04 December 2006

Paco heads for Gobernacion (Interior Ministry)

Former Jalisco governor Francisco "Paco" Ramirez Acuna collected on an imense political debt with his ascension to the interior ministry, perhaps the most prestigious spot in President Felipe Calderon's cabinet. Paco, who governed Jalisco from 2001 until a few weeks ago, gained a reputation as a no-nonsense character willing to have the police bust heads when necessary - principally at the May 2004 summit of European and Latin American leaders held in Guadalajara. Local and state police forcefully cracked down on globalifobicos (anti-globalization protesters) trying to enter a restricted downtown area. Human rights abuses were documented and some of the protesters were detained for months without being charged. When asked to explain things, Paco testily responded afterwards, "Nothing happened."

Few tapatios (Guadalajara residents) lost much sleep over those events as the city and region generally sees few protests and the local population is seldom enamored with causes viewed as radical.

That doesn't mean Paco was well regarded. He certainly never achieved the same levels of popularity as Alberto Cardenas, Paco's predecessor. Paco seldom spoke to the media, took numerous foreign junkets of dubious value - promoting tequila in Poland comes to mind - and accomplished little other than bring the 2011 Pan Am Games to Guadalajara. (No other cities made bids.) A fuss broke out in Chapala after the new malecon was named for the outgoing governor last month. (PAN was just voted out of city hall in Chapala after disastrous back-to-back terms and Lake Chapala has improved slightly in spite of government inaction.) New PAN governor Emilio Gonzalez Marquez won fewer votes in Jalisco than Felipe Calderon and only a deeply-negative campaign kept the state from going PRI.

Although perceived as a law-and-order guy, Paco willing broke the rules when it served his purposes. After a new transparency law was passed, he refused to show his paycheque - as required - to a constituent.

But Paco backed Felipe Calderon back in 2004, going against the PAN establishment - and Cardenas. And now Paco's collecting.

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