Rodolfo “Rudy” Delgado, a former Hidalgo County state district judge, was convicted July 11 of bribery and other offenses. A couple of weeks earlier, former Cameron County sheriff Conrado Cantu was released from federal prison after serving 13 years of a 24-year sentence for racketeering. Cantu had admitted to taking bribes to protect drug cartel members.
Every few weeks, it seems, we hear news of a Rio Grande Valley official running afoul of the law. We’ve seen city, county and even school board officials charged with various crimes, and allegations against state and even federal-level officials.
Crime among public officials has become so common that many people have grown frustrated, even cynical and pessimistic about our political future.
It’s enough to make people wonder if some kind of plague has descended on South Texas — if the entire region needs some kind of “barrida” or spiritual purge to drive the scofflaws out of local government.
But we should never lose hope. If anything, we should let our anger motivate us to fix the problem.
First, we must remember that the funds that crooked officials misuse or steal are ours and we have a right to defend them. They are taxes we paid, and we should expect — even demand — that they be used properly.
We should remember also that we know about so much malfeasance because so many of them are being caught.
That fact should give us hope that honesty can win out; but it takes work. And the more people get involved in the process, the better our chances of weeding out the scofflaws and electing honest officials.
Let us not become so cynical that we choose to disengage from the political system — that’s how the bad guys win. When voter turnout is low, it’s easier for dishonest people, and the confederates who might benefit from placing them in office, to be successful; there might not be enough honest votes to outnumber them.
We hope that more honest people, rather than giving up on the political process entirely, instead will decide to clean up the system by running for office themselves.
Otherwise, all eligible voters should cast their ballots.
Obviously, we need to vote for the right people. Most of us don’t know the candidates personally, so uncertainty will always be part of the process. However, we can improve the quality of our votes by doing our homework; learn what we can about the candidates and choose the person who seems best qualified to perform the duties of the office, and seems to be the most honest.
Our next political cycle is the biggest: Party primaries for the office of president, congressional seats and various state positions are just months away. Local races will be part of that process, and they are just as important as the federal elections.
It’s not to early to commit to start paying attention to those who already have declared their candidacy. Review incumbents’ records, learn challengers’ positions and try to study their backgrounds for signs of questionable behavior.
The more involved we become, and the more informed we are on Election Day, the better our chances that the stain of corruption will begin to fade from South Texas politics.