“Morogris” for Borderland Beat
|Hermas Cortés García served as mayor of Lerdo de Tejada, Veracruz, from 2018 to 2021 (image credit: FB page of mayor)|
Hermas Cortes Garcia, former National Action Party (PAN) mayor of Lerdo de Tejada, Veracruz, was arrested on charges of forced disappearance earlier this week. Veracruz’s Attorney General’s Office believes that Cortes Garcia ordered the kidnapping in collaboration with municipal police officers in October 2020.
The events occurred on 21 October 2020, in the rural community of Santa Teresa in the Municipality of Lerdo de Tejada, when elements of the municipal police forcibly kidnapped four people. These people were never found and their whereabouts are unknown.
Five police officers involved in the incident were sentenced on 18 July 2023 to 60 years in prison. This is José Daniel “N”, former director of the municipal Police; Carlos “N”, Jesus “N”, Fredy “N” and Sergio “N”. The Prosecutor’s Office explained that all of them were on the mayor’s chain of command.
Cortés García’s family owns a tortilla business in Lerdo de Tejada and his family are identified as founders of the PAN in this part of Veracruz.
Local politics and cartels
Since before the start of Mexico’s drug war, local officials (including mayors and municipal police chiefs) have been linked to local drug cartels and are sometimes involved in cartel-like activities themselves.
Though the exact motives are often never officially determined, security experts agree that local officials, especially in secluded areas like in Tejada de Lerdo, sometimes operate with greater autonomy than their state and federal counterparts and are colluded with cartels. Political dissidence in these areas is often treated with violence and mayors have been charged with murdering critics or opponents in the past.
In addition, the increase in narcomenudeo, or street-level drug sales, has compelled some drug cartels to seek local government tolerance or collusion whenever possible in order to operate in a certain turf.
Municipal police forces are more likely to be aware of local extortions and drug sale spots, known in Mexico as puntos. Some local police officers are involved in these activities with the support or tolerance of the mayor.