“How do you know the deal is with the cartel?” a reporter asks.
“Your heart,” Guillermo García Meza responds. “Maybe your thirst for pure water and cola.”
García Meza is a police chief in the Mexican state of Jalisco, where his own federal police force is overseeing the search for one of the most notorious cartels, the Jalisco New Generation Cartel. They are now going after the cartel leaders, most notably its leader, Nemesio Oseguera Cervantes, better known as El Mencho. The police took him into custody on Feb. 8, along with another fugitive, and there have been few leads in his case so far.
Photos have surfaced on social media of Garcia Meza and Oseguera outside a conference in the town of Badiraguato in Jalisco, holding hands and what appears to be a bunch of seized cocaine. Oseguera was arrested on national television a day after the conference, during which the AP says Garcia Meza and his officer, Miguel Tellez, “appeared to be showing El Mencho what they caught him with.”
When the AP asked them about it, the police were dismissive. “The photograph was taken over a decade ago, when [García Meza] was a young professional,” the police said in a statement. The police spokesman, García Meza, also denied that there was anything improper about the handshakes: “It was a friendly, professional, lawful handshake,” he said.
As with many cases involving organized crime in Mexico, it is not clear if Garcia Meza knew that he was engaging in business with a drug lord. But some have wondered if there may have been some form of a quid pro quo.
Writing in El Pais, Joaquín Alfonso Calderón Navarro writes: “Miguel Tellez has been implicated in the death of an investigative journalist in Cancún, Laura Zúñiga de Olmos. The death, which reportedly occurred as a result of domestic violence, was announced on the very same day that President Enrique Peña Nieto’s administration made the seizure of 10.2 million dollars in Mexico City. Olmos had apparently revealed contact she had with officials in a much higher position than Tellez, the provincial and then state security director for Jalisco, according to a 2010 media account.”
El Pais also has published photographic evidence that the 2011 death of photographer Gloria Gutiérrez Gandara, who worked in the company of El Mencho, was at least partially drug-related. And El País wrote: “The same police chief assigned to looking for Oseguera is involved in Guatemala’s ruling party, founded by Manuel Baldizon. Garcia Meza, who formerly worked in Guatemala and now lives in Mexico, is also listed as a member of the party’s executive council in Mexico.
García Meza’s resignation, which was announced this week, will serve as the second public fall from grace of the Jalisco governor, Sarmiento Peña Nieto, the son of the country’s president. Last August, four suspected members of the Jalisco New Generation Cartel died during a shootout with police in Jalisco. Two of the suspects were minors. But when the state’s official newspaper reported the names of the dead, a researcher for the university of Mexico presented DNA tests that proved the three suspects were the missing brothers of Miguel Angel Mendoza Licona, who was serving a seven-year prison sentence for drug trafficking in Cancún when he disappeared last December.
Peña Nieto has not been entirely quiet on the investigation. He announced the seizure of two million dollars and the capture of Oseguera, and issued a statement that said: “We will not hide or erase official information, and we will not treat our criminals with kid gloves.”