Possible U.S. Coup against Mexico Defense Minister
Our neighbor to the south is getting special attention from the Obama Administration, NY Times reports. Concerned with the possible promotion of Gen. Moises Garcia Ochoa, President Obama and his foreign policy team urged the Mexican government to cease his seemingly imminent promotion to Minister of Defense.
Whether the U.S. was a central force in the decision to not promote Gen. Ochoa remains unclear. However, sources say that the U.S. government was alarmed about his perceived involvement in the budding U.S.-Mexico bilateral relationship.
In September, Gen. Ochoa led the military Independence Day, a ceremonial post that traditionally confirms the next Minister of Defense. Ever since, the United States beefed up its once covert misgivings about the General.
On December 1, U.S. Ambassador to Mexico, Anthony Wayne, met with senior advisors to President Enrique Nieto to express apprehension about the promotion.
Although Gen. Ochoa’s military resume reads like a hallmark to military service, beneath of ink, allegations of corruption and cronyism blight his public image. Gen. Ochoa supposedly siphoned off millions in defense contracts for personal gain. Mexican news reports (2012) alleged that the General could not account for $355 million in funds that were supposed to go towards improved technological advancements.
General Ochoa reportedly has links to drug cartels. It is no secret that drug cartels run Mexican socio-political systems. According to classified D.E.A. intelligence reports (that the NY Times was lucky enough to get its hands on), on Dec. 15, 1997, Gen. Ochoa (who was then a Colonel) attempted to negotiate a deal with Mexican drug trafficking organizations. The report also accuses Gen. Ochoa of letting Amado Carrillo Fuentes escape during a massive drug raid.
The accuracy of these allegations remain unclear, yet it was enough for the U.S. to step in and derail his promotion.
The United States has incentive to remove the General from the Nieto government. For one, Nieto is a PRI member, a party known for its rampant corruption and fraternization with drug cartels. The party was in power for 70 years until 2000. This is their first presidential victory in a decade. Obama wishes to keep relations as cooperative as possible, and worked to remove a factor that may influence the new administration, fresh in its term.
U.S. relations with Felipe Calderon (2006-2012) expanded the bilateral cooperations in ways revolutionary. The two administrations fought, captured, and killed a record number of cartels. Intelligence sharing is now the highlight of new AmeriMex relations; the the first joint intelligence unit operates on a Mexican military base and the U.S. regularly shares sensitive information with the Mexican Navy which has led to the capture of cartels.
Gen. Ochoa, although a small figure in the big picture, could have jeopardized this fostering relationship.
Gen. Salvador Cienfuegos Zepeda got the job instead.
Gen. Ochoa was dispatched to Coahuila, a northern border state known for its cartel activity. Assassinations and prison outbreaks are familiar to the region. No word if this new assignment speaks to his strength as a military leader, or his unpopularity in the Mexican government.
For more on this story, please read this NY Times article: http://www.nytimes.com/2013/02/05/world/americas/us-stepped-in-to-halt-mexican-generals-rise.html?partner=rss&emc=rss&smid=tw-nytimes&_r=0