively collapsed when AMLO bailed and formed Morena, the “National Regeneration Movement”. In desperation, at the federal level the PRD made an unlikely alliance with the PAN. Here in Jalisco, having a PRD candidate could also hurt Morena and the Together We Make History coalition.

Which leaves us with the candidates for the three main parties: PRI, PAN, and Morena (Together We Make History). In the last election the present PRI governor, Aristóteles Sandoval, won his office by only 4% over his nearest rival, Enrique Alfaro Ramírez of the Citizens Movement.

The PRI candidate, Miguel Castro Reynoso, would seem to have little chance this time around. Unlike many of his PRI gubernatorial colleagues, Aristóteles Sandoval has not been mired in corruption scandals, but he has been unable to stem the surge in violence in Jalisco (see below).

That would suggest that the PAN and Morena candidates have a shot at the governor’s office. The vote won’t hinge on economics so much as security, and here the Morena candidate Carlos Lomelí Bolaños may have the advantage. But recall, last time the Citizens Movement candidate almost won, and this time around they are putting on a strong campaign.

The security situation in Jalisco has deteriorated along with the stellar growth of the Jalisco New Generation Cartel (CJNG). The CJNG began as a client for the larger Sinaloa cartel, taking the fight to the ultraviolent Los Zetas cartel. But now Los Zetas are weakened, and the CJNG has emerged as an independent organization and a major threat to the Sinaloa Cartel, and to public security in general.

The result has been a wave of violence as the CJNG fights Sinaloa, as well as a splinter group named Nueva Plaza. There has been a sustained attack by all groups against public officials who are either honestly working against criminal interests, or in the employ of a rival group.

Along with the presence of the dominant criminal organizations, authorities in Jalisco have said that they are aware of at least 40 “narco-cells” devoted to kidnapping, mostly in the Guadalajara area. The purpose is twofold: to intimidate rivals, and to extort money.

Sometimes, innocents are taken, perhaps with police complicity, as was the case in a recent story that made national headlines, in which three film students picked a home in the southern Guadalajara suburb of Tonalá, which was being watched by the CJNG, in order to make a school project. Armed men who identified themselves as police officers seized the three students and drove off with the young men in a pair of SUVs. The students were then tortured, killed, and their bodies dissolved in acid.  

The killing off the three students resulted in massive street protests, much of it directed toward possible police complicity in the crime wave. But it was building for some time.

For example, police in the town of Tecalitlan in southern Jalisco have been accused in the Jan. 31 abduction of the three Italians. Officials say police handed the Italians over to a criminal organization, reportedly an affiliate of the CJNG. The men have not been seen since.

In Puerto Vallarta, two top municipal police commanders were among more than a dozen suspects arrested earlier this year in the kidnapping and slaying of the two federal agents from an elite squad targeting organized crime.

As well, a Jalisco federal police inspector was recently killed in Veracruz. He was apparently there for personal reasons, but on his body, which showed signs of torture, was a note claiming that he was in fact there to open a “plaza” (territory) for the CJNG.

These are just some examples – there are many stories of large-scale shootouts, some in daylight in downtown Guadalajara – and often with multiple deaths. The Jalisco Human Rights Commission issued a report earlier this year saying that during the five years in which Aristóteles Sandoval has been governor, 14,000 people have been reported as “untraceable.” Most of the victims have been aged between 19 and 25.

At least 105 public officials have been killed in Jalisco state since 2013, including politicians and the state tourism secretary. On April 15 of this year the mayor of Jilotlán de los Dolores, Jalisco, was ambushed and killed in the Tierra Caliente region near the border with Michoacán. Juan Carlos Andrade Magaña, 47, who was seeking another term under the banner of the Citizens’ Movement (MC) party, was ambushed by armed civilians. As well, last December PRD deputy Saúl Galindo, who had announced his pre-candidacy to run for mayor of Tomatlán, Jalisco, was shot to death at his ranch.

Freedom of the press is also an issue in Jalisco. One of the most notorious cases was that of American journalist John Clay Walker, who was murdered in 1985 by cartel leader Rafael Caro Quintero and his men. Since then seven journalists have been murdered in Jalisco  two of them after the drug war commenced in December, 2006.

By the end of May Jalisco had the fifth highest number of homicides in Mexico so far in 2018, at 567 people killed, a 40% increase over the same period in 2017. The Catholic Church is also a target: in April of this year Father Juan Miguel Contreras was shot to death in his sacristy in Tlajomulco de Zúñiga, Jalisco.

CJNG leader Nemesio “El Mencho” Oseguera Cervantes remains at large, though his wife, Rosalinda González – who is believed to have had a role administering finances for cartel – was arrested late in May in the Zapopan neighbourhood in Guadalajara. Gerardo “N”, allegedly the cartel’s chief in Michoacán and Guanajuato, was also recently arrested in Zapopan.

And as is true elsewhere in Mexico, Jalisco also numerous land conflicts, with indigenous and communal landowners fighting with corrupt officials.

Communal landowners in El Zapote, Jalisco, protested in early May with regard to land that was expropriated for the Guadalajara airport in 1975. Over the years, the landowners have received several compensation payments, but claim they never received the full amount. They allege that state Interior Secretary Roberto López Lara tried to pay off legal authorities, including judges, in order to secure the right to use the land.

As well, in early June a longstanding dispute over land claimed by the indigenous Wixárika people in Jalisco flared up when residents of a town in Bolaños took 15 federal, state and municipal officials hostage for nine hours.

Clearly, Jalisco is a mess, putting in jeopardy its reliance on tourism, as well as “Mexico’s Silicon Valley” in Guadalajara. And who will the people of Jalisco choose as president? It is hard to imagine them choosing PRI candidate Antonio Meade. Conservatives will park their vote with PAN candidate Ricardo Anaya. And, following the national polls, in which the Mexican people are expressing their disgust with the “mafia” that runs the country, it is likely that most will vote will got to the Morena candidate, Andrés Manuel López Obrador.

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