Mexico: 10 days before elections, officials capture El Chapo Guzman’s son
Jesus Alfredo Guzman Salazar, aka El Chapito, allegedly works for his father’s Sinaloa cartel.
By MANUEL RUEDA
A son of drug trafficker Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman was captured by Mexican security forces on Thursday morning, according to a statement released today by the Mexican Navy.
El Chapo is the most wanted drug trafficker in Mexico, and one of the 60 most powerful men in the world, according to Forbes.
So there’s a couple of interesting questions that arise from the capture of his son, a presumed drug trafficker, whose full name is Jesus Alfredo Guzman Salazar.
First of all, did the government time this action in order to improve its chances of winning presidential elections on July 1st?
One of the most common arguments used by opposition parties running against President Felipe Calderón’s National Action Party (PAN) in these elections, is that the PAN has led an ineffective offensive against drug cartels that has led to more than 45,000 deaths, and few changes in the amount of drugs trafficked, over the past six years.
By capturing the son of a high-profile criminal, and showing that somehow they are getting closer to Mexico’s top drug trafficker, Calderón and his party now have some fresh evidence to counter their opponents’ criticisms, and also something that shows them as being tough on crime.
The PAN accuses its main opposition, the Institutional Revolutionary Party [PRI], of making deals with traffickers while it ran the country, while it brands itself as the party that does not turn a blind eye on crime.
Its candidate, Josefina Vazquez Mota, — who trails PRI candidate Enrique Peña Nieto by more than 12 points in polls — can use this latest hit against El Chapo, to argue that her party’s fight against drug cartels has produced some results, and perhaps to claim that the war against drug traffickers has not been lost.
We have no proof, however, that the Mexican government and the Navy timed the capture of Guzmán Salazar to coincide with elections.
So for the moment, it cannot be said that this move is part of a broader electoral strategy by the PAN and President Calderón, who is also the commander of Mexico’s armed forces.
But what effect will this incident have on Mexican voters?
It doesn’t sound like it will change things wildly. President Calderón has caught other high-profile criminals during his administration, he even got close to capturing El Chapo himself last March . But while approval ratings for President Calderon and his security policies have been high this year, these events have not seemed to bolster ratings for his party’s presidential candidate.
Over the past three months, newspapers in Mexico have revealed news of investigations in Mexico and the US, against former PRI governors in the state of Tamaulipas, who are accused of helping the Gulf Cartel to launder its drug money. This hasn’t diminished the double digit lead held by that party’s candidate Enrique Peña Nieto in the polls.
Even arguments by PAN activists that Mexico’s economy was a mess under PRI governments — while it has stabilized under PAN governments — have not significantly cut into Peña Nieto’s lead.
I recently visited Zapopan, the town in Jalisco state where El Chapo’s son was captured this morning. Zapopan forms part of the Guadalajara metro area and while visiting that part of Mexico, I attended political rallies for PAN and PRI candidates running for local offices.
At a neighborhood meeting for a PRI candidate who is running for the Jalisco state assembly, I confronted one of his supporters with some economic stats, handed to me the previous day by a PAN candidate.
The stats said that under PRI goverments in the 80s and 90s, inflation rates in Mexico exceeded 1,000 percent and the price of gasoline went up twenty fold.
The PRI supporter, a housewife who identified herself as Maria Rosa, said these stats did not change her mind.
“We lived with more tranquility before,” Maria Rosa said, in allusion to rising crime rates in the area. ”The PAN promised change and change did not arrive.”
Some of the PRI’s vote seems to come from Mexicans who yearn for the country’s less violent past, and are worried about current rates of violence. It doesn’t seem like the capture of El Chapo’s son will erase these concerns.
(Photo: Pulso Ciudadano)