On July 31, a federal judge in Toluca, Mexico State, charged six high-ranking members of the Mexican army, including the former second-highest ranking defense official and three retired generals, for ties to the Beltran Leyva Organization (BLO), reported Proceso. The judge also charged four members of the BLO, including US-born Hector Valdez Villareal, alias “La Barbie,” whose testimony is thought to have implicated the army officials.
Four of the six accused have been detained since May under the pre-trial detention process known as “arraigo,” which allows prosecutors to hold individuals suspected of participating in organized crime for up to 80 days. The four are: former Assistant Secretary of Defense Tomas Angeles Dauahare (pictured), retired Divisional General Ricardo Escorcia Vargas, retired Brigadier General Roberto Dawe Gonzalez, and retired Lieutenant Colonel Silvio Isidro de Jesus Hernandez Soto. The warrant for their formal arrest was issued just three days before the accused were to be released from pre-trial detention. Following the issue of the warrant, they were moved to a maximum security federal prison in Toluca.
Charges were also levied against Major Iván Reyna Muñoz, who served as a witness in the initial inquiry against General Dauahare.
InSight Crime Analysis
The charges filed against the accused, the highest ranking military officials charged with links to organized crime in fifteen years, could deal a blow to President Calderon’s anti-organized crime legacy. The army served as a pillar of Calderon’s militarized strategy against organized crime; over 50,000 soldiers have been deployed in 14 of Mexico’s 32 states since Calderon took office in 2006. The case against Angeles is especially disastrous for Calderon given that the retired general was key in implementing the president’s anti-crime strategy during his time as assistant secretary of defense from 2006 to 2008.
Regardless of the danger these accusation pose to Calderon’s legacy, it remains to be seen whether the case against the generals will cause major damage to the army’s reputation and popularity among the Mexican public. Despite continued reports of unpunished human rights abuses by the military, the Mexican army continues to enjoy high levels of support, especially in comparison to other public institutions such as the police. A survey by the Pew Research Center published in June showed that 80 percent of Mexicans surveyed approved of using the army to fight organized crime.
Before winning the presidential election in July, Enrique Peña Nieto declared his support for the continued deployment of the military and praised both the army and the navy’s success against organized crime. Peña Nieto takes power in December.