LATIN AMERICA

New videos link Mexican politicians to drug business in Michoacán

Prosecutor General’s Office opens new investigation into son of state’s former governor

Rodrigo Vallejo (wearing glasses) in conversation with La Tuta.
Rodrigo Vallejo (wearing glasses) in conversation with La Tuta.Punto de Partida

“Go to the house, we’ll send the helicopter,” says Rodrigo Vallejo, the son of Michoacán ex-governor Fausto Vallejo, of the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI). Vallejo is speaking to Servando “La Tuta” Gómez, the leader of the Knights Templar cartel who was arrested in February 2015. Amid laughter and shots of whisky over lunch, Vallejo tells La Tuta about the problems his father’s weak administration is facing, speaking as if he were the de facto liaison between the government and the cartel. Governor Vallejo would eventually resign in June 2014.

– “What happens if your father [Fausto Vallejo] is no longer there?” La Tuta asks.

In one video, Vallejo boasts that he could use government security cameras to follow anyone around Michoacán

– “Not because I like him. I don’t even like him. It’s just that he is someone who has earned it,” Vallejo replies in reference to Michoacán Secretary Jesús Reyna.

Reyna, who replaced Vallejo’s father as head of Michoacán’s government between April and October 2013 while the governor was convalescing from an illness he never revealed to his constituents, was arrested in April 2014 for his close ties to the Knights Templar.

Rodrigo Vallejo himself was detained in August 2014 for covering up organized crime activities, but left prison on April 11, 2015 after paying $500 bail. His whereabouts remain unknown. The Prosecutor General’s Office has appealed the ruling and on Tuesday, Interior Secretary Miguel Ángel Osorio Chong said in a telephone interview that the Office would open “new investigations” against Vallejo after viewing the new videos that have been released.

There is no explanation as to why the pile of footage of La Tuta – 5,000 hours from 200 separate recordings – was not used as evidence during Rodrigo Vallejo’s eight month-stay in prison or why official reactions only arrived after the material was published in the media.

Rodrigo Vallejo, the son of Michoacán’s ex-governor, enters the Public Security Department without going through a security check.
Rodrigo Vallejo, the son of Michoacán’s ex-governor, enters the Public Security Department without going through a security check.Primero Noticias

The footage released so far shows alarming ties between organized crime and the son of the former governor of one of the states that is integral to President Enrique Peña Nieto’s security strategy. In one of the recordings, Vallejo boasts to La Tuta that he could use government security cameras to follow anyone he wanted around Michoacán. In another video broadcast on Denise Maerker’s show, Punto de Partida, they say Luisa María Cocoa Calderón, sister of ex-president Felipe Calderón and current candidate for governor of Michoacán on the conservative National Action Party (PAN) ticket, also met with the capo.

In the video shown on Carlos Loret de Mola’s show, Primero Noticias, Vallejo and La Tuta talk about local government business as though they both held public office and Vallejo even invites the drug boss to spend some time at his home if he needs it. He brags that he has a pool and that, if necessary, Servando Gómez could use a helicopter to get there. “To my swimming pool. It’s a country estate and it has a pool with a sandy area to sunbathe and everything,” Vallejo says. They also talk about details regarding an alleged pullout of Michoacán by the Danone group, which has operations in the state.

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In another video, Vallejo enters the Public Security Department’s building without going through a security check. He was there to visit a man who was arrested on January 11, 2014 when clashes between armed civilians, self-defense groups and the Knights Templar were at their height.

The recordings have come to light in the middle of the election campaign to replace Michoacán interim governor Salvador Jara, who took over the post after Vallejo resigned in the wake of the scandal involving his son. A recent survey published in El Financiero newspaper said the race was close, with the three main contenders technically tied.

Elections will be held on June 7. Michoacán will elect representatives for the state’s congress and hold local elections in 112 of its 113 municipalities. Cherán is exempt from the contest because the area is governed by specific traditions and customs laid out in Mexican law for indigenous regions. On the same day the country will also cast its votes to fill 500 seats in the lower house of the national Congress.

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