Mexican President Accuses Rivals of Planning Deals with Cartels

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Mexican President Felipe Calderon has struck out against the political opposition, suggesting that members of his largest rival party, the PRI, would consider making deals with criminals if they win the July 2012 presidential elections.

In a weekend interview with the New York Times, the president told the paper that the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) might be willing to reach agreements with organized criminal groups if their likely candidate, Enrique Peña Nieto, wins the upcoming elections.

“There are many in the PRI who think the deals of the past would work now. I don’t see what deal could be done, but that is the mentality many of them have. If that opinion prevails it would worry me.” said Calderon.

It is true that surreptitious agreements between politicians and drug dealers were common during the PRI’s 71-year rule of the country. However, much has changed in the political landscape since the PRI lost power in 2000. After Mexico’s transition to a multi-party democracy, drug-linked corruption within other parties (including Calderon’s own National Action Party – PAN) has been well documented.

It is likely that the comment is intended not only as a jab at the popular Peña Nieto, but also as an attempt to solidify Calderon’s legacy. As his six-year term draws to a close, he has found himself increasingly hard-pressed to justify his security policies. Despite a massive uptick in drug arrests and counternarcotics operations, more than 44,000 people have died in drug-related killings since the president first took office.

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