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Tuesday, 31 January 2012

The long road to Mexico’s drug war


The news from Mexico can be exhausting. Much of it is a tally of extreme violence and death. For those steeled to this barrage, the blog Menos dias aqui, which you can also follow on Twitter, provides a relentless accounting of the misery. From that perspective, the situation in Mexico is a never-ending dark tunnel, with no light in sight.

As well, the death of Miguel Nazar Haro last week exposed two frustrating truths of modern Mexico: first, how nasty Mexico’s “dirty war” against civil society and leftist organizations was in the 1960s and 1970s; and second, how impunity is still a serious problem.

The irony is that many in Mexico, particularly supporters of the Partido Revolucionario Institucional, or PRI, which ruled Mexico for most of the 20th century, would like to go back to the good old days. They argue that the PRI is now less corrupt, and that the war on drugs is – and will continue to be – an abject failure, with the human cost simply too high.

They are right to say that the situation is dire, and that the ruling Partido Acción Nacional (PAN) has embarked on a dangerous and, at times, reckless, war on drugs. Every single one of Mexico’s institutions was too weak to handle this aggressive transition, including the military. It was too much, too fast, and the Mexican citizenry has paid dearly.

But let’s be clear: back in the halcyon days of the 1960s and 1970s, the PRI was responsible for a dirty war in which an estimated 1,200 people were “disappeared”, as well as the  Tlatelolco massacre, which saw the death of hundreds, if not thousands, of students and innocent bystanders. A lattice-like network of corruption sentenced tens of millions to a life of poverty.  They died too early, and too poor, while the PRI and its cronies lined their pockets.

And, as Mexico rolled into the 1980s, drug trafficking became a bigger phenomenon, but the PRI was there to profit. The system of corrupt one-party rule worked as a buffer for the cartels. A political monopoly made it easier to cut deals, and to ensure the secure and (relatively) peaceful transport of drugs to the United States.

The first PAN president, Vicente Fox, who took office in December 2000 after a historic election victory, clearly underestimated the strength of the cartels. It appears he simply failed to conceive of the depth of the cartels’ intersection with security forces and local and state politicians. At that time, the Americans had had considerable success shutting down the eastern Caribbean routes for trafficking cocaine from Colombia. The shift to Mexico was an easy one: the Gulf Cartel and the Juárez Cartel had been active since the 1970s, and the Sinaloa Cartel and Tijuana Cartel were on the rise.  

Organized crime in Mexico has always been violent, and always had a degree of conflict among cartels jostling for influence. But in the 1990s the rise of the Sinaloa Cartel changed the game significantly, because higher value cocaine, heroin, and crystal methedrine were a bigger part of the mix – marijuana was till important, but less so. With more money at play, the stakes got higher, and violence increased. The Mexican people were clearly fed up, as were the Americans.

Enter PAN president Felipe Calderon who, directly after he assumed office in December, 2006, declared war on the cartels. The results, as we know, have been depressing, and have been complicated by the fact that Mexico’s weak institutions and local corruption – along with, some argue, the PAN’s “pro-business” agenda – have resulted in a failure to provide opportunities for the poor. 

No end in sight?

Instead, the transition resulted in oligarchic capitalism, and increased competition for markets and power between criminal organizations, much as we see in Russia. Mexico has the richest man in the world, Carlos Slim, a telecom giant who runs a near-monopoly and is permitted to charge very high prices. Mexico also has the richest drug dealer and most wanted man in the world, Sinaloa Cartel leader Joaquín ‘el Chapo’ Guzmán. Those are two very odd statistics for a country that has the world’s 13th largest economy, and in which, by some estimates, almost half the population lives at or below the poverty line.

To date, the aggressive targeting of the cartels by Calderon has resulted in the hydra-like monsters we now confront, including Los Zetas, a gang of former paramilitaries that some now consider to be the most powerful cartel. Every time a criminal gets taken out, there are plenty of poor kids willing to spring up and assume his position. The jockeying for power is more and more violent, and as the big cartels are destabilized dozens of smaller street gangs take their place. What was once a “managed” situation has become anarchic and chaotic.

But the daily news is also an indication of how much Mexico has, and is, changing. Clearly, the government has not in any way slowed down its pursuit of criminals. Every other day it seems a high-ranking member of a cartel is taken out of commission. Significantly, the rash of take-downs of members of the ultra-violent Los Zetas cartel – most recently exemplified by the arrest of Los Zetas hit-man Enrique Aurelio Elizondo, as well as the arrest of seven suspected Los Zetas kidnappers in Monterrey – has been complimented by some significant successes against the Sinaloa (Pacific) Cartel.

On January 31st we saw the arrest of the Sinaloa Cartel’s arms runner Ricardo Rosales Ramírez (‘el Nene’), in Mexicali, Baja California. And only days before, Ramiro Rendón Rivera (‘el Ramy’) and Eduardo Avila Ojeda (‘el Lalo’) were arrested in Culiacán, Sinaloa.

As well, on January 20, a helicopter-supported operation in Durango resulted in the detention of eleven suspected members of the Sinaloa Cartel, and the arrest of a regional leader. A separate operation in Sinaloa saw the arrest of another leader, Fidel Mancinas Franco.

The surge in arrests of Sinaloa members and leaders seems to indicate that authorities are deriving good intelligence from their captives, and that they may be zeroing in on ‘el Chapo’. It also potentially quietens criticism of the government that it has been soft on the Sinaloa Cartel, targeting Los Zetas instead.

At this point, there seems to be little choice but to continue the pressure on the cartels. The United States is not about to stop producing guns or consuming drugs, and the legalization argument, though appealing to many, has very little traction on either side of the border.

Law enforcement is not an option, it's a necessity – something that Mexico is learning the hard way. But this war of attrition will end, and the Mexican state will not fail. This is not to say that any society, least of all Mexico’s, will one day be “free of crime”, but any society can evolve to the point where law enforcement is reliable, and public security a reasonable expectation. Let’s hope Mexico gets there, too.

Twitter: @TimothyEWilson
Email: lapoliticaeslapolitica [at] gmail [dot] com

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Saturday, 28 January 2012

Fast and furious, plus immigration news



La politica es la politica will post periodic English language translations sourced from the Americas Mexico Blog.

The following come from press reports in English and Spanish:

Fast and Furious: Obama administration reveals new ATF gun probe rules

Reuters/chicagotribune.com: "The Obama administration on Friday revealed new reforms undertaken to improve how it conducts undercover gun trafficking investigations in the wake of a botched operation in which scores of weapons disappeared.

The reforms require additional oversight of undercover operations, including those that involve more than 50 firearms, and, in most cases, ends the practice of paying gun dealers to serve as confidential informants. Additionally, a new review committee has been established to monitor sensitive undercover cases or those that would have a "significant regional or national impact," according to theJustice Department."

