Mexicans aghast over the appointment of top spy

NO EXPERIENCE NEEDED::A top intelligence job has been handed to the man who headed a search for a missing girl found dead in her bed nine days later

The Guardian, Mexico City

Sat, Jan 13, 2018 - Page 6

Mexicans have expressed incredulity at the appointment of a former prosecutor to the country’s top intelligence position, even though he once oversaw a notorious nine-day search for a missing girl who was eventually found lying dead in her own bed.

Alberto Bazbaz, a close ally of Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto, was on Thursday named as the new head of the Mexican Center for Research and National Security (CISEN), at a time when the country’s authorities are struggling to contain violent crime.

Bazbaz previously led the Mexican Financial Intelligence Unit since shortly after Pena Nieto took office in December 2012.

However, he is best known for overseeing the case of Paulette Gebara, a four-year-old who was reported missing from her family’s apartment in 2010.

Despite extensive searches and a media coverage, investigators found no trace of the girl for nine days, when her decomposing body was found in her own bed — even though the room had supposedly been sealed by police.

At the time, Pena Nieto was the governor of the state of Mexico, and Bazbaz was the region’s attorney general.

Bazbaz resigned amid outrage over the bungled investigation, and a subsequent investigation concluded that Gebara died accidentally of asphyxiation.

During Bazbaz’s leadership of the financial intelligence unit, Mexico failed to make progress tracking down the fortunes of the country’s drug cartels, analysts said.

His appointment to CISEN comes less than six months before Mexican presidential elections.

The switch in leadership at CISEN follows the resignation of the Mexican minister of the interior, who on Wednesday stepped aside to seek a senate seat after an especially violent 2017 — which is set to be the country’s most murderous in recent memory.

Bazbaz’s appointment owed more to his links with Pena Nieto’s inner circle than his skills, political observers said.

“The question here is not what is your area of expertise, but what [political] group do you belong to,” Center for Teaching and Research in Economics professor Carlos Bravo Regidor said. “If you have some relevant experience, that’s great, but it’s not a prerequisite for the job.”