February 5, 2013
The New York Times, 2/4/2013
As Mexico’s military staged its annual Independence Day parade in September, spectators filled the main square of Mexico City to cheer on the armed forces. Nearly 2,000 miles away in Washington, American officials were also paying attention. But it was not the helicopters hovering overhead or the antiaircraft weapons or the soldiers in camouflage that caught their attention. It was the man chosen to march at the head of the parade, Gen. Moisés García Ochoa, who by tradition typically becomes the country’s next minister of defense.
The Obama administration had many concerns about the general, including the Drug Enforcement Administration’s suspicion that he had links to drug traffickers and the Pentagon’s anxiety that he had misused military supplies and skimmed money from multimillion-dollar defense contracts. In the days leading up to Mexico’s presidential inauguration on Dec. 1, the United States ambassador to Mexico, Anthony Wayne, met with senior aides to President Enrique Peña Nieto to express alarm at the general’s possible promotion.
December 23, 2010
The Wall Street Journal, 12/23/2010
His grandfather was the cross-eyed cousin of Mexico’s legendary revolutionary Francisco “Pancho” Villa. Like his famous ancestor, Carlos Villa is a hard-charging general who is charismatic, foulmouthed and not afraid to use his gun.
And some say he is just what Mexico needs as it wrestles with the corruption and violence spawned by the country’s powerful gangs of drug traffickers.
Retired Gen. Villa is the 61-year-old police chief in Torreon, an industrial city in Mexico’s violent northern badlands—a central drug-running route currently being fought over by two of Mexico’s biggest cartels.
Since taking over as the city’s top police officer in January, Mr. Villa has battled not only the city’s drug lords, but also his own police force, which was on the payroll of a powerful cartel.
In March, nearly the entire force walked off the job to demand the general’s ouster. The mayor faced a choice: Fire nearly every officer and leave the city at the mercy of drug gangs, or dump the general and keep corrupt police on the street. He fired the officers.
“It was the best decision I ever made,” says Mayor Eduardo Olmos. “It’s not that our cops weren’t fighting the bad guys—they were the bad guys.”
Crime nearly tripled in Torreon during a summer that saw some of Mexico’s bloodiest drug-related crimes, including the massacre by gunmen of 17 civilians at a party in August. But the mayor and his soldier-turned-police chief are building a new force and seeing some success against crime.