Official Corruption in Mexico, Once Rarely Exposed, Is Starting to Come to Light

shutterstock_113478238The New York Times, 6/23/2013

Andrés Granier has a sumptuous wardrobe and lifestyle. He has bragged about owning 400 pairs of shoes, 300 suits and 1,000 shirts, collected from luxury stores in New York and Los Angeles. His purchases barely fit in his several properties, scattered throughout Mexico and abroad. A tape recording of Mr. Granier’s boasts, making him sound like a highflying corporate executive, was leaked to a local radio station last month. But his job title, until December, was governor of a midsize southeastern Mexican state, a position that currently pays about $92,000 a year after taxes.

“We go to Fifth Avenue and buy a pair of shoes; $600,” Mr. Granier is heard saying about one of his trips abroad. “I took clothes to Miami, I took clothes to Cancún, I took clothes to my house, and I have leftovers,” he added, saying, “I’m going to auction them off.” (The day after the recording was made public, he said that he had been inebriated while making those statements in October.) But just as eye-opening as the extravagances of a public official — now under investigation after Mr. Granier’s successor discovered that about $190 million in state funds was unaccounted for, the state government said this month — is that they came to light at all in a country where state and local corruption, a serious drag on Mexico’s development, run deep and are rarely exposed.

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Mexico drug cartel commander pleads guilty in murder of U.S. official

justice - gavel and bookReuters, 5/23/2013

A Mexican drug cartel commander known as “Tweety Bird” pleaded guilty on Thursday in federal court in Washington to ordering the ambush and murder of U.S. immigration agents in 2011, according to U.S. officials. The plea related to a February 2011 incident when two “hit squads” from the Los Zetas drug cartel forced an armored U.S. government vehicle off a highway near Mexico City and surrounded it, federal prosecutors said.

Zetas commander Julian Zapata Espinoza, known as “El Piolin” (Tweety Bird), ordered U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement special agents Jaime Zapata and Victor Avila out of the car, said Acting Assistant Attorney General Mythili Raman of the U.S. Justice Department’s Criminal Division. When the agents refused, identifying themselves as American diplomats from the U.S. embassy, Espinoza ordered the gunmen to fire on the vehicle. Zapata was killed and Avila was seriously wounded but survived, officials said.

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Mexico government downplays deadly violence

crime sceneThe Los Angeles Times, 4/11/13

The new government claimed the homicide rate in February was the lowest single monthly toll in 40 months. However, the number, 914, was about 5% lower than Reforma newspaper estimates and did not take into account the month’s fewer days in calculating the comparison. Peña Nieto and his officials have deliberately sought to refocus attention on Mexico’s still sluggish economy and issues other than violence in hopes of burnishing the government’s image and attracting investment that would in turn finance ambitious domestic programs.

In many ways, the government propaganda campaign has succeeded. From Washington think tanks to local Mexican newspapers, many of which have been attacked or threatened by criminal gangs, a rhetoric has emerged that ignores facts and promotes discussion of the economy over violence.

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