Pubdate: Wed, 08 Dec 2010
Source: Wall Street Journal (US)
Copyright: 2010 Dow Jones & Company, Inc.
Author: Nicholas Casey


A man Mexican prosecutors say is one of the country's most-wanted drug
kingpins has collected a salary from the Mexican school system for
years, according to official documents published Wednesday, showing
the ability of fugitives to draw support from the very government
charged with capturing them.

Servando "La Tuta" Gomez, a reputed leader and spokesman for the La
Familia drug cartel, held a tenured position at an elementary school
in the central state of Michoacan and has received paychecks for 15

Mr. Gomez was a school teacher before he became a drug lord, according
to Mexican prosecutors. One of his nicknames is "El Profe" ("The
Professor"). Although he stopped teaching years ago, that didn't
prevent him from apparently picking up his paycheck.

During the first three months of the year, he received roughly $4,100,
according to the registry document from Mexico's education ministry.
Mr. Gomez also collected government benefits at the elementary school
where he was employed with nine other teachers.

President Felipe Calderon has made attacking drug gangs the
centerpiece of his government. While many laud the president's
crackdown, critics say he has shied away from attacking other groups
such as the country's powerful teachers' union, which supported him in
2006 and helped provide his narrow margin of victory.

Agreements between the teachers union, which has 1.2 million members,
and the government have long made firing teachers difficult, even
though Mexico lags far behind most developed nations in measures of
educational achievement.

On Wednesday, Mexican Education Secretary Alonso Lujambio defended the
education ministry, saying the discovery of Mr. Gomez's employment was
a sign of the department's transparency.

"If we had not made transparent the list of teachers from Michoacan,
this news could not be possible, and no actions could have been taken
from it," he said in a radio interview.

Mexican students performed "below average" in all academic subjects
measured, like math and reading, according to the latest rankings
published this week by the Programme for International Student
Assessment, an evaluation that compares students' performance around
the world. In science, for example, it scored lower than countries
like Thailand.

La Familia is a cult-like group that mixes self-help teachings with
drug trafficking and brutality. The group gained notoriety in 2006,
when it tossed five severed heads onto a dance floor in the town of

Mexican and U.S. authorities describe Mr. Gomez as the "operational
chief" of the cartel, and he has doubled as their spokesman. Last
year, after the bodies of dozen slain Mexican federal police were
found after the arrest of a La Familia operative, a person who
identified himself as Mr. Gomez called into a local radio station to
offer the federal government a truce in exchange for freedom to
continue drug trafficking. The government rejected the offer.

Mr. Gomez is also believed to have ties to a federal congressman.
Julio Cesar Godoy, a Michoacan businessman, was elected to a
congressional seat last year while he was on the run from authorities
on money-laundering and organized-crime charges.

In October, a taped telephone conversation was leaked to the media,
purportedly between Messrs. Godoy and Gomez, in which Mr. Godoy
pledges loyalty to aid the drug trade.

Mr. Godoy denied knowing the drug lord, but didn't answer questions as
to whether the voice on the tape was his. As a congressman, he has
immunity from prosecution; fellow lawmakers are considering stripping
him of his protections.
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