Columnist Leo Zuckermann writes:
Frankly, I don’t understand. What has to happen in this country for the different political forces to sit down to discuss and fix the fight against organized crime? Haven’t the politicians paid attention to what’s been going on over the last two months? Haven’t they heard the message, as clear as it is terrifying, that the gangsters are sending? What are they hoping for?
Aside from the average of 200 killings per week, let’s remember what violent events have occurred in the last two months. They kidnapped a high-profile political figure — Diego Fernández de Cevallos. … The PRI candidate for governor of Tamaulipas … was ambushed and assassinated just a few days before the election. … In Michoacan, the convoy of the Public Security Ministry was ambushed in broad daylight on the Zitácuaro-Toluca expressway. … Ten federal policemen lost their lives. …. In Chihuahua a group of heavily armed men entered a drug rehab clinic and killed 19 patients. This Sunday, in Torreón, some 30 men armed to the teeth broke into a party and executed 18 persons. On Saturday, in Ciudad Juárez a car bomb exploded killing four. … It was a coldly calculated attack designed to assassinate federal policemen…. All of this in two months.
After the assassination of Rodolfo Torre, President Calderón called for a dialogue to discuss — and presumably to correct–the strategy in the fight against organized crime. Manlio Fabio Beltrones, the leader of the PRI in the Senate, has called for the same for a long while. This dialogue couldn’t happen until after the July 4th elections. The vote has come and gone, and the dialogue still hasn’t happened. Beltrones and other priistas say they are ready for a substantive discussion. … Some perredistas are also expressing interest …. For his part, the President has made changes in his team. It would seem that everybody is ready. What are you waiting for, gentlemen? Do it, before this accursed violence escalates yet again.
The PRI Tamaulipas state committee proposed Egidio Torre Cantú, the brother of Rodolfo, as its replacement candidate for governor. Egidio served as the substitute mayor of the capital city of Victoria in 2000-01. The PRI national committee needs to ratify the choice, and it is expected that the new candidate will be registered today. Egidio will not have any opportunity to campaign, as the quite period begins today for the vote on July 4th. The pre-election polls show that the PRI had an overwhelming lead in the race for governor. (Reforma 6/30, Universal 6/30)
In the wake of the assassination of Rodolfo Torre Cantú, President Felipe Calderón made his second nationwide address in two days, calling for all political forces to join in a united front to fight what he called ‘the biggest challenge the country faces today.’
Faced with the gravity of the facts implied by the cowardly assassination of Rodolfo Torre Cantú, … I sent a message to the Mexican people, in which I made a call for unity, and for the need to create a common front. … Today I am calling on all the political forces of the country, on all who believe in and defend democracy, to meet to discuss frankly this and the other challenges that Mexico faces; so that we may give a unified and decisive response to those who attack the democratic life and peace of Mexicans. … Faced with the challenge that organized crime today presents, there isn’t space to seek political dividends. … . I invite you to this dialogue. … I am confident that together, through a frank, respectful and constructive dialogue, we will be able to find the best alternatives to confront what is, without doubt, the biggest challenge that the country faces today. (Presidencia 6/29, Reforma 6/29)
In the evening, Beatriz Paredes, the PRI’s president, gave her party’s response, after meeting with all the party’s leaders and governors:
We have always been prepared to dialogue, but with legitimate leaders and not with opportunists that stir up stormy waters to see if they can rebuild their positions; when it has been precisely their irresponsibility and short-sighted desire to win at any cost that has muddied the debate and degraded politics. …. More than declarations, speeches, or debates, Mexicans need a security strategy that is effective, and families want to recover their tranquility. (Reforma 6/29, Universal 6/30)
The assassination of Rodolfo Torre Cantú, the PRI candidate for governor of Tamaulipas, is the country’s most serious political killing since the 1994 death of Luis Donaldo Colosio, the PRI’s presidential candidate.
Today’s NYT story has the basic information as currently known.
Most speculation in Mexico points to the violent struggle between the Gulf Cartel (CDG) and Los Zetas—formerly the armed wing of the CDG, and now their rivals—as the proximate cause of the surge in violence in Tamaulipas this year. The Zetas, in particular, are suspected of being behind the ambush that killed Torre Cantú and four of his campaign staff.
Several items are worth noting:
- Torre Cantú had recently gotten enhanced security. The Ministry of Defense had just assigned him a new head of security, General (ret.) Roberto Miranda, who handled security for then-presidential candidate Ernesto Zedillo after the Colosio assassination. (Universal 6/29)
- In May, the PAN mayoral candidate for the town of Valle Hermoso, José Mario Guajardo Varela was assassinated. Valle Hermosa was where Torre Cantú was heading when his caravan was ambushed.
- In eight of the 43 towns in the state, either the PRD or PAN did not field mayoral candidates, mostly because of intimidation and fears for personal safety.
- In February, the U.S. DEA warned their Mexican counterparts of the growing wave of violence in Tamaulipas and Nuevo Leon because of the war between the two groups. (Excelsior 6/29)