Shannon K. O'Neil

Latin America's Moment

O'Neil analyzes developments in Latin America and U.S. relations in the region.

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Mexico’s Interior Minister Dies

by Shannon K. O'Neil
November 5, 2008

While the world was glued to televisions waiting for the result of the U.S. elections last night, Mexico lost one of its most important leaders in its struggle against organized crime and drug trafficking. Juan Camilo Mouriño, Mexico’s Interior Minister, died along with seven others when a government plane that was carrying them to Mexico City crashed into the city’s busy Reforma Avenue in what appears to have been an accident. Among those killed was also José Luis Santiago Vasconcelos, an important presidential adviser on security and judicial reform matters, who had headed Mexico’s elite force to combat organized crime (SIEDO) and had been in charge of extraditing numerous narcotraffickers. The Interior Minister is the second most important position in Mexico’s government, comparable to the vicepresidential position in the United States, and is usually responsible for negotiating with the legislative branch. President Calderon had assigned Mouriño to spearhead the government’s efforts against organized crime and to reform Mexico’s security institutions. In an administration that has rested heavily on President Calderon’s closest confidants in its decision-making process Mouriño was probably the closest to Calderon. It is unclear who could fill Mouriño’s shoes. His death is indeed a blow to Calderon and to Mexico’s efforts against organized crime, drug trafficking, and corruption.

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