Clarkson meets his match: Mexico's man in London is a 24/7 crimefighter

Far from snoring in front of the TV, the ambassador is on constant alert after taking on the drug cartels back home. As Joanna Moorhead reveals, he was sent here for his own safety

It was Jeremy Clarkson's version of several rounds from a machine-gun. The victim was Mexico, whose food, he and his fellow Top Gear presenters chortled, was "refried sick". Its people were "lazy and feckless". Even the ambassador got it in the neck. There was no danger from him, said the portly, controversial broadcaster: "At the Mexican embassy, the ambassador is going to be sitting there with a remote control like this [snores]. They won't complain; it's fine."

Just one problem, Clarkson. That's not Eduardo Medina-Mora Icaza's style. He is, in fact, a one-man crime-fighting machine who headed Mexico's secret service before taking on his country's notorious drugs barons – and he was moved across the Atlantic to reduce the chance of him becoming a victim of the narcotic chiefs' assassins.

"It's so far from the truth that it's laughable," says a friend of his this weekend, speaking by phone from Mexico City. "Mr Clarkson is certainly ignorant about Eduardo... but I don't think Eduardo will be bothered by him. He's been up against much more dangerous enemies!

"In fact, if there's one man who's going to stay awake in the whole of Mexico, it's going to be Eduardo.

"He's had to spend the past few years of his life looking constantly over his shoulder... he's in danger the whole time, and he knows it. It's safer for him now he's in the UK, but once you've taken on the cartels, you're never going to be entirely 'safe'. He's one of the bravest, and most switched-on, people imaginable."

This weekend, officials at the Mexican embassy preferred to keep a dignified silence amid more mud-slinging from the embattled Top Gear presenter. In his Sun column yesterday, Clarkson said the remarks he and his fellow presenters Richard Hammond and James May made earlier this week – joking that Mexican cars reflected a national tendency to be "lazy, feckless, flatulent [and] overweight" – were "accidental".

Clearly still unaware of the distinguished track record of Mr Medina-Mora Icaza, Clarkson said: "If he was asleep, someone plainly woke him up, because he did complain and, in doing so, he seems to have started an international incident."

Clarkson went on to apologise for his remarks, but accused the Mexicans of being "humourless". However, in Top Gear terms, the Mexican embassy seems to have won – not only has the BBC itself, as well as Clarkson, had to offer an apology, but in tomorrow's programme, Mexico is being seen as "off limits" and is unlikely to get a mention.

"Clarkson didn't realise who he was taking on," says Mr Medina-Mora Icaza's friend. Nor did he reckon with the popular response from Mexico. Because, however lazy and feckless Clarkson might have thought they are, many Mexicans leapt to their country's defence; at times last week, Twitter was carrying up to 200 new tweets from the country every minute.

And it was the personal reference to Mr Medina-Mora Icaza which prompted many to act. He's a nationally respected figure, who graduated in law from university in Mexico City and went on to become one of his country's leading businessmen before being appointed head of the Centre for Research and National Security from 2000 to 2005. He was then appointed minister for public safety in the government of President Vicente Fox, and the following year he was promoted to attorney-general in the new government of President Felipe Calderon. His new brief: to tackle the increasingly bloody issue of organised crime, and drug-trafficking in particular, in Mexico.

The drugs war, which has claimed more than 35,000 lives over the past four years, affects Mexico's economy, its international relations and its tourism. Most of all, though, it affects its people – the security situation has deteriorated in the past few years, making life dangerous and frightening for millions of ordinary Mexicans.

Mr Medina-Mora Icaza was seen as the man who was determined to root out organised crime by tackling it in a way that he, as a successful businessman himself, understood. "He always used to say that to combat the cartels, he had to strangle their ability to reproduce their model both in time, and in geography," says his friend.

"In other words, what he meant was that these people are businessmen – and if you're going to bankrupt their business, you have to stop them from expanding. He saw their money-laundering operations as one very important area to tackle. And another thing he did was to spearhead a closer partnership with other countries, especially the US – and this was seen as a very important way forward in the war on drugs in our country."

Mr Medina-Mora Icaza was also instrumental in one of Mexico's highest-profile crackdowns on the drugs gangs when he ordered soldiers and armed federal police into the border town of Ciudad Juarez in March 2009 after the "narco insurgency" seemed to threaten the whole nation. "He took a tough line, he didn't allow himself to be cowed, and he stood firm against the cartels," says his friend.

And when it was discovered that his own office had been infiltrated by the cartels, Mr Medina-Mora Icaza left no stone unturned when he ordered a major clean-up operation that led to more than 200 officials – including his own second-in-command – being jailed.

"This is a not a man who is ever asleep on the job," says his friend. "In fact, he's a 24/7 worker."

Mr Medina-Mora Icaza resigned from his post as attorney-general in September 2009, saying that his work had come to an end. Friends, however, say the ever-present dangers of his role were becoming too much – he and his wife have three teenage children. His appointment to London was widely seen in Mexico City as a way of allowing him to have a life that didn't involve such heavy security. "He will always be at risk, but being in the UK means he and his family can lead a more normal life," says his friend.

