The former Mexican governor of Tamaulipas and one-time presidential hopeful was sentenced to nine years in prison two weeks ago, after spending millions of dollars in illegal bribes to fraudulently purchase property in the U.S.
Tomás Yarrington Ruvalcaba pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit money laundering and has long been accused of accepting millions in bribes from the Zetas and Gulf drug cartels while in office.
Yarrington Ruvalcaba admitted to laundering between $3.5 and $9.5 million, using the dirty money to purchase property and luxury goods in the United States—cars, airplanes, large estates, commercial developments, beachfront condominiums, and multiple residences across Texas.
Unfortunately, he is among many high-ranking Mexican officials who have violated their oath to office, weakened Mexico, and betrayed their country by living a double life and taking millions from the violent drug cartels they should have been fighting.
Just last month, Genaro Garcia Luna—Mexico’s former Secretary of Public Security—was found guilty of engaging in a continuing criminal enterprise and taking millions of dollars in cash bribes from the Sinaloa cartel. Think about that—the man that ran Mexico’s equivalent of the FBI and served in a cabinet-level position was secretly on the payroll of Mexico’s biggest crime group.
Another example is César Horacio Duarte Jáquez, former governor of Chihuahua, who fled to El Paso after a corruption investigation into his administration revealed his multi-million-dollar embezzlement of public funds. He was a fugitive in the U.S. for three years until his arrest.
There is a long thread like these involving not just governors, but mayors, cabinet members, military, police officers and more. Accusations of corruption have even extended to Mexican presidents.
Bringing one corrupt politician to justice is only the tip of the iceberg. It has been evident for a long time that Mexican government officials at the highest levels of power have been in a partnership with the cartels, which, for decades, have inflicted so much pain and suffering on their country.
Our southern neighbor is one of the top five most corrupt countries in the world, and its industrial-scale level of cartel-driven corruption is a direct threat to the U.S., especially Texas, since we share a massive stretch of border with them. Texas can’t turn a blind eye as Mexican elites wrongfully fill their pockets and use their dirty money to violate the laws of the United States.
Corruption is not a victimless crime, and it doesn’t just affect Mexico. Corruption shatters entire communities, destroys democracies, and in the end always benefits criminals. If money-hungry drug cartels are willing to pay someone massive bribes for them to look the other way, imagine what they are getting out of it. Cartels don’t do anything for free, and their corrupt payouts often translate to millions of dollars in proceeds back to them, which help fund their illicit activities.
Corruption empowers criminal cartels to further their activities, continue flooding U.S. communities with record amounts of lethal drugs, and allows them to continue devastating our communities with crime, an unprecedented level of violence, and a humanitarian crisis that is only getting worse.
There is limited precedent to what states can do—protecting Americans from threats that come in through the border is the federal government’s constitutionally assigned responsibility, and Texas is unable to deny entry to any foreign national.
However, what Texas can and should do is collect credible information on businesses and political elites suspected of corruption or criminal ties and impose penalties on those added to the list.
In the absence of federal leadership, Texas is in the best position, and under the strongest incentives, to hold corrupt foreign nationals accountable. Texas must find a way to target such corrupt actors, by shining a light on those who undermine the rule of the law and making it significantly more difficult for them to fly under the radar.
Senate Bill 1884 by Sen. Pete Flores aims to do just that—allow Texas to take control of possible corrupt activity within its borders and put pressure on foreign countries to fight corruption and collusion between government officials and criminal organizations such as drug cartels.
SB 1884 would require the Texas Secretary of State to post a report on its website that identifies each foreign national the secretary determines to have knowingly engaged in actions that undermine the security and sovereignty of Texas, or in significant corruption or obstruction of investigations into acts of corruption in the foreign national’s home country.
Once that list is public, Texas could hold those on the list accountable by sanctioning them financially, limiting their access to Texas state universities, and by preventing Texas government from contracting with businesses linked to people on the list as well as preventing state pension funds from investing in those businesses.
The aim of SB 1884 is to send a message to corrupt foreign nationals such as Tomás Yarrington Ruvalcaba, who need regular access to the Texas economy to increase their wealth, and regular access to Texas society to enjoy it.
SB 1884 is a necessary step in beginning the process of rooting out foreign corruption in Texas. This bill would hold foreign nationals under credible suspicion of corruption accountable, serve as a deterrent against corrupt behavior, and contribute directly to the safety and security of Texas communities. Though lacking the powers of the federal government, Texas, as we have seen, is still in a position to send that message.