TakePart: Jason Johnson on the Politics of Drug Cartels in Mexico

TakePart.com interviewed Hiram College professor Jason Johnson for the article “The Sneaky Way Mexico’s Drug Cartels Are Trying to Gain Political Control”

An interesting argument was once overheard among representatives of Mexico’s three main political parties. The three were sitting outside the headquarters of the Federal Electoral Institute in 2009, on the southern edge of Mexico City, within earshot of Jason Johnson, a political scientist at Hiram College in Ohio and a Mexico observer.

The disagreement was “not about who was taking the most money from cartels, but how they used the cartel money they were all getting. One said, ‘We use it for voter education.…’ One accused the other of using the money to get cars. But no one was denying that they were taking cartel money,” Johnson recalled recently. “I thought to myself, Are they literally saying this?”

It’s exactly the kind of shadowy deal making—even when it comes to the political dealings of Mexico’s bloody drug cartels—that often gets recorded in the minutiae of financial disclosures. But advocates of transparency and government accountability in Mexico are facing a potentially major setback if the administration of President Enrique Peña Nieto goes forward with a plan to change the structure, purview, and legal status of the country’s main transparency institute, the Federal Institute for Access to Information.

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