President Felipe Calderón announced three changes in his cabinet tonight, including the appointment of his fourth Secretary of Government.
Secretary of Government: Fernando Gómez Mont resigned, and will be replaced by José Francisco Blake Mora. Gómez Mont quit the PAN last February in protest of the decision to form electoral alliances with the PRD; his open insubordination to the President ensured his departure sooner or later. He is returning to private law practice. Blake Mora is currently Secretary of Government in Baja California. He is said to be a close friend of Calderón from the days when they were both members of the federal Chamber of Deputies (2000-2003). Blake Mora is largely unknown at the national level. He is being given credit for reducing crime in Baja California through coordinating federal, state, and local police and security initiatives. However, he is also being blamed for the poor PAN performance in the July 4 elections, when the party lost mayoral races in 13 of 16 towns. (One clear loser in the change is Labor Secretary Javier Lozano. He had publicly lobbied for the position in the past few days.)
Head of the Office of the President: Patricia Flores Elizondo, sometimes called Mexico’s unofficial vice president, was ousted. Viewed as fiercely polemical and partisan, she has attracted her share of enemies, both within and without the Government. She recent(ly became vulnerable because of the disclosure that her four sisters and mother were on the government payroll. (Although there are rumors that she will be made an ambassador, the President made no announcement.) She is being replaced by Gerardo Ruiz Mateos, Secretary of Economy, who previously held the same job and has been one of Calderón’s closest advisers during the campaign and over the first three years of his Government.
Secretary of Economy: Bruno Ferrari, the head of ProMéxico, the government’s foreign investment promotion arm, takes over from Ruiz Mateos. Ferrari was previously a senior executive with Seminis Vegetable Seeds and Grupo Pulsar.
(Reforma 7/14, Universal 7/14, Excelsior 7/14)
Government Secretary Fernando Gómez Mont continued his hard line offensive, this time challenging the National Human Rights Commission (CNDH). Speaking at a forum on the prevention of torture, Gómez Mont said, in the presence of CNDH Chairman Raúl Plascencia, “This is the difficult challenge that gathers us here: to be neither complicit … in the coverup of anomalies that might exist within the security agencies nor to be the useful fools of criminals that serve to delegitimize … or weaken the action of the authorities.”
The CNDH last week issued a report on the killing of two boys aged nine and five, Martín and Bryan Almanza Salazar, in April that concluded that the Army had killed the boys at a traffic checkpoint outside Nuevo Laredo, lied about the events (claiming they were killed in crossfire with gangsters), fabricated evidence, and obstructed the investigation. “The version [of events] issued by the Defense Ministry … is incompatible with the results of the evidence obtained by the CNDH,” Placencia said after the CNDH released its report. (Reforma 6/16, 6/26)
Mexico state governor Enrique Peña Nieto, speaking at the same forum, rejected Gómez Mont’s thesis, and defended the role of the media:
In Mexico, press coverage of insecurity doesn’t persist simply because of editorial decisions, but also because of the specific weight that it occupies in the Government’s strategies. The results of this war have deteriorated the image of the country, even to the point of suggesting the existence of a failed state.
It is certainly not the case that the media are responsible for fomenting more violence or for keeping insecurity as a priority in the national agenda…. Fighting crime and enforcing the law is not a subject just for the media, nor for the parties, nor the responsibility of just one government. It is an obligation of the State, of the entire Mexican State.
At the Binational Media Forum “The Challenges of Insecurity and Violence, Mexico-United States,” Government Secretary Fernando Gómez Mont called for changes in how the Mexican media cover violence and blamed the press for exacerbating violence in Ciudad Juárez. He said,
Many countries which have confronted the problem of organized crime … have agreed that, in the final analysis, the matter of communicating security operations and the matter of constructing the perception of violence have affected the levels of violence.
So, just as Colombia made its well-known agreement for discretion, and the media in Spain agreed on how they would communicate terrorist acts and the anti-terrorist policy of the Spanish State, this is a reflection of what where we want to get to.
Gómez Mont said (according to Reforma’s story) that there needed to be “a system of rules for journalistic activities when they touch on themes linked to security and violence that includes rights, obligations, and corrective measures.”
