Cartel leader’s death emphasizes Mexico’s struggle with corruption
Published: Wednesday, October 24, 2012
Updated: Wednesday, October 24, 2012 18:10
The entire country breathed a sigh of relief on Sunday, Oct. 7 when Heriberto Lazcano, Chieftain of the Zetas, was reportedly slain by Navy Special Forces near the town of Progreso in the state of Coahuila. However, before the champagne could be popped or the fireworks could explode, an unexpected turn of events shook the country once more when his corpse was snatched from the funeral parlor, inciting more accusations of corruption against careless and dishonest state officials. The problem that continues to lie at the heart of Mexican politics is corruption—it is corruption that has divided the country, it is corruption that has made it so hard to fight the war on drugs and it is corruption that has enabled the excessive development of organized crime in the past several years.
After all, people are now trained to be the perfect lapdogs—ruthless, merciless, and most of all, pitiless. The Gulf Cartel, one of the most powerful drug trafficking forces within Mexico, needed armed hands, so it started recruiting. The cartel got intelligence specialists, military men, embittered soldiers who had lost faith in their country and wanted nothing but to see the world burn. It named them the Zetas. It is hard now not to be familiar with that name. It keeps popping up in the news, inevitably associated with drug violence: killings, kidnappings and mutilations. Inevitably, the Zetas grew dissatisfied with their role within the Gulf Cartel, and so they rebelled, becoming their own entity. Today, they are the most violent and bloodthirsty drug cartel within Mexico’s borders.
The recent incident, while uncomfortable and embarrassing for the Mexican government, serves as an ironic reminder of the conflicts that plague such a divided nation. When President Felipe Calderon took office in 2006, he launched a nation-wide “war on drugs,” the likes of which had never been seen before. While previous presidents had been content to continue with the Mexican tradition of underhanded dealings with the cartels, Calderon called for a full-on attack against them. Military forces were deployed, corrupt state and local police were replaced with more transparent federal forces and government officials were carefully investigated. Kidnappings, murders and shootings on the street then became commonplace, but the situation has slowly evolved in the government’s favor with the recent death of such a prominent figure within the Zeta cartel.
However, the true problem of unending corruption in Mexican politics remains. While federal government officials under Calderon have been subjected to numerous background checks and have been held accountable for results—or lack thereof—the state governments remain relatively free to do their own thing, particularly those controlled by the scandal-ridden Revolutionary Institutional Party (PRI) whose presidential candidate, Enrique Peña Nieto, won the recent elections and will take office this December.
It is important to note that Coahuila, the state where the Zeta’s chieftain was killed, is one such PRI-controlled state, and its governor, Humberto Moreira, was forced to resign last year after the fact that he had saddled the state with three billion dollars in debt was revealed. His brother is now governor, and Moreira has assumed the role of the PRI’s national president. Numerous journalists claim that the presence of the Zetas’ leader within the state had been an open secret for years, and the local police had failed to take any action.
The death of Heriberto Lazcano shows just how far the Mexican government has come; the fact that his diseased body was stolen, on the other hand, illustrates just how much remains to be done. Mexico is, at the heart of it, a country that wants to fix itself, but does not know how. It is a country fighting an internal battle, a cancer patient betrayed by her own cells. Only time will tell whether the battle will be successful.