Page 16


LAS AMERICAS Guadalajara to New York: Death, Drugs, Free Trade BY JOHN ROSS Guadalajara, Mexico SHOCKING KILLING of Guada lajara Cardinal Juan Jesus Posadas Ocampo during what is officially described as a shoot-out between rival drug trafficking gangs at that city’s busy airport on May 24 is the latest and most notorious incident of bloodshed in a resurgence of drugrelated violence throughout Mexico. Since the first of the year, more than 100 people have died in suspected drug-connected gunfire reminiscent of Colombia’s lethally charged narco-politics. Indeed, the “Colombianization” of Mexico’s drug wars is not just a journalistic metaphor; for the past decade, both the Cali and the Medellin cartels have been active players in Mexico, where 70 percent of the Colombian cocaine entering the. United States is transhipped, according to U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration estimates. In addition to the slaying of Cardinal Posadas, other headlined drug killings this spring include the April 12 assassination of Rafael Guajardo, a leader of the Ciudad Juarez syndicate reported to have strong links to Calibased organizations. Guajardo was killed in a street corner attack in the Caribbean resort of Cancun during which an American tourist also lost her life. On May 3, federal police killed suspected drug boss Emilio Quintero Payan at a shopping mall just outside Mexico City. Unidentified witnesses quoted by the national daily La Jornada told reporters the killing was “an execution.” Quintero, the uncle of the notorious narco-lord Rafael Caro Quintero, whose drug-dealing family pioneered ties to the Medellin Cartel in the early 1980s, was apparently murdered in retaliation for the killing of a hard-nosed former Sinaloa state attorney general in a Mexico City park one day earlier. On May 17, gunmen struck once again, murdering a Mexico City judge who had officiated at prominent drug trials. Over 80 people have been killed in Sinaloa drug violence since new Governor Renato John Ross is a freelance journalist working in Mexico. Vega took office in that northwest Pacific coast state in January, including 12 victims caught up in murderous crossfire January 18 in Culiacan, the conflictive state capital and the Quinteros’ hometown popularly known as “Little Medellin.” Recent drug violence ; has also taken some 40 lives in the southern state of Guerrero and Chihuahua on the Texas border, one of them a reporter for a sensationalist Juarez -weekly newspaper. Cardinal Posadas, a leading conservative and one of only five Mexican prelates to achieve the status of prince of the church, was killed along with six bystanders in a parking lot at the Guadalajara airport where he had arrived to -meet Papal Nuncio Giralamo Prigione in order to plan for Pope John Paul II’s upcoming visit to Mexico. Although gunfights between rival drug gangs are a staple of Guadalajara street violence, many doubt that the Cardinal was an accidental victim of a shootout between rival drug gangs. News reports indicate that the Cardinal, who was dressed in full regalia, was killed by 14 bullets, 11 of them in the chest area and fired from as close as three feet during an intense fusillade. More than 40 bullets penetrated his white Gran Marquis. Whoever was responsible “meant to kill this man,” a state forensic expert told reporters after an inquest. SINCE POSADAS’ death, Mexico City newspapers have been filled with speculation that the churchman was delib erately targeted by Guadalajara drug traffickers in a successful attempt to assert their continuing power despite a crackdown by newly-appointed Attorney General Jorge Carpizo, who has replaced many corruptiontainted police officials since taking office two months ago. Another hypothesis is that drug gangs hit Cardinal Posadas because he refused to accept money from the narcotics traffickers after his elevation to Cardinal in 1991. Insiders say that while he served as archbishop Posadas never seemed concerned about the source of large donations to diocesan coffers and occasionally said Mass at a church in San Javier Hills, a wealthy and notoriously narco-infested suburb of Guadalajara. The Mexican government’s investigation of the killing has focused on members of the family of Miguel Felix Gallardo, an imprisoned drug kingpin who is the cousin of Caro Quintero, himself serving 40 years in a maximum security institution. Guadalajara has been the financial base for the Felix Gallardo-Caro Quintero family’s Medellin Cartel-connected operation. It was here that Caro Quintero allegedly had U.S. DEA agent Enrique Camarena tortured to death in 1985 in a case that continues to inflame emotions north of the border. Following the May 3 alleged police execution of Caro’s uncle, Robert Bonner, chief DEA administrator told the New York Times that Mexico’s War on Drugs was “on-the rebound.” The murder of Cardinal Posadas sent shockwaves throughout Mexico, from the very top of society to street vendors, as hundreds of thousands of citizens descended on the prelate’s wake and funeral. A shaken President Carlos Salinas de Gortari hastily flew to Guadalajara, vowing that justice would be swiftly dealt. The President’s words in the hushed Guadalajara Cathedral marked the first time in modern Mexican political history that a sitting president has spoken from a Catholic thurch pulpit. But this latest outbreak of drug violence is not the only aspect of the Colombianization of Mexico suddenly worrying Salinas. A military intelligence document, prepared by the U.S. embassy in Mexico City and released May 23 by the Washington-based National Security Archives, reveals that Colombian cartel operatives are buying Mexican manufacturing facilities and trucking fleets “with the intention of maximizing their legitimate business interests under the aegis of the North American Free Trade Agreement.” Among the production facilities under scrutiny are the 2,100′ “maquiladoras” \(foreign-owned U.S.-Mexico border, many of them recently established in preparation for the anticipated January 1, 1994 startup of NAFTA. One senior Mexican law enforcement official told reporters that an unidentified electronics assembler is currently being investigated for smuggling Colombian cocaine into the U.S. under cover of its finished product. TiE TEXAS OBSERVER 15