A drug cartel boss financed the campaigns of 11 candidates for mayor in the state of Morelos in 2015 in exchange for free rein to carry out criminal activities, two recently arrested gang members have told state authorities.
The unnamed jefes de sicarios (chief hitmen) told the Morelos Attorney General’s office that the leader of Los Rojos, Santiago Mazari, demanded that the mayors guarantee impunity for the cartel in return for the 1 million pesos (US $54,000 at today’s exchange rate) he provided to them.
They also said that Mazari ordered them to collect derecho de piso extortion fees from the mayors after they were sworn in. Amounts ranged from 100,000 to 500,000 pesos (US $5,400-$27,000) per month, which were subsequently forwarded to the capo.
In some cases, the criminal leader also known as “El Carrete” installed cartel members in positions inside the municipal governments he controlled in order to ensure that the extortion fees were paid and to oversee public works projects.
The newspaper Reforma reported today that it had access to the statements that the two detained hitmen made as well as information from federal authorities that reveal the networks of complicity that Mazari established with mayors and state and municipal police.
Of the 11 mayors that received the illicit funding, five represented the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) and Ecological Green Party (PVEM) and two were from the Social Democratic Party (PSD), the informants said.
The National Action Party (PAN), the Democratic Revolution Party (PRD), the Citizens’ Movement Party (MC) and the Humanist Party provided one mayor each.
According to the statement made by one of the men, Mazari even had an agreement with one mayor — Enrique Alonso of Tlaquiltenango — that he not only pay the monthly extortion fees but purchase and supply weapons to the criminal organization.
While the revelation about the campaign financing is new, authorities in Morelos were already aware that extortion payments were allegedly being paid to Los Rojos.
A year ago, Security Commissioner Alberto Capella revealed to the state Congress that officials in 13 municipalities in the south of Morelos were under investigation for making the alleged payments.
In April 2017, mayors and officials from the 13 councils were ordered to appear before the state’s Specialized Unit Against Kidnapping and Extortion in relation to the alleged complicity.
But according to the newspaper El País, only one mayor has been dismissed.
At least four of the 11 mayors are seeking reelection this year, one is running for a position in the state Congress and another is backing his son to succeed him, El País said.
Meanwhile, Santiago Mazari remains at large.
The 11 mayors are Enrique Alonso (PRD) of Tlaquiltenango; Jorge Toledo (PH), Mazatepec; César Augusto Franco (PAN), Coatlán del Río; Alberto Sánchez (PRI), Xochitepec; David Salazar (PRI), Tlaltizapán; Jorge Miranda (PRI), Amacuzac; Francisco León (PRI), Miacatlán; Dulce Medina (PRI), Puente de Ixtla; Francisco Salinas (PSD), Zacatepec; Alfonso Sotelo (PSD), Jojutla; Luz Dary Quevedo (MC), Tetecala.