Oaxaca meets the new boss —or does it?
The new governor of Mexico's conflicted Oaxaca state, Gabino Cué Monteagudo, was sworn in last month after winning on the ticket of United for Peace and Progress Coalition, made up of all the state's major opposition parties (PAN, PRD, PT and Convergencia). But much of the state bureaucracy remains loyal to the long-entrenched machine of the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI). Upon taking office, Cué says he found the bureaucracy crippled by years of endemic corruption. "There were no computers," he said. "We found that the staff payroll didn't match who actually was working... The bank statements were out of balance. The state automotive fleet was in terrible shape." Cué also faces local conflicts in 47 of the state's 570 municipalities, where local elections were annulled because of irregularities. (Miami Herald, Jan. 26)
Cué pledges to seek justice in numerous recent slayings of political activists and municipal officials in rural areas of the state—violence which has continued despite the new administration. Luis Jiménez Mata, the newly elected mayor of Santiago Amoltepec, was assassinated Jan. 13. Renato Cruz Morales, director of Democratic Cardenista Campesino Central (CCCD), was assassinated in Tuxtepec on Jan. 26. (El Universal, La Jornada, Jan. 27; AFP, Jan. 15)
The US ambassador to Mexico, Carlos Enrique Pascual, met with Cué on Jan. 27 to pledge support for his efforts on bringing justice in cases of political violence, as well as on organized crime, immigration and general security issues. (TV Bus, Tuxtepec, Oax., Jan. 27)
Already, Cué's administration has been tainted by claims of organized crime ties. Mario Emilio Zárate Vásquez, the new juridical director of the state Government Secretary and a longtime local figure in the Party of the Democratic Revolution (PRD), resigned in the face of accusations that he protected Flavio Méndez Santiago AKA "El Amarillo", reputed chief of Los Zetas narco gang, when he worked as sindico (judicial official) in the municipal government of Santa Cruz Xoxocotlán. The current municipal president (mayor) of Santa Cruz Xoxocoltán, José Julio Antonio Aquino, pledged to cooperate with the Prosecutor General of the Republic (PGR) in its investigation of the charges. (Ciudadanía Express, Jan. 24; Olor a Mi Tierra, Oaxaca, Jan. 20)
On Jan. 11, the Mexican army troops raided the Oaxaca City office of the Committee for the Defense of the People's Rights (CODEP) and the Committee for the Defense of Women's Rights (CODEM). According to CODEP members, some 20 soldiers broke down the door and searched the offices, holding the staff at gunpoint and refusing to produce a search warrant. Staff say the soldiers' commander, who identified himself only as "Carlos," said only they had received an "anonymous tip" that "organized crime held meetings" in the building. Other soldiers questioned neighbors about possible criminal or drug trafficking activity at the building.
In a statement on the raid, CODEP said: “There is no doubt that this strategy of state terrorism that is being advanced in our country is part of the Mérida Initiative and the Mesoamerica Project that the [Mexican] government signed with the United States...with the goal of destroying human rights and social organizations who oppose the continuation of the destruction of our nation and the violation of our national sovereignty by foreign interests." (Upside Down World, Jan. 20)
The Mérida Initiative is a US aid program officially aimed at fighting the drug cartels.
The Mesoamerican Integration and Development Project is a regional development program previously named the Plan Puebla-Panama. The name was changed at the suggestion of Mexican President Felipe Calderón in June 2008 at the 10th Tuxtla Summit of regional leaders, held in Villahermosa, Tabasco. (SIPAZ blog, July 1, 2008)