Monday 25 June 2018

The PRI is toast in Tamaulipas

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.

Located in northeastern Mexico, Tamaulipas’ eastern border is on the Gulf of Mexico, with its northern border covering 370 kilometers (230 miles) with the US state of Texas. This includes a thin strip of land extending west to Nuevo Laredo, with Laredo Texas being the sister city on the US side.

Other border cities in Tamaulipas include Reynosa and Matamoros, which are across from the US cities of McAllen and Brownsville, respectively. The capital of Tamaulipas is Ciudad Victoria, which is located in south-central part of the state, at the foothills of the Sierra Madre Oriental. The state has a population of ~3.5 million.

In recent years Tamaulipas has become infamous for battles between the Gulf Cartel, Los Zetas, and government forces for control of the “plaza” (territory). Due in large part to the brutal tactics of Los Zetas, particularly in the context of human smuggling, Tamaulipas has developed a reputation as being one of the most troubled states in Mexico.

Politically, the state has historically been controlled by the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI), under whose watchful eye it fell into a morass of corruption.  The examples are too numerous to include in this post, but at the highest levels we have the last two PRI governors, Eugenio Hernández Flores (2004-2010) and Tomás Yarrington (1999 to 2005).

Eugenio Hernández Flores has been indicted by the US government for money laundering, with his extradition pending, and Tomás Yarrington has been accused of receiving millions of dollars from the Beltran Leyva Cartel, Los Zetas, and the Gulf Cartel.

With regard to Yarrington, arrest warrants were issued in both Mexico and the United States in 2012, and after a five year search Yarrington was finally arrested in Florence, Italy, on 9 April 2017. He was then extradited to Texas a year later, in April 2018. It should be noted that the web of corruption here is wide, with ongoing investigations into Yarrington’s friends and relatives, as well as functionaries in the Tamaulipas government, and other politicians.

As a result of the depth of the PRI’s corruption, and in particular its close connection to organized crime, Tamaulipas is now largely under the control of the right-of-center National Action Party (PAN). The state has three federal senators. Two are members of the PAN, and one is a member of the PRI. Governor Francisco Javier García Cabeza de Vaca is also a member of the PAN.

Governor García assumed office in 2016. García is the first non-PRI governor in 86 years. He won with 50.1% of the vote, with some controversy over his undeclared properties, including a $2.5 million home in Mexico City, allegedly purchased in 2015 – directly before the gubernatorial campaign. As well, the left-of-center Party of the Democratic Revolution (PRD) claimed that it and other political parties had been threatened in three municipalities to support García.

The brutal tactics employed by Los Zetas, generally understood to be one of the most violent criminal organizations in the world, has made its eradication a top priority of the Mexican government. This has resulted in some criticism that other cartels, notably the Sinaloa Cartel, were receiving less attention, and that the government itself committed human rights abuses. However, the government has had some success: Los Zetas has now effectively been dismantled into smaller groups.

But insecurity remains. In 2017, 1,623 people were murdered in the state. Most recently, Morena campaign worker Leonardo Díaz was killed in the early hours of June 25th when coming home from a meeting. Díaz was working on the campaign of Jaime Hinojosa Peña, candidate for mayor of Miguel Alemán. His body was found in a campaign vehicle that had been pumped full of bullets and set on fire.

And Tamaulipas remains a dangerous place for journalists.

In January of this year the journalist Carlos Domínguez Rodríguez, 77, was stabbed 21 times inside his vehicle in the presence of his daughter and grandson. Domínguez worked independently and wrote a column on political issues. Previously, he had worked for the newspaper El Diario de Nuevo Laredo.

Three months after the murder, six people were arrested in connection with the crime: two were hitmen, and three were allegedly journalists – Luis Ignacio Valtierra Hernández, who was president of the local journalists' union, and the reporters Gabriel Garza Flores y Juan Jesús González Zúñiga.
Carlos Domínguez Rodríguez

The sixth was Jorge Alfredo Cantú García, the nephew of Carlos Cantú Rosas.  As a member of the PAN, the uncle Cantú Rosas was mayor of Nuevo Loredo. Now he has switched to the left-leaning Morena party, and is running to be mayor again. Cantú Rosas has been accused of corruption and of having links to the Cartel del Noreste, a remnant of the fractured Los Zetas cartel.

