Pubdate: Wed, 9 Sep 2009
Source: Washington Post (DC)
Page: A08
Copyright: 2009 The Washington Post Company
Author: William Booth, Washington Post Foreign Service
Bookmark: (Corruption - United States)


MEXICO CITY -- President Felipe Calderon plans to replace one of 
Mexico's top officials in the war on drugs with a controversial 
former prosecutor who critics say did little during his years in 
office to solve the killings of hundreds of women in Ciudad Juarez 
during the 1990s.

Calderon nominated Arturo Chavez to serve as the nation's attorney 
general, but opponents denounced the move. They said that when Chavez 
served as prosecutor in the border state of Chihuahua, he was accused 
of bungling cases and failing to make significant arrests in the 
string of gruesome killings of women that continue to garner 
international attention.

"I consider him one of the most incompetent choices," said Jaime 
Hervella, a human rights advocate in Ciudad Juarez.

Esther Chavez Cano, founder of a rape crisis center in Juarez and a 
leading voice for the hundreds of women who were killed or went 
missing, told El Norte newspaper, "This is bad news; it doesn't take 
us anywhere, it's not the solution to the problem." She questioned 
why Calderon would pick someone who had failed in Juarez before to 
now confront the surging drug violence there.

More than 1,500 people have been killed in Ciudad Juarez this year, 
as cartel members and local drug gangs fight for control of street 
corners and lucrative smuggling routes into the billion-dollar U.S. 
market. With Juarez's homicide rate reaching 130 killings per 100,000 
residents, Mexico's Citizens' Council for Public Security and Justice 
recently named it the most violent city in the world. A week ago, 18 
recovering drug addicts were lined up against a wall and executed at 
a treatment center.

Chavez's nomination needs the approval of the Mexican Senate; 
Calderon's National Action Party lost control of the chamber in this 
summer's midterm elections. In his announcement, Calderon praised 
Chavez's "wide experience in law and specifically in combating 
organized crime."

With Calderon's fight against the drug cartels raging across Mexico, 
the resignation of Attorney General Eduardo Medina Mora on Monday 
signals a shake-up in the crime-fighting leadership of the cabinet.

Medina Mora was viewed as a close ally by Washington and, with his 
custom-made suits and fluent English, served as Mexico's public face 
in the evolving partnership between the Obama and Calderon 
governments. U.S. diplomats heaped praise on Medina Mora, saying he 
helped foster greater cooperation between Washington and Mexico City.

The relationship between Mexican and U.S. law enforcement agencies is 
undergoing profound change, with $1.4 billion in aid flowing to 
Mexico and U.S. agents and advisers helping Mexico to confront 
endemic corruption and reform its police, judiciary and intelligence-gathering.

But there have been continued setbacks. One member of Medina Mora's 
inner circle, Noe Ramirez Mandujano, who led organized-crime 
investigations, was arrested last year and charged with peddling 
sensitive information to the Sinaloa cartel for $450,000.

In Arizona on Friday, a former top supervisor for U.S. Immigration 
and Customs Enforcement (ICE) was arrested and charged with passing 
classified information to an unnamed Mexican drug cartel. Richard 
Padilla Cramer was the ICE resident agent in charge at the Nogales 
port of entry in Arizona until 2004, when he took up duties as the 
ICE attache in Guadalajara until retirement in 2007.

According to the criminal complaint, Cramer used his position to 
search government databases to find out whether any members of the 
cartel were federal informants. If found out, such informants are 
usually executed or their family members kidnapped. Cramer is also 
charged with personally investing in a plot to smuggle 300 kilograms 
of cocaine from Panama to Spain. 
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