After 4 months from the change of government, the National Intelligence Centre (Spanish acronym: CNI) operates with 99% of the 3 thousand 600 employees who worked at the Center for Investigation and National Security (Cisen), an intelligence body responsible for political espionage during both PRI and PAN governments.
By keeping the same staff and only changing the chief in charge, this ‘new’ Centre has basically inherited the bad vices of the Cisen: opacity and lack of transparency, espionage (illegal hearings), extremely high salaries, lack of control and surveillance as well as abuses and waste of the public budget, which amounts to 2,490,693,791 pesos (16% lower than last year) for 2019.
This political espionage, a long-standing practice carried out by previous governments, has come to light thanks to the opening of the files contained in Galería Uno of the National Archives (Archivo General de la Nación – AGN). They contained 1 thousand 937 public versions of the espionage at the expense of people, organizations and institutions, carried out by the Federal Security Directorate, the General Directorate of Political and Social Investigations and the Under-Secretariat of Population, Migration and Religious Affairs of the Ministry of the Interior.
These files, with 3 thousand 201 documents updated in July 2018, contain information regarding writers, intellectuals, journalists, actors, entrepreneurs, social fighters, union leaders, foreign politicians, drug traffickers, as well as ex-presidents and public Mexican officials spied by the aforementioned bodies.
They also include documents dealing with enterprises, well-known organizations, guerrilla groups, political parties, religious organizations as well as public institutions such as the police, state governments, embassies and public universities.
The ‘new’ structure of the CNI
Its numerous workforce still include five out of seven general coordinators of the old Cisen and an internal comptroller, all occupying key positions. This allowed abuses and excesses in this intelligence body.
What is really serious is that some of these officials, coming from the old structure of the Cisen and currently occupying relevant positions in the ‘new’ Intelligence Centre, are accountable for the national security of the country. Moreover, they collaborate with work teams that had previously been responsible for espionage and illegal prosecution to the detriment of the population.
The structure of the CNI encompasses 11 senior officers, seven of which kept some privileges, such as high-salaries and other benefits that they were assigned during the government of Enrique Peña Nieto. For instance, the integrated wage of these officials exceeds 200 thousand pesos per month. In some cases the monthly salary reaches 250 thousand pesos, despite the instruction provided by the National Palace, establishing that nobody may earn more than the President of the Republic, whose wage amounts to 108 thousand pesos per month.
As it is well-known, the CNI is headed by the retired General Audomaro Martínez Zapata, a 70-year-old man, who spent most of his life in the Armed Forces, where he also achieved a master’s degree in military administration for national security and defense. What is more, he was professor of military tactics at the War College (Escuela Superior de Guerra). With this profile, it is evident that this general –expert in security– has merits enough to hold such a senior position and to earn a monthly income of 107 thousand pesos.
Doubts regarding the legitimacy of the position held arise when looking into the second man in charge of the CNI, lawyer José Ángel Ávilla Pérez. In fact, with no previous experience in national intelligence or security, he was appointed Secretary-General of the CNI. His only ‘merit’ was to be be linked to Marcelo Ebrard, the Foreign Secretary –with whom he was Secretary of the Government in the Federal District– as well as to be friend with the Secretary of Public Safety, Alfonso Durazo.
In the CNI some assure that Ebrard recommended Avila to the general Audomaro in order to have access to intelligence information. This way, Ebrard would be able to access a presidential candidacy within 5 years. Some others more firmly state that Ávila pleased Marcelo and it was the secretary
Alonso Durazo who infiltrated him into the CNI to have control over the sensitive information that was handled there.
This second version describing how Ávila Pérez got to hold a relevant position in the CNI may be the most credible considering some antecedents between the general Audomaro and Alfonso Durazo.
Last year, when Andrés Manuel López Obrador was already President-elect, there was a strong confrontation between the two officials that almost came to blows. It occurred during the month of October 2018, when the General complained to Durazo his negligence and lack of cooperation with the new responsibility that the President had assigned him.
For this reason, it wouldn’t be surprising if now Durazo recommended Ávila Pérez for a positions for which he has no experience or knowledge, but just to receive information about internal matters of the CNI. A spy then. Moreover, people within the CNI have heard the Secretary-General say that only civilians should occupy the most relevant positions.
The appointment of Ávila Pérez remind us the designation of Eugenio Ímaz as a chief of the Cisen six years ago. Without any experience in the areas of intelligence and security, Eugenio Ímaz became the head of the Directorate General with great ease, so bringing about the dismantling of this body and its improper use to benefit some political parties of the states of Mexico and Hidalgo.
But what nobody can explain is how Ávila Pérez, with no experience in the fields of intelligence and security, was able to sneak up to the Secretariat General of the CNI, considering that his work experience is limited to hold a seat as a multi-member deputy and have been secretary of government in the capital of the country with his then boss Marcelo. Furthermore, he obtained a degree in Election Law from the Universidad Iberoamericana, that does not explain either how he became the second in command of the new Intelligence Centre. Is the President Andrés Manuel López Obrador aware of that? Because holding such a relevant and specialized public office without the necessary experience is corruption as well.
Even though it is in the following months that the work of the Secretary-General may be analyzed, lawyer Ávila Pérez aspires to replace general Audomaro in case he resigns from his position as chief of the CNI to direct the
National Guard. If this occurs, the situation would be doubly serious. Indeed, during the last governments of PRI and PAN, only inexperienced people were at the head of national security. The side effects of this are now experienced with greater violence throughout the country: the growth of organized crime, an uncontrollable corruption in the three branches of the government, and a high level of injustice and aggravating impunity for all Mexicans.
The only positive aspect of the appointment of Ávila Pérez is that his salary is lower than the President’s and his boss’, general Audomaro.
In the structure under Ávila Pérez’s command there is the Confidence Control Directorate, headed by Luz Carmen Diáz Galindo –who is responsible for examining that the 3,600 employees have apt faculties (both intellectual and technical) to work in this intelligence body. This woman, an old acquaintance in the Cisen, has been holding this position since the PAN–government of Felipe Calderón. Nonetheless, most of the employees of the old Cisen and now of the CNI do not satisfy the requirements to work at the intelligence body and they did not pass any exam of confidence control.
Before working at the Cisen, Díaz Galindo served as the head of the National Certification and Accreditation Center of the Executive Secretariat of the National Public Security System.
To continue with the structure under the control of Ávila Pérez, there is the head of the Management Control Department, Alejandra Cruz Escamilla; the Deputy Director of Control and Monitoring, Blanca Muñoz Cabrera; and the Deputy Director of Evaluation, Martha Patricia Lara Díaz.
Suspension points ….We leave for next columns the analysis of what happens inside the CNI and its ‘new’ organization chart. For instance, we will examine the obese structure that, as the President of the Republic says, is a heavy elephant that moves very slowly to implement some changes. On the contrary, with the wave of violence that the country is experiencing, it would be urgent that this Intelligence Center moved as fast as a hare …As we have already disclosed, Miguel Ángel Lozada Aguilar is already working as a Director General of Pemex Exploration and Production, without any explanation from the government regarding the outcome of the investigation against him for taking part in the already well-known ‘estafa maestra’…In the area of education, problems have been experienced in the edition of free textbooks. A delay of 8 months in their publication has already been registered, putting at risk that 220 million textbooks may be ready for the next school year. The President of the Republic has to deal with an additional issue concerning the Secretary of Education, Esteban Moctezuma, and the Ministry of Finance and Public Credit who could not reach an agreement on the public tender.
By Miguel Badillo
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(Translated by: Federica Antoniani)