angerous liaisons. Over the past decade, every political party has been burned by revelations that some of their candidates or public officials had ties to organized crime. The price paid by the left-wing Party of the Democratic Revolution (PRD) for the 2014 Iguala tragedy is a case in point (Note for those not in the know: the PRD mayor of Iguala was in cahoots with the drug gang that kidnapped and probably killed 43 students). More recently, the conservative National Action Party has been embarrassed by the intimate ties of one of its local legislators in Sinaloa with Joaquin El Chapo Guzmán. So to prevent those mishaps, opposition parties (the PRD, in particular) is calling on the government to vet their candidates to public office. That procedure seems superficially attractive, but it is actually a lousy idea.
All internal efforts to vet candidates would go down the drain once that task is subcontracted to the authorities. The first line of defense against the infiltration of organized crime in politics should be the parties themselves. If they simply throw the towel, my guess is that more candidates with ties to criminal gangs will make the cut.
The whole idea is predicated on the notion that the federal government is in a better position to determine if a candidate has links to organized crime. That’s not necessarily the case. This year, there are over 4000 candidates competing in local elections. Somewhere between 500 and 700 will run for office under the PRD banner. The Federal Attorney General’s Office (PGR) or CISEN (Mexico’s civilian intelligence agency) don’t have the time nor the resources to do anything but a perfunctory check on those candidates. Meanwhile, parties should a) know their members (at least those prominent enough to run for office) and b) have an incentive to avoid embarrassing nominations. In many ways, they are better located to make the call on who gets to run for office.
Do opposition parties really want to give the government (i.e., their supposed adversaries) a veto power over their candidates? Because that’s what they would be doing by subcontracting the vetting process to the authorities. Do they have any guarantee that the government will not abuse that power and use the vet as a way of getting rid of popular opposition candidates?
Even if a winning candidate is vetted and found to be clean before the election, she can still be coopted (or threatened into submission) once she is sworn into office. And that would still count as an embarrassment for the relevant party, even if the government certified the absence of ties to organized crime before the electoral contest.
Bottom line. Government vetting of candidates is nothing but a gimmick. If parties want to avoid future scandals, they should do their jobs and get to know their candidates before letting them run under their colors. More importantly, they should promote a broader anticorruption agenda that establishes limits on government officials and fights impunity at all levels. Ultimately, that is only way to prevent organized crime meddling in politics.
This and that
Deafening silence. Why so few sexual assaults are ever reported in Mexico? A hunch: maybe because no one in officialdom really cares about the size. Details here.
Yet more F&F. It now seems that guns connected to the botched Fast and Furious operation made it all the way to Michoacán. Some were found at the site of a deadly clash, last May, between the Federal Police and members of the Jalisco New Generation Cartel (CJNG) in Tanhuato, Michoacán. Details here.
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