Mexico keeps reputed drug lord on education payroll
By Nick Miroff
August 5m 2011
MEXICO CITY — Mexican security forces would like very much to capture, or even kill, reputed crime boss Servando “La Tuta” Gomez, leader of the cultlike Knights Templar drug gang.
But getting Mexico’s Education Ministry to stop sending Gomez paychecks may prove a much bigger challenge.
According to Mexico’s El Universal newspaper, the former schoolteacher is still on the ministry’s payroll, even though federal prosecutors are offering millions in reward money for his capture — and despite the fact that he hasn’t set foot in a classroom in more than a decade.
What’s worse, Gomez was issued checks totaling more than $2,000 in the first three months of 2011, although the paper first reported the unseemly payments in December. Mexican lawmakers opened an investigation this week, demanding to know why Gomez — who was also indicted for drug trafficking by a New York federal court in 2009 — hasn’t been fired.
Given the relatively small amounts of money involved, it seems unlikely that the payments are a case of direct corruption. Instead, experts say, they appear to be something possibly more embarrassing — a galling reminder of the immense power of Mexico’s teachers union and the difficulty of dismissing bad teachers, even if they are notorious drug lords.
“Firing a teacher is nearly impossible here, a true bureaucratic labyrinth,” said Otto Granados, a professor of public policy at Mexico’s Tecnologico de Monterrey university. “This kind of thing happens all the time,” he said, citing a recent study that found that more than 100,000 Mexican teachers were drawing salaries despite not showing up for work.
The country’s main teachers union — the largest in Latin America — is a political juggernaut so powerful that it assigns jobs through an extensive system of patronage, Granados said. Only teachers who have been convicted of a crime can be fired, and since Gomez remains at large, he apparently can’t be taken off the payroll...