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Perspectives

November 6, 2008
Drug-fighting Mexican leader killed in plane crash

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AUDIO: Sara Miller Llana of The Christian Science Monitor speaks from Mexico about the controversy surrounding the Nov. 4 plane crash.

A soldier patrols the zone where a plane crashed, killing Mexican government secretary Juan Camilo Mouriño.

A plane crash in the Lomas de Chapultepec neighborhood of Mexico City killed Juan Camilo Mouriño, the country’s second most powerful official and a prominent figure in Mexico’s battle against drug cartels.

Mouriño’s death has led to suspicions of foul play and though officials say the crash was apparently an accident, an investigation is planned.

Richard Grabman is an American author living in Mexico. He writes at “The Mex Files” blog about the implications of the plane crash and how the death will impact the Mexican political scene.

Juan Camilo Mouriño, Secretarío de Gobernacion, killed

Like most U.S. citizens abroad I was following the U.S. election returns all night, and was out all day. It’s only now — at one in the morning — that I can sit down and write about what is likely to be a more dramatic and immediate change in the political landscape — here — than the overwhelming victory of Barack Obama.

At just past 7 P.M. (Mexico City time), a Lear Jet, carrying nine persons, including former deputy chief Federal Prosecutor José Luis Santiago Vasconcelos, who had resigned after complaints about his ineffectiveness as a “drug warrior” but stayed in the government as an official with the Public Security Secretariat and Secretarío de Gobernacion, Juan Camilo Mouriño, fell out of the sky, crashing into Lomas de Chapultepec, at the Periferico Miguel Aleman — near the monument to the oil expropriation, and killed all on board.

The Federal District Prosecutors’ Office has already opened an investigation.

This is a huge issue, with both national security, political and international implications. Mouriño, who was only 37 years old, but was the second most powerful figure in the Mexican executive branch. Secretaria de Gobernacion has no real equivalent in English. His title is sometimes translated as “Interior Mininster” or “Home Secretary” but the closest U.S. counterpart would be the Secretary of Homeland Security … as well as Director of National Security, and the closest thing Mexico has to a Vice-President.

His selection last March, as a replacement for President Calderon’s original Secretaria de Gobernacion, Francisco Ramírez Acuña, was highly controversial. Ramírez was widely despised even in his own party for his alleged ties to narcotics dealers, and accused of being AWOL — or at least negligent — in the anti-narco war, on top of his tolerance of human rights abuse during his tenure as Governor of Jalisco. Mouriño, though seen as a young, fresh face came with his own baggage. As a dual Spanish-Mexican national, there were lingering questions about his constitutional qualifications for the position (the Secretaria de Gobernacion is the acting President if the President dies or is unable to perform his duties until Congress elects an interim President. Mouriño was born in Spain, and Mexico — like the United States — requires Presidents to be “natural born citizens”).

In addition, Mouriño’s own ties to companies with contracts with PEMEX , and his family business’ dealings with PEMEX, have been under investigation in the Chamber of Deputies. AND… Mouriño was the point-man on the anti-narcotics crusade.  And, as head of internal security, Mouriño was responsible for the recent scandal that involved federal agents spying and wiretapping opposition legislatators, and for attempts to tie all domestic dissent to narcotics dealers.  As the national security chief,  Mouriño collaborated closely with his United States and other nation’s counterparts in anti-terrorist and criminal prosecution issues.

It’s going to be impossible NOT to speculate on the narcotics angle… but given that among Mouriño’s political activities during his short tenure was his attempt to “sell” PEMEX de-nationalization, the location of the crashsite is either an odd coincidence, or a very weird ironic statement.

To read more, see the original post.

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Photo courtesy of Flickr user Frecuenciaspopulares under a Creative Commons license.

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