Can go-betweens from organized crime simply march into Mexico’s Senate to meet with politicians? You bet.
At least, that’s what Sen. Luisa Maria Calderon says occurred Oct. 17. Calderon is the sister of former President Felipe Calderon, and a native of Michoacan, where the Knights Templar organized crime group reigns.
Calderon set off a firestorm this week with allegations that Templar go-betweens arranged a meeting with the Senate’s Public Security Commission. The “businessmen” were from Apatzingan, ground zero for the Templars, and said they represented the “Michoacan Association for Peace and Dignity.”
When the commission’s head, Sen. Omar Fayad, asked her to attend the meeting, Calderon said she responded that she had “the feeling that they were sent by the Templars.”
The meeting went ahead anyway.
No one in the Senate appears to want to release the names of the “businessmen,” although press accounts indicate several were former functionaries in the state government.
As the meeting unfolded, Calderon said one of the Michoacan attendees turned to Fayad and “said to him, ‘It’s just that since President Calderon declared war on us,’ and I turned around and said, ‘Oh my God! This is serious.’”
Given the way organized crime is woven into the fabric of the elite in Mexican states like Michoacan, it is little surprise that some Michoacan leaders are both “respected” and “suspected” of ties to gangsters even as they meet with top politicians or get elected to office.
An example is Jesus Reyna, who spent six months this year as acting governor of Michoacan while the elected governor recovered from a liver transplant. According to numerous press reports, Reyna's wife is the sister of the wife of Servando "La Tuta" Gomez, leader of the Templars. Reyna is now the Interior Secretary of the state, which means he oversees the state police and public security, a post that would make him of extreme utility to organized crime.
Another egregious case occurred in 2010. The half-brother of then-Gov. Leonel Godoy Rangel of Michoacan found himself facing charges of ties to La Familia Michoacana, a precursor to the Templars, before he could be sworn into his seat in the Chamber of Deputies. Until he could take the oath, he wouldn’t enjoy immunity.
With the aid of confederates in the Chamber, Julio Cesar Godoy snuck onto the grounds in the trunk of a beige Malibu. Enough supporters were rounded up to allow him to take the oath. Three months later, as political pressure built, the chamber stripped him of his post. Godoy has been a fugitive ever since.