Sport
Alexis Sanchez has completed a £35m move to Arsenal, the club have confirmed
sportGunners complete £35m signing of Barcelona forward
Voices
Poor teachers should be fearful of not getting pay rises or losing their job if they fail to perform, Steve Fairclough, headteacher of Abbotsholme School, suggested
voicesChris Sloggett explains why it has become an impossible career path
Sport
world cup 2014
Sport
Ray Whelan was arrested earlier this week
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
Arts and Entertainment
In a minor key: Keira Knightley in the lightweight 'Begin Again'
film
Arts and Entertainment
Celebrated children’s author Allan Ahlberg, best known for Each Peach Pear Plum
books
News
peopleIndian actress known as the 'Grand Old Lady of Bollywood' was 102
News
Wayne’s estate faces a claim for alleged copyright breaches
newsJohn Wayne's heirs duke it out with university over use of the late film star's nickname
Life and Style
It beggars belief: the homeless and hungry are weary, tortured, ghosts of people – with bodies contorted by imperceptible pain
lifeRough sleepers exist in every city. Hear the stories of those whose luck has run out
News
Mick Jagger performing at Glastonbury
people
Life and Style
fashionJ Crew introduces triple zero size to meet the Asia market demand
Sport
Santi Cazorla, Mikel Arteta and Mathieu Flamini of Arsenal launch the new Puma Arsenal kits at the Puma Store on Carnaby Street
sportMassive deal worth £150m over the next five years
Arts and Entertainment
Welsh opera singer Katherine Jenkins
musicHolyrood MPs 'staggered' at lack of Scottish artists performing
Life and Style
beautyBelgian fan lands L'Oreal campaign after being spotted at World Cup
Arts and Entertainment
Currently there is nothing to prevent all-male or all-female couples from competing against mixed sex partners at any of the country’s ballroom dancing events
Potential ban on same-sex partners in ballroom dancing competitions amounts to 'illegal discrimination'
News
business
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Business Analyst Consultant (Financial Services)

£60000 - £75000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Business Analyst Consultant (Fina...

Systems Administrator - Linux / Unix / Windows / TCP/IP / SAN

£60000 per annum: Harrington Starr: A leading provider in investment managemen...

AVS, JVS Openlink Endur Developer

£600 - £700 per day: Harrington Starr: AVS, JVS Openlink Endur Developer JVS, ...

E-Commerce Developer

£45000 - £60000 per annum + competitive: Progressive Recruitment: Exciting opp...

Day In a Page

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: Peace without magnanimity - the summit in a railway siding that ended the fighting

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

Peace without magnanimity - the summit in a railway siding that ended the fighting
Scottish independence: How the Commonwealth Games could swing the vote

Scottish independence: How the Commonwealth Games could swing the vote

In the final part of our series, Chris Green arrives in Glasgow - a host city struggling to keep the politics out of its celebration of sport
Out in the cold: A writer spends a night on the streets and hears the stories of the homeless

A writer spends a night on the streets

Rough sleepers - the homeless, the destitute and the drunk - exist in every city. Will Nicoll meets those whose luck has run out
Striking new stations, high-speed links and (whisper it) better services - the UK's railways are entering a new golden age

UK's railways are entering a new golden age

New stations are opening across the country and our railways appear to be entering an era not seen in Britain since the early 1950s
Conchita Wurst becomes a 'bride' on the Paris catwalk - and proves there is life after Eurovision

Conchita becomes a 'bride' on Paris catwalk

Alexander Fury salutes the Eurovision Song Contest winner's latest triumph
Pétanque World Championship in Marseilles hit by

Pétanque 'world cup' hit by death threats

This year's most acrimonious sporting event took place in France, not Brazil. How did pétanque get so passionate?
Whelks are healthy, versatile and sustainable - so why did we stop eating them in the UK?

Why did we stop eating whelks?

Whelks were the Victorian equivalent of the donor kebab and our stocks are abundant. So why do we now export them all to the Far East?
10 best women's sunglasses

In the shade: 10 best women's sunglasses

From luxury bespoke eyewear to fun festival sunnies, we round up the shades to be seen in this summer
Germany vs Argentina World Cup 2014: Lionel Messi? Javier Mascherano is key for Argentina...

World Cup final: Messi? Mascherano is key for Argentina...

No 10 is always centre of attention but Barça team-mate is just as crucial to finalists’ hopes
Siobhan-Marie O’Connor: Swimmer knows she needs Glasgow joy on road to Rio

Siobhan-Marie O’Connor: Swimmer needs Glasgow joy on road to Rio

18-year-old says this month’s Commonwealth Games are a key staging post in her career before time slips away
The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

A future Palestine state will have no borders and be an enclave within Israel, surrounded on all sides by Israeli-held territory, says Robert Fisk
A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: The German people demand an end to the fighting

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

The German people demand an end to the fighting
New play by Oscar Wilde's grandson reveals what the Irish wit said at his trials

New play reveals what Oscar Wilde said at trials

For a century, what Wilde actually said at his trials was a mystery. But the recent discovery of shorthand notes changed that. Now his grandson Merlin Holland has turned them into a play
Can scientists save the world's sea life from

Can scientists save our sea life?

By the end of the century, the only living things left in our oceans could be plankton and jellyfish. Alex Renton meets the scientists who are trying to turn the tide
Richard III, Trafalgar Studios, review: Martin Freeman gives highly intelligent performance

Richard III review

Martin Freeman’s psychotic monarch is big on mockery but wanting in malice