Fast and Furious: Justice Department official suggested to Mexican officials letting guns cross border

AP/Washington Post: "Newly released Justice Department emails sent to Capitol Hill for a congressional inquiry into a gun-smuggling operation indicate that the head of the department’s criminal division suggested letting some illicit “straw” weapons buyers in the U.S. transport their guns across the border into Mexico where they could be arrested.

According to the emails turned over to the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee on Friday night, the Justice official, Lanny Breuer, made the suggestion to Mexican officials because it “may send a strong message to arms traffickers.”

California's Catholic hierarchy takes stand against illegal-immigration dragnet

San Jose Mercury News: "The Bay Area's biggest religious institution, the Catholic Church, is throwing its weight against a federal immigration dragnet that in the past two years deported more than 6,500 people from the region.

As Republican presidential contenders clash in the days leading up to the crucial Florida primary over the harshness or softness of their stands on illegal immigration, Catholic priests here and across the country are championing a humanitarian approach and condemning what they describe as "selfish" demagoguery.

"It is heartbreaking to hear the painful stories of unjust deportations pouring in from our congregations. California can do better," San Francisco Archbishop George Niederauer said."

'Inexcusable' language on immigration alienating Latino voters, Republicans told

guardian.co.uk: "Senior Republicans including the brother of the former president George Bush have warned the party to avoid using "harsh, intolerable and inexcusable" language about illegal immigration or risk alienating Latino voters. The Florida senator, Marco Rubio, and the state's former governor Jeb Bush made their appeal before Tuesday's primary, being contested by Newt Gingrich and Mitt Romney.

The Republican frontrunners clashed over illegal immigration in a debate earlier this week. The issue is emotive in Florida, which has the third largest Latino population in America."

Drug war's invisible victims

FPIF: "It’s rare to hear the voices of the women who bear the brunt of the drug war. Their pain doesn’t make headlines. Some need anonymity to remain alive. Many have been granted protective measures by the government or international human rights organizations because of the extreme threats they face.

Despite all these difficulties, some 70 women told their stories amid tears and despite fear for their lives in Mexico City on January 22. The meeting called by the Nobel Women’s Initiative brought an international delegation led by Nobel Peace Prize winner Jody Williams together with Mexican women victims of the violence and women human rights defenders."

Twitter: @TimothyEWilson
Email: lapoliticaeslapolitica [at] gmail [dot] com

Also, if you have read this far, perhaps you would support our efforts? We do this for free. Supporting La politica es la politica is easy - simply click on the "donate" button on the upper right-hand side of the page. We are talking small generosities, not big bucks. As a heads up, Pay Pal will insist that you use it if you are already on account. For direct credit card payment, you will then have to use a number and email that Pay Pal doesn't recognize in order to escape their benevolent grasp.

Friday, 27 January 2012

Ríos Montt to face trial for genocide


Good news from my friends at NISGUA: Efraín Ríos Montt, who ruled Guatemala during the worst years of that country’s thirty-six year civil war (1982-3), will almost certainly be tried for genocide.

On the evening of Thursday, January 27, Judge Carol Patricia Flores ruled that there was sufficient evidence to formally charge the former dictator with genocide. 

This particular charge addresses massacres carried out in the Maya Ixil region, massacres were carried out throughout Guatemala while the military carried out a scorched earth policy at the height of the 36-year internal armed conflict. Over 80% of the war's victims were indigenous Maya.

"We can establish these are acts so degrading, so humiliating that there is no justification," the judge said after detailing the human rights abuses from survivors' testimonies.  In her decision, the judge clearly stated that the extermination of the civilian population was the result of military plans, and that these plans were executed under the command of Ríos Montt. 

As the judge read the decision, family members, activists and supporters gathered outside the court applauded, hugged and lit firecrackers to celebrate.  Yesterday represented a huge symbolic and concrete step forward in the struggle against impunity for past and current crimes in Guatemala.  

 It's been a long time coming

Ríos Montt posted bail and will be held under house arrest until his next trial date.   The Association for Justice and Reconciliation (AJR) and the Center for Human Rights Legal Action (CALDH) will be busy in the upcoming months preparing for trials against Ríos Montt and other members of his high command already facing genocide charges.

"We are trying to achieve justice so that our children never experience these massacres. We ask the international community to be on alert and to support us in the struggle," the president of the AJR said yesterday outside the court.

Twitter: @TimothyEWilson
Email: lapoliticaeslapolitica [at] gmail [dot] com

Also, if you have read this far, perhaps you would support our efforts? We do this for free. Supporting La politica es la politica is easy - simply click on the "donate" button on the upper right-hand side of the page. We are talking small generosities, not big bucks. As a heads up, Pay Pal will insist that you use it if you are already on account. For direct credit card payment, you will then have to use a number and email that Pay Pal doesn't recognize in order to escape their benevolent grasp.

Who was Miguel Nazar Haro?


Miguel Nazar Haro, former head of Mexico’s Dirección Federal de Seguridad (DFS) – or Federal Security Directorate – died on Thursday, January 24. He was 87.

Nazar Haro, one of the officials considered responsible for the infamous Tlatelolco massacre in 1968, died at around 9 pm, presumably of natural causes.

Back in October 2, 1968, ten days before the opening of the 1968 Summer Olympics in Mexico City, the Tlatelolco massacre took place in the capital’s Plaza de las Tres Culturas. It was a government-directed killing of students, civilian protesters, and bystanders. No one knows how many died – estimates range from dozens to hundreds – but one thing is certain: the Mexican government not only covered up the occurrence, it also lied about the fact that it had deployed snipers.

Nazar Haro was also incriminated by La Fiscalía Especial para Movimientos Sociales y Políticos del Pasado, a special prosecutor tasked with looking into Mexico’s “dirty war” (guerra sucia) of the 1960s and 1970s, in the disappearance of six members of the The Lacandon Peasants Brigade (Brigada Campesina de los Lacandones) in 1974.

Another more specific accusation was that Nazar Haro was responsible for the disappearance of Jesus Piedra Ibarra, son of Senator Rosario Ibarra de Piedra. Piedra Ibarra, who was active in the September 23 Communist League, was arrested in April 1975 in the city of Monterrey, and never heard from again.

Despite significant evidence against Nazar Haro, in 2006 he was released by a federal judge and never completed a prison sentence for his crimes. Specific to the Piedra Ibarra case, the charges he faced were of “illegal deprivation of freedom” which, legally speaking, would have been considered akin to kidnapping.  

However, as in other cases, time out-ran on the legal efforts to have justice reach Nazar Haro.

