Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Arturo Durazo Moreno : Epitome of Corruption

Arturo "El Negro" Durazo (Center) was Mexico City's most corrupt and infamous police chief.

A peasant was walking along the muddy banks of the Tula river on the cold gray morning of January 14, 1982 when he spotted something macabre: A rotting, severed human head. In shock he peered out to the dark waters of the river and saw one body. Then two, then three. Five

One was missing a head. Another was missing a arm and a leg. Some were naked with visible signs of torture others were clothed, all with a shot in the head. One man had been castrated, another had machete cuts all over his torso and yet another had been shot 20 times with a machine gun.

By mid afternoon, a Red Cross diving team had pulled out 14 bodies from the Tula river. a curious throng of villagers gathered at the sides of the river, witnessing the beginning of a scandal and one of Mexico's most heinous crimes commited by people in power.

Arturo Durazo Moreno was born in 1924 in the town of Cumpas in Sonora state. He came from a poor family. Despite his humble beginnings, "Humble" was not a word in Durazo's vocabulary. He didnt know the meaning of it. In grade school he was the typical bully. Nicknamed "El Negro" (Darkie) for his dark complexion he was a rough brute not averse to fighting dirty. One of his best friends was Jose Lopez Portillo, future president of the republic of Mexico. In exchange for copying Lopez' homework, Durazo would defend and protect the meek Jose Lopez. This friendship would forge one of Mexico's most darkest partnerships and culminate in one of the country's most shameful episodes of corruption ever.

Durazo worked at the Banco de Mexico until 1948. He then became Traffic Inspector. A short time later he came a Direccion Federal de Seguridad (Mexico's CIA the DFS) Agent. At the end of the 1960s he became a member of the terrible White Brigade, a right wing paramilitary police force made up to crush the Student movements of 1968 and eradicate (IE: torture and kill) the threat of Communists and Communism in general in Mexico.

In the early 1970's he was assigned bodyguard during Lopez Portillo's campaign for president, following him on tour throughout the states. It was then that Lopez, The PRI's choice for candidate, promised Durazo a cushy job in his administration when he won the race (note the word "WHEN he won, not IF he won, Lopez was a shoo-in)

Having "won" the election, Lopez Portillo made Durazo Chief of Police of Mexico City. He was rude, crude and a brute, someone probably "good" to have as boss of the city's police force. Being the Presidents friend was good enough to have one of the country's most important positions of power. Durazo then created the Direccion para Investigaciones y Prevencion de Delincuencia (DIPD).

Almost immediately Durazo started to figure out ways of how to pocket the police budgets money for himself and his family. His wife Silvia Garza demanded only the best, and as her husband as police chief of the Federal District the she was ENTITLED to the best. Instead of using the money for the maintanance of the city's police cars, he pocketed it. Policemen were forced to use their own cars to patrol the city's streets. Did a Policeman need a new uniform because the one he had was kind of worn? He had to pay for it. Fork over the cash, man. Do you want a promotion? A few thousand pesos to be Sergeant, a few thousand more and some change to be Lieutenant. Pay the boss Durazo.

The city's Tow trucks stopped cars and towed cars for no reason. The owners of the cars had to pay exagerated amounts to retrieve their vehicles, a portion of the loot of course went up to El Jefe Durazo.

His right hand man was Francisco Sahagun Baca, an equally nefarious and sadistic fellow. He would gladly kill anyone for his boss Durazo. He was once quoted as saying "I would not do for my own son what I would do for Boss Durazo". He was also known for changing his tie and suits four times a day and spraying his office with cologne. He was appointed director of the DIPD (Delinquency Prevention Investigations Division), the much feared Mexico City detective goon squad created by Durazo. When the city's criminals saw the Ford LTD's with hard looking men in snazzy suits, ties and dark shades pull up, they ran for the hills.

One day Durazo (most likely his wife) had a dream: To build a huge mansion, a Swiss type Chalet on top of Ajusco Hill. When the architect asked the couple where they wanted their access road, Mrs Durazo exploded. "Where there are roads there are poor people!". No roads were to be built. Access to the house had to be BY HELICOPTER.

In order to save on workers wages to build their grandiose home, Mrs Durazo using her intellect, had an idea. Ol' "Negro" had thousands of policemen at his orders. Put them to good use. So now veteran cops and rookies alike were bricklayers and construction workers too, and if any of them complained, they would spend 15 days in jail, placed on probation or simply fired. So no one dared complain. Since there was no access road, vehicles could not be used to haul up the materials need for the house. The boys in blue had to carry bricks and sacks of cement on their backs in a scene reminiscent of the building of the egyptian Pyramids.

When construction was complete, the generous and gracious Mrs Durazo threw the slaves/policemen a party not on Policemen's Day but rather on Mexican Labor Day, May 3. They werent respected policemen to her, they were mere bricklayers. Everyone was treated to two tacos and one soda each. If they wanted to drink alcohol they had to provide it themselves out of pocket. What a grand party it was.

It was said that President Lopez Portillo was so impressed with the house that he told Durazo to build him one just like it. Thats how the House on Dog Hill * came to be.

Not only did Durazo Moreno have his house on Ajusco Hill, he had another huge compound on the Cuernavaca Highway at KM 25.5. This "modest" ranch, included its own discotheque (an exact replica of famous NYC Studio 54), bullring, horse racing track, helipad, and huge garage to store Darkies' collection of antique and sport cars. He also built a third palace on a cliff overlooking the Pacific Ocean in Zihuatenejo, Guerrero complete with Greek style columns, gaudy Roman statue replicas and huge iron gates that, the joke went, were stolen from historic Chapultepec Castle in Mexico City. The palace was nicknamed "The Parthenon".

