It’s a recurring pattern in Mexico. Authorities capture an alleged drug kingpin, and politicians tremble, fearing news leaks about even casual contacts with him or his coterie.
It happened again this week. Authorities detained Hector Beltran Leyva, the head of an offshoot of the Sinaloa Cartel that grew into a formidable rival narcotics gang.
Soldiers captured Beltran Leyva on Wednesday as he dined at a seafood restaurant in San Miguel de Allende, a colonial haven for American retirees and artists. The mountain town is a three-hour drive northwest of Mexico City.
Eating seafood at Mario’s Mariscos Frescos with him – and arrested along with him – was a man authorities described as the Beltran Leyva cartel’s financial brains, German Goyeneche Ortega, a rakish bullfighting aficionado and real estate tycoon who occupied a place among the political and business elite in the central Mexican states of Guanajuato and Queretaro.
While Beltran Leyva lived a discreet life in the city of Queretaro, pretending to be a real estate broker and art dealer, far away from his cartel’s main operating centers, Goyeneche was anything but circumspect, socializing with politicians, impresarios and entertainment figures in his adopted hometown of San Miguel de Allende.
“I know German,” federal deputy Ricardo Villarreal Garcia told the newspaper La Jornada on Friday, “just like Mauricio Trejo Pureco knows him and Luz Maria Nunez knows him,” speaking of San Miguel de Allende’s mayor and former mayor, respectively.
“San Miguel is a very small town, and when someone comes along and invests a lot of money, the whole world knows about it,” Villarreal said. “I assure you, there’s not a single businessperson who doesn’t know who German Goyeneche is.”
If the lawmaker sounds defensive, it’s because a photo taken from his Facebook page has rocketed around social media. It shows Goyeneche sitting in the first row of a meeting that Villarreal held with business leaders Monday in San Miguel.
Goyeneche reportedly also had a relationship with Villarreal’s brother, Luis Alberto Villarreal, a former leader of the National Action Party’s parliamentary bloc who also was once mayor of San Miguel de Allende.
But while the National Action Party, also known as the PAN, its Spanish initials, was denying any official links to Goyeneche, it was the Ecological Green Party, which is allied with the current government, that was most shaken by Goyeneche’s arrest.
Goyeneche had joined the party in 2008. The party’s website said Friday that he’d been suspended and might be expelled.
“It’s important to note that Mr. Goyeneche was never put forth by the Green Party for any public office,” the statement added.
The party claimed it was far from alone in finding possible rot in its ranks.
“No political party is exempt from having those persons join in partisan activities who might have engaged in private illegal activities, since political parties do not have legal tools of investigation at our disposal,” it said.
Goyeneche is the bankroller of a high-end resort development outside San Miguel de Allende called Otomi Lake & Villas, which includes a horse track. Photos show large pools, lined with palm trees, at the complex.
A Green Party deputy nominated Goyeneche in March to serve in the Citizens’ Parliament, an activist group that’s pushing for political reforms. Goyeneche’s biographical page there notes he graduated from the Tec de Monterrey, a prestigious private university, that he speaks English fluently and Portuguese passably and that he has interests in real estate, railway, mining and cement.
Local and state politicians who consort with cartel leaders provide constant fodder for Mexican media. The head of the Knights Templar crime group, a major producer of methamphetamine, Servando “La Tuta” Gomez, has released a series of videos and photos of his meetings with political figures in Michoacan state.
So far, mayors from the port of Lazaro Cardenas and the towns of Patzcuaro, Huetamo and Aquila have appeared in videos with La Tuta, as well as the son of the former governor and a former state security chief who served as interim governor.
A bodyguard employed by Sinaloa Gov. Mario Lopez Valdez accused him last year of using a helicopter to fly into the hills of his state to hold meetings with Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman, who until his capture in February was considered the world’s most wanted drug kingpin. The bodyguard later turned up dead.
Last December, U.S. prosecutors charged Tomas Yarrington, a fugitive former governor of Tamaulipas state, which shares a border with Texas, with taking millions of dollars from the Gulf Cartel for letting it smuggle tons of cocaine through his state.
In late 2012, two years after authorities captured U.S.-born Edgar Valdez Villarreal, a drug lord known as “La Barbie,” the capo sent a letter to the newspaper Reforma alleging that he’d made payments for years to Genaro Garcia Luna, the head of then-President Felipe Calderon’s federal security agency.