Other high level government officials who have been implicated in Mexico’s dirty war are: the former President, Gustavo Díaz Ordaz (in office 1964-1970) ; Luis Echeverria (Interior Secretary under President Gustavo Díaz Ordaz from 1964 to 1970, then president from 1970-1976): General Marcelino Garcia Barragan (Secretary of Defense during the Tlatelolco massacre; and Fernando Gutierrez Barrios (obituary here), the director of the DRF during the Tlatelolco massacre.
 Too fast for Mexico's glacial judicial system

Protected by the CIA?

Back in February, 2004, Milenio reported that Nazar Haro had received help from the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) and the U.S. Justice Department to avoid incarceration in the U.S.

But this wasn’t because he was “disappearing” leftists: apparently, he was under investigation for participating in a car theft ring.

In an interview with Milenio, Peter K. Nuñez, the former U.S. Attorney in charge of the case in San Diego, California, said that when he tried to arrest and prosecute Nassar Haro in the early 1980s the “intelligence agencies” in Washington intervened.

“It was a very complicated circumstance.  We [in San Diego] had spent considerable time trying to charge him, and the Justice Department in Washington and some of the U.S. intelligence agencies did not want us to go ahead,” Nuñez said.

Apparently, Nuñez believed the CIA got involved to influence the escape of Nassar Haro from the U.S. after having after spent only a few hours in a San Diego jail.

The CIA considered Nassar Haro, according to different reports, “the most important source in Mexico and Central America” for the U.S. espionage services.

However, it looks as if upon his death in Mexico there was still an outstanding warrant for his arrest in the United States. Even decades after being indicted in a federal court for his alleged participation in an organization dedicated to stealing vehicles in San Diego, Nassar Haro would still have been considered a fugitive from justice.

“Arrest warrants do not expire,” said Nuñez.  “He paid his bail but he never returned to face the charges.”

Twitter: @TimothyEWilson
Email: lapoliticaeslapolitica [at] gmail [dot] com

Also, if you have read this far, perhaps you would support our efforts? We do this for free. Supporting La politica es la politica is easy - simply click on the "donate" button on the upper right-hand side of the page. We are talking small generosities, not big bucks. As a heads up, Pay Pal will insist that you use it if you are already on account. For direct credit card payment, you will then have to use a number and email that Pay Pal doesn't recognize in order to escape their benevolent grasp.

Thursday, 26 January 2012

Five dead police officers tried to extort money from La Familia Michoacana cartel?



La politica es la politica will post periodic English language translations sourced from the Americas Mexico Blog.

The following come from press reports in English and Spanish:

Prosecutor says 5 police officers shot dead outside Mexico City tried to extort suspects

AP/Washington Post: "Mexican authorities say five police officers fatally shot near Mexico City after stopping a car were trying to extort money when they were attacked.

Mexico State prosecutor Alfredo Castillo says the officers from the town of Ixtapaluca (Ees-tah-pah-lu-ca) asked the four La Familia Michoacana cartel members in the vehicle for 6,000 pesos (about $460) to let them go."

Mexico open to public scrutiny on human rights: Secretary of Interior Poiré

Milenio: "Mexico is open to public scrutiny on the matter of human rights and will attend to the recommendations, criticisms and concerns of the various organizations on the basis of solid, consistent and verifiable information, Interior Minister Alejandro Poire affirmed.

At the opening of the annual National Meeting of Directors of Civil Protection, he acknowledged and supported the efforts made in this regard by the National Commission of Human Rights (CNDH), and assured his respect for the efforts of international organizations of all kinds, such as Human Rights Watch (HRW).

Poire said that through the security strategy that the federal government is leading to reduce crime rates "we are sowing the seeds of a more just, prosperous and secure Mexico." Precisely in the pursuit of that justice, he explained, "the Mexican state and the government of President Felipe Calderon shares, has made its own and has so demonstrated, the primary and essential goal of protecting, promoting and defending human rights."

He said that there is no doubt that Mexico has complete conviction that human rights is a task for all, that is, for authorities, civil society organizations and autonomous bodies specializing in the field, both within the country and abroad. Poire said it is a responsibility to so be, "and we remain open to criticism, because that way we can move forward faster in the protection of the rights of our citizens."

Mexico plans five new military bases in Zeta territory

InSight Crime: "Mexico's government upped its offensive against the Zetas with the announcement that five new military bases will be installed in the group's primary areas of operation ... according to the newspaper Excelsior. Four bases will be located in Tamaulipas and another one in Nuevo Leon, which are both among the northern border states most affected by drug violence.

The initiative comes as part of the government's drive to reinstate control in areas where criminal groups have, in some cases, overrun local authorities The Mexican Department of Defense stated that installing greater military presence in these areas will help return the rule of law, reports Excelsior."

Nuevo Leon government demands that police who claim they were tortured present their accusations

CNN Mexico: "The government of the northern state of Nuevo Leon demanded that the Monterrey municipal police who, on Tuesday night made accusations of torture by the State Investigation Agency (IEA), present their evidence to prove or clarify responsibility, the government spokesman for state security, Jorge Domene Zambrano, said at a press conference.

On Tuesday night, three presumed municipal police, wearing hoods, appeared at police headquarters in Monterrey, the state capital, where they held a press conference to make accusations that they were tortured by elements of the State Investigation Agency (IEA).

The complainants say they were tortured during an operation by the State and the Army on January 21 as part of the police security purification process at municipal police headquarters. The state spokesman said that  a total of 109 policemen had been retained that day, of which 60 were released the same day.

Five policemen continue to be held in the facilities of the AEI "because they appear to have links to some previous investigatons," while another 44 were taken that day to the University for Security Sciences, where they are being evaluated, explained Domene Zambrano.

"We reiterate the official position of the state government is to attend to this and, if necessary, punish those responsible, if this is true, or (determine) if it is a falsehood, which the statements of these individuals can turn out to be," he added. ... The spokesman stated that identity of the persons who publicly made accusations of  alleged human rights violations is unknown and demanded that the municipal police department provide their identity.

... The State Ombudsman, Minerva Martinez announced that the Human Rights Commission (CEDHNL) has opened an inquiry to investigate these events, and invited the police to file a complaint with the agency. "I guarantee the safety of these people and their privacy," she said. The attorney general of Nuevo Leon, Adrian de la Garza Santos, reiterated that "total protection" will be provided to the alleged victims and he invited them to approach the authorities to file their complaint."

Romney, Gingrich fireworks over immigration

CBS News: "With Florida's Republican presidential primary just days away ... the campaign took an ugly turn Wednesday, as sparks flew between Mitt Romney and Newt Gingrich over the issue of immigration.

Gingrich started the day's slug-fest --- sounding incredulous that Romney would say illegal immigrants should -- in Romney's words -- self-deport. In other words, leave on their own. "I think," Gingrich said, "you have to live in worlds of Swiss bank accounts and Cayman Island accounts and automatic $20 million a year income with no work to have some fantasy this far from reality."

