Photo: Carlos Bibiano Villa Castillo, Pancho Villa's great nephew, now head Quintana Roo's police force
The name Carlos Bibiano Villa Castillo may not be familiar to many outside of Mexico, but the retired Mexican army general, and new head of coast state Quintana Roo’s department of public security is the great nephew of the revolutionary leader Pancho Villa.
On April 4, 2011, the 62-year-old took office in the Caribbean state, and like a number of other authorities, was sent a message.
“This is a little gift for you,” read a note from the drug cartel Los Zetas. The ”greeting” was found on a dismembered body dumped near Cancun. “You’re next, Villa.”
“Damn good that they told me,” he told The Associated Press. “If they are warning me, I’ll be ready.”
The former army general shares the intensity once seen by his great uncle, and like him, he doesn’t plan to back down.
The father of three says he sleeps with a rifle and a .44 caliber pistol. At 16, he joined the military and during his 43-year military service, became a telecommunications and intelligence expert. Calling the country his mother, and the army his father, Villa joins the growing number of retired military officers taking top spots in states’ public security departments.
Mexico’s Institute for Security and Democracy reportedly shows that 17 of the 32 states have retired military officials like Villa as top cops. Just two year ago, there were only six.
While some feel a sense of security with military men in top police positions, others, like Juan Salgado, a specialist in public safety research at Mexico’s Center for Economic Research and Teaching, and Oscar Manuel Soto, a researcher for the National Institute of Criminal Justice, worry that they may make the violent situation in Mexico worse.
Soto believes that while military officers bring the benefit of weapons and tactics training to their positions, their abilities are suited “to handle situations of war, not to handle civilian situations, and that is a big problem.”
Salgado agreed, saying, “Military men have skills for eliminating their enemies, but not necessarily in crime prevention.”
Villa has been in office for 14 months, and in that time the Coahuila state commission on humans rights has brought four cases against him, investigating reports of arbitrary detention by local police.
If a recent comments from Villa are any indication of what to expect, human rights activists will likely not be happy.
“When I catch a Zeta ... I kill him. Why interrogate him?” he told La Jornada, a local nespaper.
He’s also been quoted as saying, “The only thing (a police chief) needs is a set of balls, and no fear.”