Mexico News and Analysis, Nov 3-9, 2008

1. INTERIOR SECRETARY DIES IN PLANE CRASH
2. OFFICIALS CAPTURE CARTEL LEADER AND WEAPONS CACHE


1. INTERIOR SECRETARY DIES IN PLANE CRASH
Juan Mouriño, Mexico’s Interior Secretary, died Tuesday evening in a fiery plane crash on a crowded street in Mexico City.  Mouriño held the second most powerful position in Mexico’s government and was a close friend and confident of President Calderon.  Mouriño’s Lear jet crashed into a wealthy neighborhood, killing all eight occupants of the plane and at least six others on the ground.  The spectacular crash burned some forty vehicles.  Government officials called the crash an accident, initially blaming pilot error or turbulence, though given Mouriño’s outspoken support for the war on drugs and reports or death threats directed at the Secretary, many Mexicans wonder if cartels were responsible.  The Interior Secretary’s death came as a blow to President Calderon, already reeling from a series of policy failures.  Mouriño was in charge of Calderon’s initiative to privatize Pemex, which largely failed as Congress passed an energy reform bill last week that bore little resemblance to the original Calderon proposal.  In recent months, many opposition politicians called for the unpopular Mouriño to step down, but he enjoyed Calderon’s full support.  Mouriño was a controversial figure.  Born in Spain, he became a naturalized Mexican citizen.  In a country where Spaniards are generally not well-liked, in part because they own strategic sectors of the economy including several major banks and many tourist facilities, Mouriño came under withering criticism from his first days in office.  Speculation was rampant regarding his successor, with many National Action Party (PAN) leaders openly vying for the office.  Calderon appears to be in no hurry to name a new Secretary, and by week’s end there were no clear leaders in the selection process.


2. OFFICIALS CAPTURE CARTEL LEADER AND WEAPONS CACHE
On Friday, the Mexican army announced the capture of a major cartel leader, along with the largest weapons cache in the country’s history.  Jamie Gonzalez Duran, reportedly a founder of the Zetas who act as enforcers for the Gulf Cartel, was arrested by Federal Preventative Police and army troops in the border city of Reynosa.  A brief firefight with cartel members ensued as officials loaded Gonzalez onto a plane at the Reynosa airport for a flight to Mexico City.  Gonzalez is a former member of the army, as are many Zeta hitmen.  Officials captured of 540 rifles, 165 grenades, 500,000 rounds of ammunition and 14 sticks of dynamite from a cartel safehouse in Reynosa.

In related news, the federal Attorney General announced an investigation of Rodolfo de la Guardia, former head of Interpol Mexico, for his links to the Beltran Leyva brothers, two of Mexico’s most notorious cartel leaders.  De la Guardia began working in Interpol in 2001 and also held posts in the office of the federal Attorney General and the Federal Investigative Agency (AFI).