Cablegate: Zacatecas Notes: State of Discontent
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DE RUEHME #0630/01 0641806
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R 041806Z MAR 08
FM AMEMBASSY MEXICO
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 0748
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RUEHOT/AMEMBASSY OTTAWA 2373
RUEHSN/AMEMBASSY SAN SALVADOR 2507
RUEHTG/AMEMBASSY TEGUCIGALPA 1681
RUEHCD/AMCONSUL CIUDAD JUAREZ 4861
RUEHGD/AMCONSUL GUADALAJARA 5948
RUEHHO/AMCONSUL HERMOSILLO 3934
RUEHRD/AMCONSUL MERIDA 4005
RUEHMC/AMCONSUL MONTERREY 5912
RUEHNG/AMCONSUL NOGALES 0633
RUEHNL/AMCONSUL NUEVO LAREDO 1360
RUEAHLA/DEPT OF HOMELAND SECURITY
RUEABNE/DEA EPIC EL PASO TX
UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 03 MEXICO 000630
E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: ECON KCRM KDEM MX PGOV PHUM PINR PREL SMIG
SUBJECT: ZACATECAS NOTES: STATE OF DISCONTENT
1. (SBU) A two day trip to Zacatecas state in early February
by Embassy Poloff and Monterrey consulate's Polecon chief
provided indications that the nearly ten year grip held by
the Democratic Revolutionary Party on the state may be
loosening. Contacts in politics, government, media and
academe we spoke with told us that chronic economic
stagnation, what residents perceive to be an uptick in
violent crime in the past two years and the lackluster
administration of current PRD governor Amalia Garcia have
amplified a sense of things gone badly wrong.
A Century of Decline
2. (U) To be sure, discontent is no stranger to Zacatecas.
The state fell on hard times more than a hundred years ago
and never recovered its stature as one of the richest silver
mining areas in the world. The capital is richly adorned
with ecclesiastical and administrative architecture befitting
its status as colonial Mexico's most important northern city,
but today it feels oversized relative to the rest of the
sparsely populated, economically laconic state.
3. (U) Mining and agriculture remain the two principal
mainstays, but highly capitalized operations in the first and
inefficiencies in the second mean neither offers extensive
employment possibilities. Commercial activities are
small-scale and manufacturing nearly non-existent. Dr.
Miguel Moctezuma Director of Development Studies at the
Autonomous University of Zacatecas, is fond of telling
visitors that all of the state's commercial entrepreneurs can
be fit into a Volkswagon Bug with room to spare.
4. (U) Something of an anomaly in north-central Mexico,
Zacatecas is more akin to Chiapas and Oaxaca than its more
prosperous neighbors. It suffers chronically high
unemployment/under-employment and ranked 26 out of 31 Mexican
states in a GOM social development index published last year.
5. (U) Not surprisingly, one of its largest exports is
migrant labor, largely to the U.S., but also to more
prosperous regional cities such as Monterrey, Guadalajara and
San Luis Potosi. Dr. Moctezuma estimates that the state loses
between 20 and 30 thousand workers each year. The state's
population grew by only four percent between 1990 and 2000
and by some accounts has since declined.
Rising Crime Further Erodes Confidence
6. (U) One group taking a new interest in the state is
unwelcome by its residents. In recent years, Zacatecas had
been relatively insulated from rising crime and violence.
Violent crime, including homicides, in fact, dipped
significantly from the late 1990s through 2002. There are
indications, however, that the cartels have begun to
establish a foothold in the state.
7. (SBU) Government contacts with whom we spoke, such as the
new Secretary of Government and State Public Security Chief,
downplayed crime as a major issue; however, non-governmental
contacts we spoke with, such as print journalist Alfredo
Valadez and broadcaster Francisco Esparza, painted a more
negative picture. Robberies, auto-theft, kidnapping and
extortion have increased significantly in the past year, they
8. (SBU) Recent high-profile incidents such as the killing
of seven state policemen in late December and the on air
death threat to a popular broadcaster in Fresnillo early this
year have robbed the state of its sleepy, close-knit feel and
contributed to a sense of unease, said many contacts.