Even as the military and police carried out searches by air and ground, authorities have not released any information on the disappearance and presumed kidnapping of PAN heavyweight Diego Fernández de Cevallos, 69. Jefe Diego was the party’s candidate for President in 1994, a former Senator and Deputy, and one of its most colorful and controversial characters. He disappeared on his ranch in Queretaro Friday night. The government has acknowledged ‘signs of violence’ in his abandoned Hummer, with some stories alleging bloody footprints or bullet holes in the vehicle. Government Secretary Fernando Gómez Mont, Attorney General Arturo Chávez, and Public Safety Secretary Genaro García Luna all traveled to the state. Queretaro governor José Calzada Rovirosa (PRI) held his own security cabinet meeting at the headquarters of the 17th military zone. Noted the Bajo Reserva column of El Universal, “The worst crisis of public safety in memory strikes directly at the heart of the party of the President of the Republic…. The country is at the mercy of organized crime despite the campaign promises not only of the PAN and but all the parties in government.” (Universal 5/17)
Government Secretary Fernando Gómez Mont was in Washington, DC yesterday for meetings with Janet Napolitano. His comments during an event at the Brookings Institution:
We believe that violence will decrease in the coming months. The acceleration of violence is slowing down. We will see smaller numbers by the end of this year.
The link to the Brookings event is here.
Naval Marines arrested Alberto Mendoza Contreras, aka El Chico Malo (“Bad Boy”), alleging that he controlled trafficking for the Beltrán Leyva cartel in the Monterrey suburb of San Pedro. Controversial San Pedro mayor Mauricio Fernández Garza said that he paid El Chico Malo as an informant (and credited him for fingering 50 corrupt cops), but denied that he had any knowledge of his trafficking activities. He added that Government Secretary Fernando Gómez Mont approved these activities, setting off a firestorm. The Ministry of Government issued an immediate statement in response: “It is unacceptable, under any circumstances, to exchange intelligence information for tolerating impunity or protecting criminals.”
In a second incident, the body of a drug dealer was found handcuffed and with signs of torture the day after he was photographed being detained by police in the Monterrey suburb of Santa Catarina. He was one of two suspects wanted for trying to ambush the local police chief. The police transferred him to Naval marines for transport to a hospital for treatment of injuries, but both the police and the marines deny responsibility for the suspect’s killing. (Excelsior 3/26, Reforma 3/24, 3/27)
The National Governors’ Conference (Conago) backed the Government’s proposal to establish one state-level police force for each state. Most municipal police would be transferred to new state-level forces, after undergoing background checks and additional training. Municipal governments would retain responsibility only for traffic enforcement. Government Secretary Gómez Mont worked with the governors to reach the agreement, which was originally proposed by Public Security Secretary Genaro García Luna. Establishing the new state-level forces requires amendment of the federal Constitution. (Reforma 3/24)
A High Level Consultative Group meeting on the Mérida Initiative will bring U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to Mexico this week. The Mexican delegation will be headed by Foreign Secretary Patricia Espinosa, and include Government Secretary Fernando Gómez Mont, and Defense Secretary Gen. Guillermo Galván, among others. This is the first such meeting since Dec. 2008. Separately, it was announced that President Calderón will make a state visit to Washington, D.C. on May 19-20. (State 3/17, SRE 3/17)
After days of repeated public denials of a formal pact between the PAN and the PRI, César Nava confessed that such an agreement existed. A document signed by Nava on behalf of the PAN and Beatriz Paredes on behalf of the PRI last October committed both to not forming electoral alliances with ideologically incompatible parties (i.e., the PRD) in the state of Mexico through the July 2011 gubernatorial elections in this key state. Nava said the pact was void because the PRI reneged on backing the government’s original tax plan last fall. The agreement, which was witnessed by Fernando Gómez Mont and the chief of staff of Mexico State governor Enrique Peña Nieto, is highly embarrassing to both Nava and Paredes, but more to Nava. Columnist Ricardo Alemán concludes: “Nava is politically dead. When will they bury the corpse?” (Universal 3/8)