Durazo was never known for his kindness or respect towards others but rather his immaturity , pettiness and egomaniacal ways. He asked President Lopez Portillo to make him a five star Army Division General even though Durazo never served in the military. Granted. He proudly wore the five star insignia, ignoring the fact that Mexican Division Generals only wear Four.

This angered the Secretary of Defense, Felix Galvan Lopez, who disgusted, politely voiced his dissaproval to Durazo during a speech made by President Lopez Portillo. "Arturo, with all due respect, I think Mr President made a mistake assigning you that extra star and making you General".

Irate, Durazo snapped back "Well see about that". Durazo then hurried to his buddy Lopez Portillo and told him about Galvan's comments, who now embarrassed, was the victim of Lopez angry glare.

At the end of the speech, the President shook everyone's hand and said goodbye. To everyone except Galvan, publicly snubbing and embarrasing him.

From 1976, to 1982, "General" Arturo Durazo Moreno amassed a huge fortune. He only smoked imported cigarretes from the US, drank the finest French wines and ate only the best French and Swiss cheeses. Anything Mexican was deemed too low class for him and his family.

He always used and paid with Dollars, he refused to touch national currency. An Honoris Causa degree was awarded to him as well, by the Mexican Supreme Court of Justice, just because he wanted one. He also asked the President to name him Governor of his native state of Sonora, but the president declined, the one thing he had to say no to.

In an attempt to cheer up an upset Durazo, the President wrote a letter to the man who won the Sonora Gubernatorial race saying that "Durazo had been nominated to the Sonora race but had gracefully declined the offer in order to fulfull his duties in Mexico City and continue helping out President Lopez Portillo". Anything to make Arturo happy.

He gave out submachine guns as gifts to the country's stars and singers, gave out authentic Mexico City police badges as souvenirs to his guests and friends and let his son close down part of the capital's beltway so he could stage drag races and motorcycle races in order to impress a local newswoman he had his eye on. If Durazo Jr had bad grades at school, he would machine gun his teachers cars, I mean what are they going to do? His dad is the city's police chief. Daddy would simply tell the teachers to let it go, and allow him to buy them new cars.

He also grew fond of having prostitutes over in his office, specially built with secrets doors and passages which allowed him to hide the hookers and for him to change in case Mrs Durazo came charging in to the Police Headquarters like she often did. Mrs Durazo didnt like or allow closed doors: Someone always had to be on hand to open the doors for her or to make sure doors were open when she was around, lest she throw a fit.

In 1981 a gang of Colombian bank robbers arrived in the city and started to cause problems for the police. No problem, they would now work for El Jefe. Rob all the banks you like, but give Ol' Jefe a piece of the pie.

Dozens of bank robberies in Mexico City, Guadalajara and Zamora, Michoacan netted millions of pesos, most of which Durazo recieved the lion's share of the loot. But Durazo grew tired of this gang and in order to cover his ass, he had the gang, and their Mexican getaway driver picked up by Sahagun Baca and his goons, and tossed into La Castaneda insane asylum where they were tortured day and night. Finally, the 14 men were bound and gagged, hacked to death with machetes or shot in the brain and tossed into Mexico City's sewage canal.

When the tortured and mutilated bodies ended up in the Tula river in Hidalgo state, a few miles up north from the capital, Durazo dismissed the ghastly discovery of the dead men as simply a "mafia hit". "Rivalry between drug gangs" led to the Tula River Massacre as the city's media dubbed the crime.

After 1982 when President Lopez Portillos term was up, the gang of thieves and murderers with badges fled town.In January 1984 a court in Los Angeles charged Durazo in absentia with several counts of illegal arms possetion and drug trafficking. Durazo was arrested later that year in June in Puerto Rico by Interpol on charges of mass corruption and an assortment of other crimes, including, murder, extortion, robberry and arms and drug trafficking.

Despite all his wrongdoings and abuse of power, Durazo was respected by domestic and foreign police forces. A Soviet delegation once voted him "Best Police Chief in the World." Also during the six years he was police chief, crime actually went DOWN in Mexico City. Maybe because the police WERE the crooks or maybe because Durazo actually did a good job when he wasnt busy embezzling, thats up for speculation.

On July 6th, 1989, the Mexican Federal Judicial Police raided Francisco Sahagun Baca's ranch in Sahuayo, Michoacan and brought him out in a body bag. Apparently "Pancho" had given he Federales hell with his machine gun and they had to cut him down. People in town however say, that Don Pancho did not die in 1989 but he is alive, hiding out under another name and another face thanks to plastic surgery and they also say he is the man who controls drug trafficking in the Jiquilpan area.

In an interesting note, caught by the Mexican media, during a 2005 party for Martha Sahagun de Fox, wife of Mexican President Vicente Fox, and cousin of Sahagun Baca, the name "Francisco Sahagun Baca" appeared on the guestlist. Despite Martha's cousin Pancho being "dead" for 16 years, she decided to still invite him to her party. How nice.

In 1992, Durazo Moreno was paroled, due to his old age and bad health. He lived out his days in obscurity at his Parthenon style mansion overlooking the Pacific Ocean in the resort town of Zihuatenejo.

Arturo Durazo Moreno "El Negro" died August 5, 2000 of respiratory failure. He was 76.

*House on Dog Hill, dubbed Dog Hill for President Jose Lopez Portillos nickname "El Perro" meaning the Dog. In September 1982, during an impassioned speech at the senate in Mexico, President Lopez Portillo loudly exclaimed to "Defend the Mexico Peso like a Dog!". This prompted the Mexican people who didnt like the President to bark at him whenever he attended a public function.

1 comment:

  1. I knew Silvia before her death and we were good friends. I'll always miss her.