Francisco Labastida Ochoa is the presidential
candidate of the Institutional Revolutionary Party -- known in
Mexico as the PRI -- after 71 years, the longest-standing ruling
party on earth. He has the backing of Mexican President Ernesto
Zedillo, and has tapped top campaign consultants from the Clinton
White House - the legendary "Ragin' Cajun," James Carville,
and pollster Stan Greenberg.
Labastida promises a government free of corruption. But he himself has been widely viewed as a pioneer in the modern shady relationship between violent drug cartels and political officials.
Labastida was governor of Sinaloa (1986-1992) precisely when renowned cartel boss Amado Carrillo Fuentes - "The Lord of the Skies" - was rocketing to power from the same home state. Under Labastida's watch, 3,000 homicides in Sinaloa were related to drug trafficking, and the narco established what remains as one of its key footholds in Mexico. (He can't get all the blame, though: US officials used Sinaloa, during World War II, as a strategic locale to grow poppy for the morphine required by Allied combat troops, thus launching Sinaloa into the narco-trade.)
In 1998, CIA documents on Labastida and the narco were published by the Washington Times' Insight magazine. Recently, Insight revisited the Labastida narco story.
This article states, among other points, that the US Central Intelligence Agency has believed that Labastida is a narco-politician:
"The CIA certainly believes that Labastida collaborated with the drug traffickers. When Labastida became secretary of government in early 1998, Washington Times national-security correspondent Bill Gertz revealed a top-secret CIA report which stated, "Labastida's appointment could prove costly to the Zedillo administration should reports become public that he has maintained ties to narcotraffickers since his time as governor of Sinaloa."
Now, in the Mexican presidential campaign, challenger Vicente Fox and his National Action Party (the PAN) have accused Labastida of creating in Sinaloa "the cradle of drug trafficking." In sum, they accused that Labastida had modeled and perfected the modern Mexican Narco State.
Labastida bit back hard, wounded but indignant, and insisted, to the contrary, that his life was threatened by the Arrellano Félix Cartel of Tijuana, and said that's why he fled the country in 1993 when he took the post of Mexican ambassador to Portugal. Labastida has not yet commented on the inconvenient fact that the Tijuana-based Arrellano Félix cartel was - then and now - the chief competitor of the Juárez-based organization of Carrillo that governor Labastida allegedly protected. An important perspective: Many narco-threats or assassinations of public officials involve functionaries who choose sides in disputes between rival drug gangs. It seems inevitable that Labastida (and/or his Washington campaign consultants) will have to speak more on his alleged narco-past before the coming election day of July.
From La Jornada
of Mexico City, March 16, 2000
"A Low and Dirty Blow: Labastida"
by José Gil Olmos
"Yesterday, Labastida had to speak on a theme that he has eluded on various occasions: his presumed relations with drug trafficking, and in an irritated tone he denied the allegations and he claimed that it was the Arrellano Félix brothers who provoked his exit from the country to Portugal as ambassador in 1993.
"According to (the opposition PAN party) Labastida has made a pact with drug traffickers; "it's what the people say, it's the opinion of the public, without being able to obtain a file that proves it."
"Irritated, the Sinaloan said "I'm not going to let anyone put my conduct in doubt. I am in front of the vanguard in the fight against corruption, I have been recognized by all the people for what I have tried in this sense."
"Out of control, Labastida did not answer the question (of radio show hosts about his alleged narco-histories), but he said "This is a dirty, piggish and low blow. It is a slander."
Click here to go to related story on Labastida and the "narco-banker":