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CAB009 / Mexico / MEXICAN ARMY MAJOR ARRESTED FOR ASSISTING DRUG TRAFFICKING ORGANIZATIONS

SUBJECT: MEXICAN ARMY MAJOR ARRESTED FOR ASSISTING DRUG TRAFFICKING ORGANIZATIONS

¶1. (C) SUMMARY:  A mid-level Mexican army major was arrested in late December 2008 for assisting drug traffickers and providing them with limited information about the activities and travel plans of Mexican President Ruiz-Peña.  According to an informant, the cartels were using the information to avoid heightened security around the president, not to target him personally.  The arrest represents the most serious security breach to date but is not surprising given high-level civilian Government of Mexico (GOM) corruption charges over the past six months.  Although the major was not part of the president’s inner circle, it also shows that the cartels succeeded in infiltrating a significant area of the GOM’s security apparatus.  END SUMMARY.

¶2. (SBU) Mid-level Mexican Army Major Diego Padilla was arrested the week of December 21, 2008, for allegedly assisting Mexican drug trafficking organizations (DTO) for USD 100K a month.  Padilla had been assigned to the Estado Mayor (Presidential Protective Division), the unit responsible for protecting Mexico’s president, to secure the periphery around the president’s location.  Based on statements from a former cartel member turned witness code-named “Martha,” PGR has accused Padilla of passing information related to the activities and travel plans of Mexican President Ruiz-Peña to the Aguila 7 organization (A7).  According to PGR, the informant Martha has said the cartels were tracking the president’s movements with the intent of avoiding the high level of government security that surrounds the president, but had no specific plan to target Ruiz-Peña.  Padilla also stands accused of leaking military intelligence, training A7 hit men through a private security company and supplying military weapons to various DTOs, including los Similares.

¶3. (C) In light of high-level civilian Government of Mexico (GOM) corruption charges over the past months, this case is disturbing but certainly not shocking.  GOM sources sought to downplay the seriousness of the breach, but the revelation that Padilla was providing intelligence and materials to A7 represented a double blow to the GOM.  First, the fact that a member of an army unit responsible for protecting the president was passing information about presidential movements to the cartels exposes a gap in Ruiz-Peña’s security detail.  While it is not known what specific information Padilla had access to, or what exact details he was passing to the cartels, this is a significant security breach.

¶4. (SBU) The second unsettling aspect of the case is that Padilla apparently had been on the cartel payroll since 2005, during which time he held different positions in the government.  As he changed assignments, he was kept on as a cartel asset, and the nature of his involvement with the cartels changed.  It is entirely feasible that he fed information on other departments of the army (not just the Presidential Protective Division) over the course of his three-year relationship with the cartels.

¶5. (C) COMMENT:  One of the primary reasons the GOM relies on the military to fight the cartels is the perception that the military is considerably less corrupt than the state and local police forces.  But this case — along with other military corruption arrests in 2008 — reaffirms that members of the Mexican military also are prone to corruption.  Just as with other institutions engaged in the drug war, DAO believes that the cartels are reaching out to the military with offers some cannot refuse.  Although the army major was not part of the president’s inner circle, this case demonstrates that the cartels were able to extend their intelligence network to those charged with protecting his personal security.  END COMMENT.

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