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  January 13, 2016

El Chapo Arrest Won't Change Narco-Governance in Mexico

John Mill Ackerman says the real problem facing the rule of law in Mexico is Obama's blind support for the Nieto government
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John M. Ackerman is a professor at the National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM), Editor-in-Chief of the Mexican Law Review and a columnist with both La Jornada newspaper and Proceso magazine. Blog: Twitter: @JohnMAckerman


SHARMINI PERIES, EXEC. PRODUCER, TRNN: Welcome to the Real News Network. I'm Sharmini Peries coming to you from Baltimore.

On Friday, nearly six months after El Chapo Guzman escaped from a maximum security prison in Mexico, authorities in a rather dramatic encounter recaptured him in Los Mochis. There's a lot of speculation about Guzman's interview with actor Sean Penn; whether it had anything to do with uncovering his whereabouts. Let's find out.

For that I'm joined by John Mill Ackerman. John is a professor at UNAM and he is editor-in-chief of the Mexican Law Review. And he's a columnist with both La Jornada newspaper and Proceso magazine. John, so good to have you with us.

JOHN MILL ACKERMAN: [Inaud.] Sharmini, a pleasure as always.

PERIES: So let's begin with exactly what unfolded, because there's different accounts of how the arrest took place, and what led to his arrest. So John, give us how you're covering it there.

ACKERMAN: Well, the most important thing to look at this last Friday, El Chapo, first, escaped again. There was a raid on a house where he apparently was. A raid done by the Mexican equivalent of the Marines. They're actually the Navy, but they're called the Marines. They're a, you know, elite force who charged on a safe house, El Chapo Guzman, in Los Mochis this Friday. But he escaped he went into a closet. There was a hole between two mirrors. And he escaped down into the drainage system of Los Mochis. And half a kilometre, a kilometre away, half a mile, he emerged from underneath the streets, stole a car. He was with his bodyguard. Then he grabbed another car, and escaped from Los Mochis.

Apparently, this is at least the official version, the federal police was then attending to the report of robbery of this vehicle, and detained the car. And inside, surprise, there was El Chapo Guzman, and his bodyguard. And instead of handcuffing them and bringing them immediately to the police station, they instead brought them to a motel in the region, and waited for further instructions and reinforcements. Then, finally, it was announced publicly he had been detained, et cetera.

This is very typical, the way in which the Mexican government has been approaching this whole issue, in terms of making sort of public shows of trying to get El Chapo Guzman, but then letting him go. Apparently this time they were forced to, either by accident or by U.S. government, to actually take him into their power and put him into jail. But if you had to ask me, my [inaud.] would be that he'll be escaped again pretty soon. The extradition process towards the United States takes a long time from Mexico. The legal proceedings will take at least a year. That's what the [inaud.] administration has said. And there are [those that] would take longer. Edgar Villarreal, “The Barbie”, they call him, who is a U.S. citizen, was captured four years ago and was just extradited a few months ago. This took four years, this whole process.

El Chapo Guzman obviously has lots of money, lots of lawyers at his service, and he's going to use every single possible loophole to stay where he is in Mexico. And the Mexican government, frankly, doesn't look like it's particularly interested in having him go and spill the beans to the United States police and investigative agencies. So this is going to be a while, and the big question is whether El Chapo Guzman is going to stay in jail, or not. He's at the same jail which he escaped from six months ago, [inaud.] which he dig this, this tunnel underneath the, the jail. So we'll have to see what happens.

PERIES: What evidence do we have that the Nieto government and the Mexican government is linked to the narco business?

ACKERMAN: There's a long story, a long history of connections, obviously, between the Mexican institutions and the narco trafficking. The way in which the Mexican government is dealing with this extradition issue is a good indication. This is a government which is normally very pro-American, pro-North American, pro-neoliberal free trade agreements and bringing in foreign capital. But all of a sudden when it comes to the issue of extradition they get very nationalistic, very defensive of national sovereignty. The previous attorney general, Jesus Murillo Karam, the same guy who made up the story about where the 43 students from Ayotzinapa had so mostly been brought to and killed, said that El Chapo Guzman wouldn't be extradited for 300, 400 years, until all of the criminal procedures were finished in Mexico.

The new attorney general, Arely Gomez, is pretending to be more sympathetic and open to the idea of extradition. But everybody here in Mexico is very aware this is not the interest of the sitting Mexican government because, you know, where did all the money come from for the PRI 2012 presidential campaign with Pena Nieto, and all the other governor campaigns. The PRI all of a sudden, in every election, has incredible amounts of cash to fund their operatives, to buy votes, to commit electoral fraud. This is illegal, according to--just having the money and spending it is illegal under Mexican law. But also, the origins of this money are completely unknown. The money has, comes through different banks which fund different, other kinds of banks. This is sort of a typical money laundering operation for the funding of electoral campaigns.

So there's plenty of suspicions. And the way in which the federal government, the Nieto administration has been behaving with regard to this case, and the other cases, like Ayotzinapa or other cases in which the military is involved in assassinations and massacres, all point to the idea that this government is not on the side of the people, but is more on the side of the narcos and of the, of the corrupt interest, international interests.

PERIES: John, there's a lot of talk in the American media that the interview Sean Penn had done with Guzman led to his unraveling of his whereabouts and his arrest. Do you think there is any truth to that?

ACKERMAN: No, I don't think--I mean, what the Mexican government says is that they were following the Chapo's lawyer, and that the Chapo's lawyer had been having engagements with different actors and actresses, and this gave them information about the Chapo's whereabouts. They don't accuse directly Sean Penn and Kate del Castillo of, of this. But even that is not really sustainable, because if they knew where his whereabouts were, they would have captured him in the mountains. They ended up capturing him when he came down to Los Mochis, which is an important city in northern Mexico. And so there doesn't seem to be a real connection there.

What is important is that I think it's--people criticize Sean Penn and Kate del Castillo about this connection, this interview and doing journalism in this way. I think it's an open issue. But what's much more harmful to Mexico, and to the rule of law and to life in Mexico is the blind support which the Obama administration and the United States government gives to this increasingly authoritarian, despotic, and narco government run by Enrique Pena Nieto. That's the real problem, and not journalistic visits to [inaud.]. In fact, the article written by Sean Penn has very interesting information about the complicity between the Chapo Guzman, and on one side, international corporations. He mentions them as the chief launderers for him, and on the other side Mexican government. Sean Penn is very clear about during his trip, the military was very open and permissive to the son of Chapo Guzman, during their trip, and weren't asking too many questions.

So this is a structural problem. In the end it doesn't really matter whether Chapo Guzman is in jail or out of jail, because the Cartel Sinaloa continues to sell drugs and traffic [persons]. It continues to be a very successful organization. Mayo Zambada, who is the second to Chapo Guzman, is still free and controlling the organization. His sons are in control. So this does not mean any kind of real progress of course, in terms of the rule of law in Mexico, when you get to deeper issues and higher-level complicities to do that.

PERIES: All right, John. I thank you so much for joining us today.

ACKERMAN: Thank you, Sharmini. A pleasure and an honor as always.

PERIES: And thank you for joining us on the Real News Network.


DISCLAIMER: Please note that transcripts for The Real News Network are typed from a recording of the program. TRNN cannot guarantee their complete accuracy.


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