April 17, 2014
Córdoba journalist Tomás Méndez talks to the HeraldThursday, December 5, 2013
‘Local police earn an additional income through crime’
Journalist Tomás Méndez works for the ADN news programme that airs on Channel 10 of the Radio and Television Services (SRT) of Córdoba’s National University (UNC). Since August, Méndez’s stories have been obtaining national attention as he has revealed the close relationship between police forces and drug dealers in Córdoba province.
The stories led to a scandal that reached the upper echelons of the provincial government led by Governor José Manuel de la Sota, who quickly accepted the resignation of Security Minister Alejandro Paredes. But according to Méndez, little has changed since then — and the protest demanding wage hikes have done nothing but prove his initial point.
What is the security situation now in Córdoba?
It’s slowly getting back to normal. People are still afraid, but it’s no longer what we experienced last night (Tuesday).
Is there a link between the drug scandal involving provincial forces and the protest they staged this week?
You need to hear the first message they sent through the Internet, saying police corruption needs to end — that they actually wanted to end corruption. What was the previous procedure, their modus operandi? To earn an additional income through crime — robbery, auto theft. Why were they living at a certain level and suddenly decided to ask for a 500 percent raise? Not 20 percent — 500 percent?
What was their previous core salary?
2,600 pesos a month — that’s what they were paid.
And you’re saying the rest was obtained through other means.
Lots of provincial police officers have admitted that — though I can’t say all of them lived that way.
How do you think the De la Sota administration dealt with the conflict?
For starters, I would say it was difficult for him to claim he did not know there was something else going on. I think there was a mafia-like pact of silence between the police and the government. No one talked (about this) because no one could.
What caused the lootings?
Police work alongside criminals — sometimes to dismantle a gang, sometimes to liberate zones in the Greater Córdoba areas, sometimes to actually work. But I have no doubts that some of the criminals (working for the police) were mobilized to give this message to the provincial government.
Tell me about the previous Security Minister, Alejandro Paredes.
Paredes and Police Chief Ramón Frías resigned following an investigation we carried out that showed they had a connection with those involved in the Córdoba drugs-scandal. Paredes was replaced with Alejandra Monteoliva, who has ties to (former Intelligence Chief of the Drugs unit Gustavo) “El Huevo” González, one of the worst of the gang (and currently under arrest).
Is there still collusion between the provincial government and corrupt officers following the recent reform?
The collusion between them is obvious. Monteoliva responds to Alejandro Paredes, she doesn’t have an opinion of her own. This became clear throughout the conflict. She wasn’t even able to send a coherent message to the population.