Romney fired back -- saying Gingrich is also on the record for supporting the idea that illegal immigrants will leave the country if they're denied work. Said Romney, "I recognize that it's very tempting to come out to an audience like this and pander to the audience. ... I think that's unbecoming of a presidential candidate."

Immigrant Children Face Uncertain Futures, Foster Care

Huffington Post: "More than 5,000 children of immigrants are languishing in state foster care nationwide because their parents were living in the United States illegally and were detained or deported by federal immigration authorities.

These children can spend years in foster homes, and some are put up for adoption after termination of their parents' custody rights. With neither state nor federal officials addressing the problem, thousands more are poised to enter the child welfare system every year.

A recent report by the Applied Research Center (ARC), a national racial-justice think tank, found that when immigration enforcement methods intersect with the child welfare system, consequences for immigrant families can be devastating and long-lasting."

Mexican actor hopes Oscar nod will help migrants

AFP: "Mexican actor Demian Bichir hopes his surprise Oscar nod for "A Better Life" will raise awareness about the 11 million undocumented migrants in the United States. ... Bichir told reporters in Mexico City on Wednesday that "now more people will know who I am," -- but drawing attention to the difficulties faced by undocumented workers in the United States would be the "real prize", he added.

He expressed hope that "A Better Life" -- the story of a father trying to protect his son from the gang culture and immigration policing of Los Angeles -- would do for illegal migrants what "Philadelphia", the 1993 AIDS drama starring Tom Hanks, did for the gay community in America"

Relative of victim says fear hinders reconstruction of the facts of Casino Royal attack

CNN Mexico: Fear inhibits the reconstruction of the facts of the tragedy in the Casino Royal in Monterrey, Nuevo Leon, where, on August 25, 2011, 52 people were killed. So stated Edmundo Jimenez Ramirez, a relative of one of the victims of the attack, to the press during a meeting of families of the victims.

"The problem is the issue of witnesses. We are hopeful. There are people who were present who took notice of everything bad about (the establishment)," he said. "People don't want to get into trouble, because there is fear, which we all have."

This Wednesday afternoon, five months after the attack, a dozen mourners gathered outside the casino to pray for the victims and demand punishment of the authorities for crimes of omission or commission and to require changes to the law to provide more security in this type of establishment.

Without specifying whether the fear is of the authorities or organized crime, Jimenez Ramirez said that, so far, there are three people who are willing to give their statements for the reconstruction of events, including two who lost relatives in the attack.

Samara Pérez Muñiz, a survivor of the attack, estimated that at least 10 people are necessary for a comprehensive reconstruction of the event and to refute the results of the official investigation of the casino fire, which concluded that the tragedy was inevitable."

Twitter: @TimothyEWilson
Email: lapoliticaeslapolitica [at] gmail [dot] com

Also, if you have read this far, perhaps you would support our efforts? We do this for free. Supporting La politica es la politica is easy - simply click on the "donate" button on the upper right-hand side of the page. We are talking small generosities, not big bucks. As a heads up, Pay Pal will insist that you use it if you are already on account. For direct credit card payment, you will then have to use a number and email that Pay Pal doesn't recognize in order to escape their benevolent grasp.

Wednesday, 25 January 2012

Border news: captured crossers returning less often, and companies pay millions for illegal workers


La politica es la politica will post periodic English language translations sourced from the Americas Mexico Blog.

The following come from press reports in English and Spanish:

Captured crossers returning less often

azstarnet.com: "Fewer illegal immigrants are crossing the border multiple times in a single year, never-before-released government numbers show. The percentage of people apprehended two or more times by the Border Patrol within the same fiscal year - known as the recidivism rate - has declined each of the last four years, shows a new report from the Congressional Research Service. The rate was 20 percent in fiscal 2011, down from 28 percent in fiscal 2007, the report says.

... The report also reveals that nearly 60 percent of apprehended border crossers are being sent home through programs intended to make it tougher for them to cross again, and that fewer than 1 percent of all people apprehended by the Border Patrol have been convicted of major crimes. The report is the latest metric indicating that the flow of illegal immigrants, especially from Mexico, has slowed."

 It's getting harder

Companies pay millions for hiring illegal immigrants

Houston Chronicle: "When U.S. immigration agents scoured the hiring paperwork on file at Advanced Containment System Inc. last year, they found identification cards supposedly issued by the "Texas Department of Safety." Words including "identification" and "department" were misspelled. One ID card even had the words "novelty item" typed on the back. Some 44 percent of the company's Houston workforce from 2005 to 2009 was in the country illegally and was paid an estimated $2 million during that time, the audit showed.

On Tuesday, U.S. immigration officials and federal prosecutors announced they had reached a $2 million settlement with ACSI in exchange for avoiding criminal prosecution."

Bus passengers get prison in Texas cash smuggling case

Reuters: "A federal judge sentenced a busload of passengers to prison terms of up to three years for their role in a foiled smuggling operation to ferry more than $3.1 million in cash into Mexico, U.S. Attorney Kenneth Magidson said on Tuesday.

The sentences came after federal agents stopped a southbound commercial bus at the Hidalgo, Texas international bridge, about 240 miles south of San Antonio, in September 2010. U.S. Customs and Border Protection officers searched 17 pieces of luggage on the bus and found cash stuffed inside deflated Coleman air mattresses packed in each bag, a criminal complaint said. Agents seized $3.19 million in cash from the bags and arrested all 13 passengers aboard the bus.

The passengers all admitted to their role in the smuggling ring, saying they were recruited to move the cash into Mexico. They expected to be paid as much as $8,000 to courier the currency across the border."

First convictions from fast and furious gun probe

Fox News: "Two men pleaded guilty to buying guns that were destined to be smuggled into Mexico, the first convictions in the federal government's botched Operation Fast and Furious. The men were so-called "straw buyers" who acknowledged purchasing guns that they knew were headed to Mexican drug gangs.

... Jacob Wayne Chambers and Jacob Anthony Montelongo each pleaded guilty in federal court Monday to a conspiracy charge. Montelongo also pleaded guilty to dealing guns without a license. The pair admitted being part of a 20-person smuggling ring that is accused of running guns into Mexico for use by the Sinaloa drug cartel."

Five police officers killed in Mexico

AP/NYTimes.com: "Officials said that five police officers had been fatally shot after they stopped a vehicle in a town outside Mexico City. A prosecutor, Alfredo Castillo Cervantes of Mexico State, said the police officers from the town of Ixtapaluca had stopped the vehicle on Monday when a taxi and a van pulled up and a group of attackers opened fire with high-powered weapons."

Extreme poverty (briefly) to the fore in Mexico

upsidedownworld.org: "In the midst of Mexico’s senseless “Drug War” and the erroneous belief that drug-trafficking is the root of the country’s evils, Mexicans were given a powerful reminder last week of the deeper crisis affecting their fellow citizens. A video posted on social media sites concerning a severe drought in the state of Chihuahua saw the extreme poverty and malnutrition afflicting the region’s indigenous population highlighted in the media for a brief few days.

