Sunday, September 26

The phantom assassination of the former governor of Jalisco

He had finished his work on the parking and he was already home watching a movie when he heard the noise. “Like the times at parties they launch those rockets that are many and they go in a row: ra-ta-ta-ta-ta-ta”, recalls Adriana Bañuelos, 56, back at the parking, about 300 meters from the place where the former governor of Jalisco, Aristóteles Sandoval, was assassinated at dawn on Friday. That blast last night were not rockets but the bullets with which they finished off the governor at the exit of the District 5 bar-restaurant, on the main avenue of Puerto Vallarta (Jalisco). “I fell into the account this morning,” adds Bañuelos, “but when I heard it, I thought they were rockets because that is how tourists are received here in hotels ”.

Cordoned off from early in the morning by the police, District 5 is in the heart of Vallarta, the second tourist destination in Mexico after Cancun. One step away from the beach and surrounded by endless towers of macro hotels, shopping centers, bars and restaurants. The tourism ecosystem of resort, en masse and on a large scale, that resists the pandemic and where the former governor had arrived last week. Perhaps with the idea of ​​going unnoticed in the crowd. The same anonymous inertia that now hinders the investigation of his murder, which still has hardly any witnesses or solid evidence. Vallarta woke up this morning like any other day. The avenue jammed with cars and the shops packed with tourists. “When I got to work this morning there were like 10 patrols, but after a while you have forgotten. You have to keep chatting, ”says Nicolás Cortés, a cleaning worker at the mall who looks straight at the bar.

The prosecution has reported that around 1:40 on Friday Sandoval got up from the table to go to the bathroom. They were waiting for him there and he was shot from behind. When the politician’s bodyguards picked him up to take him badly wounded to a hospital, the car was again attacked by about 10 hitmen, according to the authorities, and several rifle bursts. The “rockets” that the lady of the parking.

The prosecutor Gerardo Solís has denounced that the managers of the restaurant ordered the cleaning of the crime scene and that, until now, they have not had access to the recordings of the establishment’s security cameras. The indications inevitably point to another savage blow by organized crime, but the authorities have not yet specified any possible authorship, despite the fact that Vallarta is one of the traditional fiefdoms of the Jalisco Nueva Generación Cartel (CJNG) along with its different satellite groups, and It has a long curriculum of events associated with drug trafficking. “Although we are used to it, the floor does move you,” says Isis Espinosa, 30, manager of another nearby restaurant. On the strange detail of the immediate cleaning of the crime scene, he thinks she would have done the same. “If the narco threatens you, I think you only have to obey. Luckily, it wasn’t my turn ”.

The attack, of which no one has yet been arrested, is surrounded by unknowns. Who are the other three people who were accompanying Sandoval last night? How did a gun get into a nightclub, which usually has a metal detector or search at the door? Or was the gun hidden in advance in the bathroom, like the famous scene from The Godfather? Why didn’t the ex-governor’s bodyguards immediately activate the call first respondent protocol, destined to guard the crime scene? Why attack a politician who was no longer on the front line?

Dedicated for two years to the internal workings of his party, the PRI, Sandoval’s six-year term as head of the Government of Jalisco was marked by the unbridled rise of the Jalisco Nueva Generación Cartel, considered today the most powerful criminal group in Mexico. In March 2013, its newly appointed Secretary of Tourism, Jesús Gallegos, was assassinated in the streets of Guadalajara. The following year, a frustrated operation to arrest the leader of the CJNG, Nemesio Oseguera Cervantes alias El Mencho, unleashed an unusual wave of violence in the state, which included the downing of a military helicopter with cannon shots and the blocking of 39 roads. In 2018, with Sandoval already on the exit ramp, former prosecutor Luis Carlos Nájera was ambushed in broad daylight outside a fashionable restaurant.

Sandoval is known in local bullies for not giving in to blackmail from the mafia. “He never went wrong with them,” says a local journalist who prefers not to give his name and who among the skein of confusion underlines the name of Los Cuinis, a CJNG cell led by Abigael González Valencia, Mencho’s brother-in-law and detained here in 2015 , in Puerto Vallarta. The US Treasury department accuses Los Cuinis of controlling the CJNG money laundering networks from the tourist jewel of the State. And his name also rang out after the kidnapping of two sons of Chapo Guzmán, the historic capo of the Sinaloa cartel, four years ago in another restaurant in Vallarta.

Meanwhile, a day after the attack on Sandoval, the stream of tourists continues to walk past the crime scene with a mixture of curiosity and indifference. Two young Americans, in flip-flops and shorts, stop for a moment behind the police tape. They don’t know anything about what happened until the reporter tells them that just a few hours ago the former governor was shot here. “Wow, how terrible,” says one of them. Well, we already know where you shouldn’t come to drink mojitos ”.

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