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LAS AMERICAS Party Animals BY JOHN ROSS exico’s July 6 mid-term elections represent a cru cial referendum on three years of rule by Vicente Fox, the first president to be elected from the ranks of the opposition in nearly a century, and his right-wing National Action many of them newly-minted, will field thousands of candidates for local and federal office \(all 500 seats in the lower house of congress and six governorcandidates will be running onor away fromtheir records. Their criminal records, that is. Indeed, Antonio Tirado opened his campaign as the left-center Party of the date for the sixth congressional district of Guanajuato, in a jail cell. After the local farmers’ leader announced his candidacy, Guanajuato authorities promptly packed Tirado off to the hoosegow on 1993 warrants charging auto theft and riotin the Mexican justice system, warrants are often archived for years and pulled out of the files when they can do maximum political damage. Tirado’s supporters were driven off by heavily armed police when they tried to march on President Fox’s nearby weekend ranch in protest. But he’s not the only lawbreaker running for office in Guanajuato. date for mayor of Silao, hawks pirate CDs on the streets of that city and is often collared by local cops when he doesn’t scoop up his merchandise and run fast enough to escape the long arm of the law. Fox’s PAN is fond of touting its moral convictionsbut its criminal convictions may be more pertinent this July 6th. At the top of the Party ladder, the Fox campaign financing scandal now dubbed “AmigoGate,” involves money laundering, perjury, and other criminal finagling but thus far, the only culprit to wind up behind bars has been a low-level Banking and Stock Market Commission functionary who apparently violated sacrosanct banking secrecy rules. Crime runs like a red thread down the spine of Fox’s usually strait-laced party. Guerrero state PAN leader Miguel Angel Nava is currently on the lam after drunkenly plowing his car into a fiesta crowd, killing two small children, sending five to the hospital, and nearly being lynched by an inflamed mob. Also a fugitive from justice: Francisco Xavier Berganza, a second-string ranchero singing star and former PAN candidate for governor of Hidalgo who is wanted as the “intellectual author” of the kidnap-murder of a wealthy rancher to whom he allegedly owed large sums of money. When he went into hiding, the singer was once again a candidatethis time for municipal president of Tulancingo on the Democratic Convergence ticket. The state of Mexico, the nation’s most populous and politically powerful, has been hit hard by the PAN crime wave. One local PAN congressman stands indicted for extortion, and the PANista mayor of Tultidan, a B-actor named Antonio Rios Granados, embezzled $70,000 from the city treasury to finance a potboiler entitled Orquidia Salvaje PANista was finally forced to take a leave of absence after his son was nabbed stripping cars. Soon after, the ex-PAN mayor’s wife and daughter were kidnapped in what political enemies charged was a staged snatch. The refusal of police in nearby Atizapan to take part in the rescue of Granados’ daughter during a blazing gun battle, has invoked suspicion of complicity by authorities in that PANruled city. Granados most recently contributed to public service when, despite an ever-present bevy of Playboy bunnies, he unsuccessfully ran for the Mexico state congress March 9 under the PT banner. Atizapan, a stone’s throw from Tultidan, is the scene of the PAN’S most notorious crime spree. Former National Action mayor Antonio Dominguez, a wealthy plastic surgeon, is now housed in a Mexico state maximum security penitentiary, charged with the contract murder of 27-year-old PANista city councilwoman, Maria de los Angeles Tames, who had been prying into corruption in public works contracts and drug dealing at City Hall. On the night of September 11, 2001, a hired killer, purportedly paid $30,000 by Dominguez and his cronies, pumped five bullets into the young woman known as “Marigeli” as she stood at her front gate on a tree-lined street in that affluent enclave. Dominguez is also under investigation for protecting world-class drug DealersJoaquin “El Chapo” Guzman, the nation’s most wanted narco-lord who escaped from prison in the first weeks of the Fox administration, is thought to have done business through the Atizapan airport. Pedro Tames, the dead councilwoman’s father and a life-long PANista, sees the death of his daughter as being emblematic of where his party has gone since Fox captured the presidency in 2000. “Elections do not change anything?’ he tells reporters, “the PAN has been infected with the same contagion 18 THE TEXAS OBSERVER 6/20/03