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9. (SBU) No hard evidence exists that narco-violence is here
to stay in Zacatecas, but the picture painted by contacts in
the state dovetails with comments made to us earlier by
public security officials in neighboring Nuevo Leon. State
attorney general Luis Carlos Trevino and San Pedro Police
Chief told us that combined military and law enforcement
operations put pressure on cartel operations in Nuevo Leon
and Tamaulipas; traffickers have moved some operations into
neighboring states and gone "downmarket" - diversifying into
auto-theft, extortion and other petty criminal pursuits to
keep their core operations greased with cash.
10. (SBU) Well-removed from commercial trucking routes and
far from the U.S. border, Zacatecas does not offer
narco-traffickers a particularly attractive foothold, but
even the Secretary of Government and Public Security Chief
acknowledged that both the Gulf and Pacific Cartels had made
some inroads. As important, the public's perception is that
growing crime is yet another example of a state government
that is under-performing.
PRD Gets More Than It Bargained For
11. (U) Zacatecans are habitually hard to please.
Complaints about economic and social underdevelopment, as
well as rising crime, helped the PRD drive the long-ruling
PRI from power back in 1998 when a young Ricardo Monreal
broke from the later party and become the first PRD state
governor. Capitalizing on PRI's ebbing credibility, Monreal
built the PRD up from the ground in Zacatecas. Despite an
internal PRD flap over his support for his (Labor Party)
brother's mayoral race in Fresnillo last year, he retains a
significant amount of influence in the state. He is
currently a PRD Senator-at-large in the national legislature.
12. (SBU) Current governor Amalia Garcia, on the other hand,
is considered by many to be a bit of an outsider. Her father
was a PRI state governor in the 1950s, but Garcia left the
state as a teenager and spent most of her adult life in
Mexico City where she was active in leftwing politics. She
is criticized for what many consider to be a series of bad
cabinet picks, and for cycling her advisors from one state
post to another even when they poorly managed their previous
portfolios. A cabinet shuffle in early January brought in no
new faces and was seen by many as uninspired.
13. (SBU ) The biggest complaint we heard about the governor
was her failure to articulate a coherent strategy to promote
state development. Such feelings may have contributed to PRD
losses in elections for municipal and state elections last
July when the party lost a third of its state's municipal
presidencies and legislative seats, largely to the PRI.
14. (SBU) Garcia and her party may get a boost from her
former Secretary of Government, Gerardo Romo Fonseca, who is
running for the state's party president on a pledge to
re-vitalize the organization. (Romo also pledges to deliver a
state PRD majority to AMLO-backed candidate for national
party president, Alejandro Encinas.)
15. (SBU) Charismatic and energetic, Romo says he will focus
party attention on rural development, a theme which he admits
has not been adequately addressed by the current governor.
Nearly three quarters of the state's residents live in small
"poblaciones" or in rural areas, he said, although he offered
no clear strategy for re-vitalizing the countryside.
16. (U) Meanwhile, opposition activists are eying a number
of alternative candidates to run against the party in 2010
state elections. They are currently rallying behind Jose
Aguirre, a prominent construction magnate; the hope is that
he will head a non-partisan ticket based on civic renewal.
Another possible contender is the recently elected Zacatecas
Mayor, PANista Cuatemoc Calderon.
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17. (U) With a year an a half before gubernatorial elections
Zacatecans still have time to ruminate further on their
future. Whoever wins in 2010 will have a difficult job ahead
infusing the state's residents with confidence.
Visit Mexico City's Classified Web Site at
http://www.state.sgov.gov/p/wha/mexicocity and the North American
Partnership Blog at http://www.intelink.gov/communities/state/nap /