Chihuahua, a vast, dry and mountainous state bordering Texas and New Mexico, is home to several indigenous groups, the largest of which, the Rarámuri (or Tarahumara), inhabit the region surrounding one of Mexico’s most spectacular natural wonders, the Barranca del Cobre, or Copper Canyon."

Polarization and sustained violence in Mexico's cartel war

Stratfor: "Over the past year it has ... become evident that a polarization is under way among (Mexican) cartels. Most smaller groups (or remnants of groups) have been subsumed by the Sinaloa Federation, which controls much of western Mexico, and Los Zetas, who control much of eastern Mexico. While a great deal has been said about the fluidity of the Mexican cartel landscape, these two groups have solidified themselves as the country's predominant forces."


Twitter: @TimothyEWilson
Email: lapoliticaeslapolitica [at] gmail [dot] com

Also, if you have read this far, perhaps you would support our efforts? We do this for free. Supporting La politica es la politica is easy - simply click on the "donate" button on the upper right-hand side of the page. We are talking small generosities, not big bucks. As a heads up, Pay Pal will insist that you use it if you are already on account. For direct credit card payment, you will then have to use a number and email that Pay Pal doesn't recognize in order to escape their benevolent grasp.

Four deaths from A/H1N1 in Mexico City


Citizens in Mexico City have been urged to remain calm now that A/H1N1 – the notorious “swine flu” than caused the pandemic in 2009 – has resulted in four deaths within the capital, also known as the Distrito Federal or Federal District.

All four of the deceased had presented themselves to hospitals with serious symptoms of influenza. In total, nine individuals have died this season of swine flu in the country, with 573 cases detected. The A/H1N1 strain represents approximately 90% of the detected cases of influenza in Mexico.

Mexico City’s health secretary, Armando Ahued, said that the city had over 120,000 vaccine doses against A/H1N1. These can be given free of charge to high risk populations such as children, pregnant women, and the elderly.

"Vaccine treatment is available, but we also need to address hygiene, such as washing hands several times a day, especially if you are going on public transportation, when handling money, or greeting people” said Osuna.  “As well, do not self-medicate, as antibiotics should only be used when under prescription.” 

(In fact, antibiotics have no efficacy against influenza, which is a virus.)

This is not 2009 - yet

Osuna further said that the capital will close schools if necessary. He reminded vulnerable populations to call 5741 1566 to receive a prescription for the vaccine. With this prescription, an individual can present himself/herself at any health clinic within the Federal District to receive the vaccine.

To ease public concern, Mexico City’s mayor Marcelo Ebrard said that the number of influenza cases is actually lower this year than last.

“If there were to be a serious situation, as I have always said, we will shut down the city.”

Symptoms of A/H1N1 include a persistent, severe headache, body aches, joint pain, runny nose, sore eyes, and a fever over 38 degrees (100 Fahrenheit).

For other reports on this issue form La politica es la politica, see







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Nobel Women's Initiative hears testimony, and Human Rights Watch PR war gets into high gear


La politica es la politica will post periodic English language translations sourced from the Americas Mexico Blog.

The following come from press reports in English and Spanish:

Nobel Women´s Initiative hears testimony of indigenous women of Guerrero

La Jornada: "Militarization, organized crime, rape by soldiers and police and impunity, neglectful bureaucracy and abuse of authority, plunder, murder and extreme labor exploitation, and--as background--the custom that assumes that women, or "the old women"-to put it on their terms, are useless. Dozens of women's stories from Mepha (Tlapanecas), Na Savi (Mixteco), Sul Jaá (Amuzgo) and Nahua (Nahuatl) tumbled out in this morning's meeting of indigenous women of Guerrero with the international delegation of the Nobel Women's Initiative, organized by the Tlachinollan organization, based in the Tlapa Mountain region.

In the dialogue, which seeks to enhance the visibility of these struggles in North America, narratives of historical cases were shared.

One such is the decades-long pilgrimage of Tita Radilla to determine the whereabouts of her father, Rosendo Radilla, who disappeared in the seventies, one among more than 500 victims of the dirty war. Since their first complaint to the Attorney General's Office (PGR), then the fraudulent transfer to the military courts (where, despite the case for responsibility built against a general, he went free), contiuing with a failed Special Prosecutor for Social and Political Movements (FEMOSPP), not a single case was clarified until presented to the Interamerican Human Rights Commission. And although there is a conviction against the Mexican state from that court, there has not been compliance with any of the actions required by the government, as there is no political will to enforce it, Tita concludes

... The widows of the two leaders of the Mixteco People's Organization in Ayutla, also testified, Margarita Martin de las Nieves, wife of Manuel Ponce, and Guadalupe Castro, wife of  Raul Lopez, murdered in 2009. They spoke not only of the repressive situation behind the killings, but also of their condition as widows, so lonely, so abandoned, in a social environment that does not give them any right to govern their own lives, harassed and discriminated against by their in-laws.

Also, from Ayutla de los Libres came the story of Obdulia Eugenio Manuel. She tells how in 1994, along with the Zapatista uprising in Chiapas and a measles epidemic that filled the church in their community, Guadalupe Canyon, with piled corpses, the military arrived. Years later, in 2002, that same military violently raped the indigenous women, Valentina Rosendo and Ines Fernandez, which led to another landmark ruling of the Interamerican Court against the Mexican government. ... Being a defender of human rights in that community, such as Obdulia is, is seen as a threat to local authorities, and therefore makes one the target of systematic threats of death.

"I go and tell the Attorney General the names of those that threaten me and all they do is send me to testify again and again. And send me insulting means of security, which are nothing more than video cameras that monitor the office that we have--she is president of the organization  Mepha Women--and they don't work. The last time I spoke to them, I told them to take their fucking stuff, " she says without embarrassment.
Worth listening to

Then there are the shared experiences of personal resilience, such as the women who come from  Metlatónoc  and Cochoapa, considered the two of the poorest municipalities in the country. There young girls, in order to go to middle school have had to overcome the ancestral resistance of their  parents and siblings, and who, to express  their identity, embroider huipiles (traditional blouses). They recognize, as does Martina Sierra, head of the civil association Savi Yoko, that "we love our roots, but we also see that our ancestors had discriminatory practices against women and we rebel against it.""

HRW demands that the next Mexican government review anti-crime strategy

La Jornada: "The organization Human Rights Watch (HRW), on Monday, called on the next government of Mexico to review its strategy against organized crime and drug cartels, which, in its view, increased violence and human rights abuses in the country. "It appears that the current strategy is not working," the Americas director for the organization ... José Miguel Vivanco, told a news conference in Washington.

