HomeNewsShowdown Brewing Over Fate of Runaway Mexico Governor
NEWS

Showdown Brewing Over Fate of Runaway Mexico Governor

ELITES AND CRIME / 12 MAY 2021 BY PARKER ASMANN EN

Time appears to be running out for the governor of the US-Mexico border state of Tamaulipas – after lawmakers stripped him of his immunity from prosecution and US officials shared their own investigation into his alleged criminal activity.

Mexico's Attorney General's Office announced on May 10 that the US Justice Department had shared its case file on Governor Francisco García Cabeza de Vaca. The investigation provides information on alleged illegal money transfers and other banking irregularities, according to prosecutors.

This comes after the Chamber of Deputies – Mexico’s lower house of Congress – voted on April 30 to remove the embattled governor's immunity after he was charged with organized crime, money laundering and tax evasion.

The state congress of Tamaulipas objected to the decision and chose to allow Cabeza de Vaca to remain in office, according to local media reports. Mexico's Supreme Court will now rule on the case.

Cabeza de Vaca is suspected of links to organized crime groups and laundering illicit funds while in office, according to the Attorney General’s Office. Prosecutors allege the governor amassed a multimillion-dollar fortune that does not match his income as a public official.

This includes scores of hidden assets, including 30 properties located in Texas and Tamaulipas valued at around 951 million Mexican pesos (around $47 million) that were purchased by front companies tied to his family, according to Animal Político

SEE ALSO: Mexico News and Profiles

Prosecutors allege that he operated a shadowy network within his state government between 2016 and 2019, handing out public contracts to companies that benefited several members of his family.

Cabeza de Vaca has rejected these accusations, calling the hearing to remove his immunity a “hoax” and a “political and criminal lynching orchestrated by the government.”

President Andrés Manuel López Obrador has called for patience, as the courts make a final ruling.

But with rumors swirling about whether Cabeza de Vaca has already fled Mexico for the United States, he joins the line of Tamaulipas governors who have wound up on the wrong side of the law.

InSight Crime Analysis

Controversy has long surrounded Cabeza de Vaca’s career as a public official with the conservative National Action Party (Partido de Acción Nacional -- PAN), especially during his time as governor of Tamaulipas.

Before becoming state governor, Cabeza de Vaca was accused of having links to the Gulf Cartel and using some of the group’s illicit proceeds to finance his campaign for mayor of the US-Mexico border city of Reynosa. While mayor between 2005 and 2007, he allegedly granted special permission to Gulf Cartel kingpin Osiel Cárdenas Guillén to hold a public “Children’s Day” event in 2006. The former Gulf Cartel head is now serving a 25-year prison sentence for overseeing a “vast drug trafficking empire” that imported thousands of kilograms of cocaine and marijuana into the United States.

US and Mexican officials have both targeted Cabeza de Vaca’s alleged criminal activity during his tenure as governor. In 2020, the organized crime unit (Subprocuraduría Especializada en Investigación de Delincuencia Organizada -- SEIDO) of Mexico’s Attorney General’s Office opened a money laundering probe. The unit reportedly obtained telephone wiretaps from the US Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) that may link Cabeza de Vaca to illicit proceeds from organized crime groups.

SEE ALSO: Elites, Organized Crime Share Long History in Tamaulipas, Mexico

More recently, Cabeza de Vaca came under fire after authorities arrested several members of an elite special operations group (GOPES) -- some of whom received US training – in the January massacre of 19 people near the US-Mexico border. The GOPES – formed in 2017 out of the Tamaulipas Center for Analysis, Information and Studies (Centro de Análisis, Información y Estudios de Tamaulipas -- CAIET) – report directly to Cabeza de Vaca.

Despite this and other alleged misconduct, Cabeza de Vaca has maintained good standing with US officials, meeting with powerful senators in the state of Texas and working on bi-national security initiatives with Customs and Border Protection (CBP). At home, the Mexican Navy even honored him on April 21 for his security work in the state.

Cabeza de Vaca, however, has been put on the defensive by the stream of public allegations of financial misdeeds and ties to dirty money from organized crime. In mid-April, he hired a US law firm to “mitigate the effects” of confidential financial information allegedly leaked by Mexican officials, according to public disclosures to the US Treasury Department under the Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA). His lawyer also wrote a letter to the director of the US Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN) urging them to “investigate what appear to be continuing leaks against my client.”

share icon icon icon

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

COSTA RICA / 16 AUG 2018

Costa Rica’s recently-elected President Carlos Alvarado Quesada has officially hit 100 days in office. But his government is still struggling…

BRAZIL / 2 JAN 2018

Welcome to InSight Crime’s GameChangers 2017, where we highlight the most important trends in organized crime in the Americas over…

MEXICO / 17 OCT 2011

Mexican President Felipe Calderon has struck out against the political opposition, suggesting that members of his largest rival party, the…

About InSight Crime

THE ORGANIZATION

Collaborating on Citizen Security Initiatives

8 JUN 2021

Co-director Steven Dudley worked with Chemonics, a DC-based development firm, to analyze the organization’s citizen security programs in Mexico.

THE ORGANIZATION

InSight Crime Deepens Its Connections with Universities

31 MAY 2021

A partnership with the University for Peace will complement InSight Crime’s research methodology and expertise on Costa Rica.

THE ORGANIZATION

With Support from USAID, InSight Crime Will Investigate Organized Crime in Haiti

31 MAY 2021

The project will seek to map out Haiti's principal criminal economies, profile the specific groups and actors, and detail their links to elements of the state.

THE ORGANIZATION

We Have Updated Our Website

4 FEB 2021

Welcome to our new home page. We have revamped the site to create a better display and reader experience.

THE ORGANIZATION

InSight Crime Events - Border Crime: The Northern Triangle and Tri-Border Area

ARGENTINA / 25 JAN 2021

Through several rounds of extensive field investigations, our researchers have analyzed and mapped out the main illicit economies and criminal groups present in 39 border departments spread across the six countries of study – the Northern Triangle trio of Guatemala, Honduras, and El…