Authorities as well as Domínguez Rodríguez’ son believe that the murder was a political vendetta. The killing was set up by what Domínguez Rodríguez’ son has called the “pseudo-journalists”, who wanted his father to go to a meeting at a restaurant. Suspicious, he didn’t go, but was nonetheless killed later in his car.

In another instance, Tamaulipas reporter Héctor González Antonio, 39, who worked with the nationwide news service Grupo Imagen and the newspaper Excélsior – as well as his own news website, Todo Noticias – was killed either on the evening of May 28 or early in the morning on May 29, in Ciudad Victoria. He appeared to have been bludgeoned to death by a rock.

A motive has yet to be determined, but González’s most recent articles for Excelsior, according to the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) “were on crime in Tamaulipas, including criminal gangs involved in shootouts and blockades in the city of Reynosa and the arrest of four police officers accused of involvement in a May 26 kidnapping.”

Tamaulipas has always been a dangerous place to be a journalist, and things didn't improve after the drug war officially started in December, 2006.  During the 20th century, and up until the beginning of the drug war, there were an estimated 21 murders. Most of these were recent: there were 10 murders between 2000 - 2006. However, since the start of the drug war there have been another 15. As noted above, two of these have been in 2018.
Voting preferences for the federal senate - by state

Despite the fact that most of the violence in Tamaulipas is committed by organized crime, a significant amount of international attention has been given to the human rights abuses committed by the Mexican military and federal police.

At the end of May the United Nations reported that there were “strong indications” that federal security forces were responsible for the disappearance of 23 people, including at least five minors, in Tamaulipas from February until May 16, 2018, with three additional disappearance occurring after that date. According to the UN Human Rights Office, a federal security force allegedly perpetrated the disappearances, “often late at night or at dawn.” As well, local human rights organization recorded at least 40 disappearances during roughly the same period.

Despite the ongoing struggles in Tamaulipas, a security agreement between the state government and federal sources has fallen apart. As a result, beginning in mid-March and into May, 2,466 troops were withdrawn from Tamaulipas, despite their deployment not being scheduled to end until December. The agreement was first signed in 2011, and has been renewed annually ever since,

The reason for the breakdown was the unwillingness of the state of Tamaulipas to help pay for the cost of deploying the troops. One could argue that this is a good sign, in that the state may be more confident in its ability to provide security, but it’s unclear whether or not the state is willing or able to fill in the security vacuum – in 22 of 43 Tamaulipas's municipalities Mexican soldiers have acted as local police officers.

Even with this depletion of the military presence, 3,500 troops remain in Matamoros, Reynosa, Nuevo Laredo, Ciudad Mier, Tampico, and the state capital Ciudad Victoria. Of note: a Mexican non-government organization ranked Ciudad Victoria as Mexico’s fifth – and the world’s eighth – most violent city in 2017.

When it comes to the July 1 election, the PAN-led “Por Mexico al Frente” coalition is leading in the polls. This is not surprising given that left-leaning parties have tended not to do well in Tamaulipas. As well, some Morena candidates have had to weather their own corruption allegations.

On the federal front we can also expect Ricardo Anaya, the presidential candidate for the PAN-led “Por Mexico al Frente” to out-poll Andrés Manuel López Obrador (AMLO) of the Morena-led “Juntos Haremos Historia” (Together We make History) coalition. Given the atrocious behavior of the past two PRI governors in Tamaulipas, as well as the unpopularity of the PRI president Enrique Peña Nieto, the candidate for the PRI-led "Todos por Mexico" coalition, José Antonio Meade, will be lucky to get into the double digits.

Below is a list of eight candidates for the federal senate from Tamaulipas:

Below are the links to the posts for each state: 

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