The future government, which will be elected ... in July, has to ask itself if it should continue using the Army, currently deployed within the strategy of the government of Felipe Calderón, "against a problem which is political and judicial." Is the Army in a position ready to continue this fight? Or is it an entity that is not subordinate to civil authority? My opinion is the latter, said Vivanco.

In its global report released on Sunday, HRW reported serious human rights violations by Mexican military, along with great impunity in the face of these facts. The Military Attorney  opened 3,671 cases regarding possible abuses between 2007 and 2011, but there have been only 15 convictions, the organization highlighted .

Mexico's government, on Monday, rejected the accusations, assuring that the 50,000 soldiers deployed to combat organized crime do their work in strict compliance with the requirements of public safety.

Vivanco regretted that Mexico continues a general attitude of inflexibility, blindly going forward with a policy that pays off according to them, but according to all the figures shows that there is increasing violence and abuse at the same time.

He issued a challenge to the government of Mexico to explain how it can say that 95 percent of the nearly 50,000 people who have died from the violence of organized crime in the past five years are drug dealers, even though it has opened investigations in less than a thousand cases. The figure is minimal in relation to the severity and number of violations or abuses or murders that have occurred in the context of the fight against drug trafficking.

Nevertheless, he acknowledged that Mexico is a country open to human rights organizations, and related that recently he had a positive meeting with Calderon, who said he expects real and concrete changes in regard to human rights in the time that remains for his government."
They have the Mexican government's attention

The Army adheres to the law in the fight against crime: military prosecutor responds to HRW

La Jornada: "The Army's commitment to strictly adhere to the law in the war on drugs has cost soldiers and the institution itself, as more than 100 soldiers have been "disappeared or seized" after appearing in federal or local courts to testify regarding their intervention in matters which resulted in criminal proceedings in civil matters, according to the military prosecutor, Gen. Jesus Gabriel López Benítez.

After rejecting categorically the contents of the report by Human Rights Watch (HRW), which states that there is impunity for soldiers who violate human rights, General López Benítez said yesterday in an interview with La Jornada that the situation is so delicate that he has requested the Judiciary of the Federation to allow military personnel involved in criminal proceedings--because of their being involved in shootings, arrests and searches involving organized crime--to appear via video conference or to testify before judges in their own locality.

He revealed that soldiers who took part in high-impact operations, such as in Tamaulipas, Nuevo Leon and Chihuahua, ... are cited then to appear as witnesses after they returned to their headquarters in other states. Months later, when trials are underway, federal judges subpoena them and the Ministry of National Defense (SEDENA), in accordance with the law, sends the soldiers to their court appearance.

However, he said, is that the vast majority of the 123 soldiers "disappeared or seized" so far in this administration, never returned home after testifying or afer they had left their barracks. There is evidence that when the soldiers were heading to the bus station, after having testified, they were loaded onto trucks by armed men and, after that, nothing was heard of them. Organized crime solicits the appearance of soldiers who served in operations against organized crime and make them appear for revenge. That would not happen if soldiers acted with impunity, he said.

After disqualifying the latest HRW report, the military regretted that for the preparation of that document the organization did not take into account even the data that the Department of Defense publishes at its website.

The prosecutor also said that in every incident involving civilians, two criminal investigations are immediately opened, one by the Military Office, and one by the local attorney General's Office, as appropriate. Once the process is moving forward, the military judge decides whether to decline jurisdiction, but that does not mean impunity.

The officer reiterated the military's interest in demonstrating its commitment to legality and respect for human rights."

HRW report does not reflect real situation in Mexico: Interior Ministry

Milenio: "The federal government said that the report by Human Rights Watch (HRW) on the status of Human Rights in the World, contains categorical and generalized statements about the country that do not reflect the real situation in Mexico. The Secretary of the Interior (Interior Ministry) said in a statement that "the number of complaints (in the HRW annual report) does not represent in any way the number of acts that violate human rights."

In response to the HRW report content, the agency said that of the 98 recommendations issued by the National Human Rights Commission (CNDH) and the Ministry of National Defense (SEDENA), 266 soldiers have been indicted or subject to legal process and  29 convictions have been issued.

The statement further highlighted that on December 9, 2011, President Felipe Calderón instructed the Federal Executive Counsel and Secretary of the Interior, Alejandro Poire, to coordinate efforts with the legislature to move forward an initiative by the President that seeks to amend the Code of Military Justice, in order to meet the criteria of the Inter-American Court of Human Rights (IACHR) and the Mexican Supreme Court of Justice (SCJN).

In addition, both the armed forces and the Attorney General's Office (PGR) are exploring mechanisms for find ing a way--without violating the law--to transfer jurisdiction from military prosecutors in favor the Public Ministry and civil judges when military personnel participate in human rights violations.

... The statement clarified that Alejandro Poire sent a formal response to the HRW report regarding Mexico, which was presented on the November 9, 2011, and that "for various methodological reasons discussed at length there, (the report) does not reflect the real situation in Mexico."

He said that only in this administration, the National Human Rights Commission (CNDH) has received 6,065 complaints about operations of the Department of Defense, of which only 98, i.e., 1.61 percent of the total resulted in recommendations. One hundred percent of the recommendations have been adopted by the National Defense and are in process of being fulfilled.

The statement also referred to the President´s commitment to freedom of expression and ensuring protection of journalists who have reported threats to the Committee to Protect Journalists. He said that in 100 percent of the cases of which the Committee is aware, security measures have been implemented  that ensure the security and integrity of journalists."

'El Chapo' aide killed in gunfight

AP/NPR: "Members of a Mexican army special forces unit fatally shot a high-ranking aide to the country's most-wanted drug dealer in a gunfight in the northern state of Durango, officials said Monday. Luis Alberto Cabrera Sarabia was responsible for the operations of Guzman's Sinaloa Cartel in Durango and part of the neighboring state of Chihuahua."

Twitter: @TimothyEWilson
Email: lapoliticaeslapolitica [at] gmail [dot] com

Also, if you have read this far, perhaps you would support our efforts? We do this for free. Supporting La politica es la politica is easy - simply click on the "donate" button on the upper right-hand side of the page. We are talking small generosities, not big bucks. As a heads up, Pay Pal will insist that you use it if you are already on account. For direct credit card payment, you will then have to use a number and email that Pay Pal doesn't recognize in order to escape their benevolent grasp.

Hunt is on for accused murderers at the FEG


The Attorney General of Jalisco (PGJ) arrested four people last week for their alleged role in the killing of five people – Armando Gomez, 56, his son, Francisco Ismael Gomez Salcedo, 21, and three other teenage students – at the Student Federation of Guadalajara building (FEG) last December 9.

Now, however, it seems that the four arrested teenagers, aged 13, 15, 17 and 19, may have been unwilling participants.

