HomeNewsAnalysisAlleged ‘Zetas Ties’ of Mexico’s Interior Minister a Liability for New Govt
ANALYSIS

Alleged 'Zetas Ties' of Mexico's Interior Minister a Liability for New Govt

JUDICIAL REFORM / 13 DEC 2012 BY GEOFFREY RAMSEY EN

As Mexico's Interior Minister, Miguel Osorio Chong is expected to help lead the government's efforts against organized crime, but allegations that he had links to the Zetas during his time as governor of Hidalgo state could represent a major liability to the new administration.

Newly-elected President Enrique Peña Nieto took office on December 1, appointing Osorio Chong, a fellow Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) politician, to serve as his Minister of the Interior. The position holds tremendous importance in the country, and the person who holds it is considered the most important member of the president's cabinet. Mexico's Interior Minister is tasked with looking after internal affairs, submitting bills to Congress and serving as a spokesperson on matters of national security.

The official is also the ultimate head of the country's main intelligence agency, the Center for Research and National Security (CISEN), a division of the Interior Ministry. The previous adminstration's Interior Minister, Alejandro Poire, had a reputation as a dedicated defender of former president Felipe Calderon's confrontational approach towards drug trafficking organizations, and was one of the most visible lieutenants in Calderon's "drug war."

Peña Nieto has vowed to largely adhere to the security policies of his predecessor, there is reason to doubt whether Osorio Chong can fill this same role for the new president. Osorio Chong, who served as governor of the state of Hidalgo at the same time as Peña Nieto was governor of Mexico state (2005-2011), faced repeated accusations during his term that he maintained links with organized crime in Hidalgo, particularly with the dominant criminal group there, the Zetas.

In 2010, the Mexican Attorney General's Office (PGR) opened a preliminary investigation into claims that Osorio Chong, along with several members of his administration and other political elites in Hidalgo had received payments from Zetas leader and Hidalgo native Heriberto Lazcano Lazcano, alias "Z-3." According to the allegations, the officials accepted bribes from the Zetas boss in exchange for a license to operate with relative impunity. Adding weight to these claims is the fact that the group is believed to have significantly expanded its presence in Hidalgo under Osorio Chong's administration, deeply penetrating the state's police force. Osorio Chong vehemently denied any links to drug trafficking organizations and in 2011, just before he stepped down as governor, the PGR exonerated Osorio Chong after a preliminary inquiry.

In May investigative news site Reporte Indigo reported that according to copies of bank statements two of Osorio Chong's brothers, Luis and Eduardo, had transferred nearly $8 million in suspicious funds -- an amount which cannot be explained by their licit incomes -- to HSBC bank accounts in Panama over the course of just one year. Osorio Chong again dismissed this accusation as an attempt to tarnish his reputation, and bank officials denied the existence of the account numbers listed in the report. The PGR cleared the Osorio Chong brothers in July, citing insufficient evidence.

However, the fact that HSBC was under investigation at the time for facilitating the money laundering ventures of Mexican drug cartels casts doubt on the statement issued by the bank. As InSight Crime has reported, HSBC's lax controls have been shown to allow Mexican drug cartels to launder billions of dollars by transferring money to the United States. The bank likely only escaped criminal charges due to concerns that it would effect the US economy, and was forced to pay a $1.9 billion settlement instead.

The allegations against Osorio Chong and his family have not gone beyond preliminary investigations, and there are currently no charges against him. Still, they hark back to the PRI's activities during its heyday in power, marked by cronyism and backdoor deals with drug trafficking organizations. Analysts and opposition politicians have already accused the PRI of considering a "pact" with drug cartels in order to stem violence in the country. If further evidence of such activities comes to light it will doubtlessly harm Peña Nieto's efforts to cast himself as a fresh face in a modern, 21st century democratic party. 

Osorio Chong

share icon icon icon

Was this content helpful?

We want to sustain Latin America’s largest organized crime database, but in order to do so, we need resources.

DONATE

What are your thoughts? Click here to send InSight Crime your comments.

We encourage readers to copy and distribute our work for non-commercial purposes, with attribution to InSight Crime in the byline and links to the original at both the top and bottom of the article. Check the Creative Commons website for more details of how to share our work, and please send us an email if you use an article.

Was this content helpful?

We want to sustain Latin America’s largest organized crime database, but in order to do so, we need resources.

DONATE

Related Content

CONTRABAND / 4 APR 2019

A Mexican senator has proposed tougher punishment for the illegal production and theft of medicine, as part of a renewed…

COLOMBIA / 25 SEP 2012

Forced displacement has a long history in Latin America. For decades - and even centuries in some countries - entire…

MEXICO / 25 MAY 2012

Mexico has suffered a rash of deadly attacks against journalists, made worse by a report suggesting that some of…

About InSight Crime

THE ORGANIZATION

Unraveling the Web of Elites Connected to Organized Crime

27 JUL 2021

InSight Crime published Elites and Organized Crime in Nicaragua, a deep dive into the relationships between criminal actors and elites in that Central American nation.

THE ORGANIZATION

InSight Crime’s Greater Focus on US-Mexico Border

20 JUL 2021

InSight Crime has decided to turn many of its investigative resources towards understanding and chronicling the criminal dynamics along the US-Mexico border.

THE ORGANIZATION

Key Arrests and Police Budget Increases Due to InSight Crime Investigations

8 JUL 2021

With Memo Fantasma’s arrest, InSight Crime has proven that our investigations can and will uncover major criminal threats in the Americas.

THE ORGANIZATION

Organized Crime’s Influence on Gender-Based Violence

30 JUN 2021

InSight Crime investigator Laura N. Ávila spoke on organized crime and gender-based violence at the launch of a research project by the United Nations Development Programme.

THE ORGANIZATION

Conversation with Paraguay Judicial Operators on PCC

24 JUN 2021

InSight Crime Co-director Steven Dudley formed part of a panel attended by over 500 students, all of whom work in Paraguay's judicial system.