The four teenagers were first thought to have confessed to having participated in the killing of the five individuals. However, it seems now that they almost certainly acted under duress, and may have only assisted in the disposal of the bodies.

The 19 year old, Gerardo Godoy, as well as the three younger students, who cannot be named, have testified that it was the new FEG President David Castorena Peña who was responsible for killing of the father, son, and three other students.

There are two theories as to motive: either Gomez Salcedo did not want to pay increased “derecho-de-piso” fees being charged by the FEG for running his “churros” stands (a deep fried dough); or Gomez Salcedo was himself involved in the extortion racket, and had been pocketing monies intended for Castorena Peña and/or the FEG.

Godoy, who along with the other teenagers acted as a coordinator for the FEG, testified that he saw Gomez having a heated argument with caretaker Gerardo Flores Gomez, also known as “The Tattoed” (El Tatuadao) on union grounds, whereupon both of them entered the building and went into Gomez Salcedo’s office.

In that room were four people: Castorena, the caretaker “El Tatuado”, Gomez and his son. Apparently, there were also staff in the building along with the three other teenagers.

According to testimony by Godoy, two shots were heard, and a bloodstained carpet was removed. The teenagers were then forced to dispose of the bodies by digging shallow graves on the union grounds.
Hardly worth dying for

Meanwhile, to avoid having witnesses who might implicate them (it was assumed, presumably, that the staff and the teenagers would remain silent), the three other students who came with Gomez and his son were stabbed to death. These students had been bound and gagged in an office in the building during the ordeal. They, too, were disposed of in makeshift graves on the grounds.

Accomplices?

The PGJ is now looking for fourteen people who might be involved in the murders, including Castorena, the caretaker “El Tatuado”, and the former president Israel Mariscal. All have ignored a subpoena filed by prosecutors.

The implication of other participants is due in part to the fact that, directly after the shots were fired, Godoy stated that Castorena came out of his office to make several phone calls.

As well, months before the murders were committed, Castorena and others pursued legal injunction against detention, known as a “writ of amparo”. Authorities believe that some of these protections may involve his closest collaborators.

Seeking such injunction is not uncommon in Mexico; this is because Mexican law allows suspects and even witnesses to be held for extended periods of time.

Mexico does not have habeas corpus, which allows for a prisoner to be released from unlawful detention (i.e. lacking sufficient cause or evidence). Instead, the system is left largely to the discretion of judges. The writ of amparo partially reversed the harsh Napoleonic Code, and assured that some individuals can be presumed to be innocent, or at least protected from detention.

Apparently, Castorena Peña and others filed for this protection, and lived under it, at least from September 2, 2011. Others under this protection included Gustavo Buenrostro Hernández, Gustavo David Pérez Íñiguez y Martín Isaac Pérez Góme.

While a writ of amparo is not an admission of guilt, it is an acknowledgement that the authorities may have interest in detaining certain individuals. In the past – and many would say to this day, as well – Mexican judges would offer a writ of amparo for a personal fee. As a result, the rich and well-connected could often avoid prosecution.

To read more about this case, including the nature and history of the FEG, and accusations that the FEG extorts money from street vendors in exchange for the so-called “derecho de piso,” or dues, please refer to these articles from La politica es la politica:


                                                                               



Twitter: @TimothyEWilson
Email: lapoliticaeslapolitica [at] gmail [dot] com

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Monday, 23 January 2012

Human Rights Watch keeps up the pressure, Guerrero government investigating 24 public employees

La politica es la politica will post periodic English language translations sourced from the Americas Mexico Blog.

The following come from press reports in English and Spanish:

Mexican human rights groups demand change in anti-crime policy

La Jornada: "Fabian Sanchez, executive director of the organization Strategic Litigation for Civil Rights (Idheas), and Adrian Ramirez, president of the Mexican League for the Defense of Human Rights (Limeddh) stated that the 2012 World Report of Human Rights Watch (HRW) strengthens the call of international and national organizations that the policy to combat crime be modified.

Despite repeated calls that have been made by international organizations such as Amnesty International (AI), HRW, the United Nations (UN) and the Interamerican Commission on Human Rights (IACHR), as well as national human rights defense groups, Calderón persists in his position of not changing his policy to combat organized crime. "There is no human power or national or international instrument that can make the President change his strategy."

The report, Ramirez said, is important because "it indicates that the strategy has exacerbated the violence in the country, and we insist that the liability is Calderón's, because his policies foster a climate of serious human rights violations." Fabian Sanchez added: "Although the report does not state anything that is not known, it links the government's strategy to worsening violence and reinforces the demand for a change in security policy."

Mexican government replies to charges made by Human Rights Watch

La Jornada: The federal government, through the Interior Ministry, responded last night to the accusations made ​​by Human Rights Watch World Report - 2012, presented Sunday in Cairo. "The government rejects the accusations of  HRW regarding human rights violations and impunity of federal security forces. ....the work of the personnel of the Army, Air Force and Navy of Mexico--in combating drug trafficking and organized crime--is carried out in strict accordance with the framework of public safety, attending to the particular problems that threaten the physical integrity of the population and limit the carrying-out of the daily activities of society."

In its press release, the Government argues that "the actions of personnel adhers to the law, with full respect for human rights, always putting first the security and integrity of the population, strengthening the transparency and openness of the armed forces to report detailed and reliable information regarding the completion of their assigned missions."

Violence has increased horribly in Mexico, says Human Rights Watch

Milenio: "The organization Human Rights Watch reported that security forces in Mexico have committed human rights violations and that the soldiers enjoy impunity in these cases. This was stated during the presentation of its world report in Cairo.

The communications director for HRW, Emma Daly, said President Felipe Calderon is using the military to fight drug traffickers and organized crime, but the military are not well trained to carry out policing and go unpunished when there are abuses. "We have evidence that violence has increased in Mexico horribly in recent years and that there is no system for judging the military so that there is justice," Daly said at the headquarters of the Union of Journalists of the Egyptian capital.

In her opinion, "there is total impunity for the military in Mexico," who are never prosecuted within the military justice system, which encourages the continuation of "the abuse because there is no way to stop it."

According to the NGO report, the efforts of the authorities to combat organized crime have led to a significant rise in killings, torture and other abuses by security forces, which only make the "climate of disorder and fear worse in some areas of the country." Among the violations of human rights by the Armed Forces are murder, torture and forced disappearances.

A demonstration that soldiers who have committed human rights violations against civilians are never brought to justice is, according to HRW, that the military prosecutor's office opened over 3,600 investigations of cases between 2007 and June 2011 and only 15 soldiers were convicted in that period.

The main victims of these attacks are journalists, human rights defenders and migrants. Regarding journalists, the report stresses that this group is "more and more often targeted for violence and intimidation" and records that between 2000 and September 2011, 74 journalists were killed, eight of them last year. In addition, HRW notes that hundreds of thousands of migrants who cross Mexico each year suffer serious abuses, including sexual and physical assault.

The document also emphasizes that the Mexican judicial system "fails to do justice to these victims of violent crimes or violations of human rights." One of the major violations, according to the report, is the torture of detainees, a problem that is perpetuated because some judges accept confessions extracted under pressure.

The organization also criticized the laws of the country which, in its opinion, do not adequately protect women and girls from domestic violence and sexual abuse."

13 killed, 8 at funeral, in Mexico’s violent southern Guerrero state

AP/Washington Post: "Police say eight men were killed in an attack on a funeral in a rural area of Guerrero, part of a death toll of 13 over the weekend in the southern state plagued by drug violence."

Government of Guerrero investigating 24 public employees for the death of students

CNN Mexico: "At least 24 public officials in Guerrero state are being investigated for their alleged role in the confrontation on December 12 between police and students from the rural  normal school in Ayotzinapa, which caused the deaths of two students and an employee of a gas station.

The investigation seeks to determine the administrative penalties "corresponding to the degree of participation" of the civil servants, said Julio Cesar Hernandez Martinez, comptroller general of Guerrero, located southwest of Mexico.

"These responsibilities are related to failing to provide assistance to those threatened by danger or who have been victims of crime, and for not having acted with the necessary determination to prevent  immediate and irreparable serious harm, and having used  firearms unnecessarily " said  Hernandez Martinez .

... The comptroller said officials being investigated tolerated and even performed acts of torture or cruel actions, and did not use the protocol for taking detainees into custody during the dislodging of the protesters on December 12."

Drug trade, not a lack of food, the biggest problem in the mountains of Chihuahua: local priest

La Jornada: "Though it is very serious, the greatest crisis in this part of the Tarahumara Mountains in Chihuahua is not the food shortage, but the presence of narcotrafficking and its quota of violence: “the Rarámuri communities are being crucified by organized crime.”

In an interview, the pastor of the village of Creel and general vicar of the diocese, Hector Fernando Martinez, who has worked in the area for 17 years tending to 39 communities, vehemently repeats himself. This past Wednesday he reminded Governor Cesar Duarte of that fact at a public event in the community of San Ignacio organized to distribute emergency food that the state government had delivered to respond to the food shortage in Tarahumara.

The presence of narcotrafficking – explains Martinez – has devastating results for the community’s social structure, “because it uproots people from their land, displaces them from their houses, and--out of fear--they stop farming or altogether abandon their towns.” At the same time, in the face of unemployment and a lack of options, “it attracts young Rarámuri people and teenagers because it offers them work, encourages them to join; it provides an income.” Seduced by this life, teenagers and young people, who range between ages 16 and 20, end up rejecting their identity.

The middle-aged priest, a jovial character who translated the Hebrew Bible into Rarámuri, doesn’t speak of rumors; he knows it, he’s seen it, he’s lived it. Today, many of those who pass through Creel and the surrounding towns in trucks with tinted windows, music turned all the way up, and “armed to the teeth,” attended catechism with him when they were children.

He admits that the situation hurts and frustrates him: “I grieve for them, because I know sooner or later they are going to be killed, and it frustrates me because life in the Tarahumara Mountains, the expectations it gives them, it’s very little. For them, the gun, the truck, the money is more important in order to feel powerful.”

“Bless our weapons, father.”

He tells of this past December 12, when a group of them stopped him when he was travelling from one town to another. They asked him to bless their weapons: “I refused outright; I told them: ‘I will bless you, if you’d like, that God may care for you and so that you don’t use them, but I will not bless them.’” They insisted, “Come on, father. In the movie ‘El Infierno’ they bless guns. Plus we’re not the ones who are extorting money; we’re just in it for the work!

They let him go, but later on stopped him again: “They told me ‘Get out (of your car), we want you to try our weapons.’” They weren’t AK-47’s, they were grenades launchers: “I told them, I am on my way out of the community; people are gathered in my church, if you shoot they’re going to get scared, it’s not worth it, guys. Then it occurred to me to tell them that it was the Day of the Virgin of Guadalupe and that I still had people to baptize. So they let me go.”

Those kinds of experiences don’t make Hector Fernando Martinez feel threatened or fearful: “the truth is I’ve never been threatened; I’ve told them that we’re not going to refuse them access to the church when one of them passes on, but we’re not going to hold a mass, because we don’t want to be part of the narcocorrido (ballad).” He said, “One time an important narco from here was killed and they brought him to the church; they made a narcocorrido about him and the town cried and they rang the bells; you become part of it. We don’t want to let that happen.”

The problem of insecurity in Creel can’t be attributed solely to the presence of armed groups. The more difficult problem is that the town finds itself in the middle of a fight: on one side is the La Línea cartel and on the other the Sinaloa cartel. Creel is, as it’s always been, the battlefield.

One of the few remedies the priest has devised to respond to the situation is sports, particularly soccer (the locals root for C.D. Guadalajara). However, Creel has nothing more than a hard court for fast soccer: “we’ve gone door to door, we’ve told the government that we urgently need places for the kids because they don’t have anything to do and, obviously, the hitmen come into Creel with their guns and the kids look up to them, and despite that, there’s no official program, no strategy to counter it.”

Outsiders can only note the obvious: the furtive glances in the passenger busses that make the four and a half hour trip from the capital of Chihuahua to Creel; the stories of the burrito street vendor in a small town who – without anyone asking – admits that he once sold pirated goods on the street until the organized crime syndicates started to charge high protection fees; the truck drivers with tinted glass who slow down and ride along next to those who seem like strangers or out-of-towners.

Against this background, the pastor of Creel has a conviction that he calmly expresses: we’re not going to let them intimidate us.” 

'Blind mules' unknowingly ferry drugs across the U.S.-Mexico border

CNN.com: "Juan Andres was one of at least five so-called "blind mules" identified in a 20-page federal complaint who were used by cartels to traffic drugs.

Others include a fourth-grade teacher and a sports medicine doctor. The blind mules had a few things in common: The bags were all secured the same way, each contained roughly the same amount of marijuana, and most of those caught drove a Ford."

Nobel Prize winner Jody Williams denounces impunity for femicides in Mexico

EFE/CNN Mexico: The Nobel Peace Prize winner, Jody Williams, denounced impunity regarding crimes against women in Mexico and the lack of political will to find solutions.

After meeting with a group of 50 activists who fight for collective rights of women, the American criticized the "nice words" from the government and demanded  "real" solutions to a problem that she said affects the entire population. "There is no time for excuses. Families who are suffering in this country want to see action and women who have been raped by the police and military want to see justice," she said.

According to her, joint action by civil society that demands responses from the government is necessary to reverse this situation. "No one person can change society; it has to be a whole community that goes into action," she said. Therefore, the unity that associations of victims have been showning in reporting cases of disappearances, rapes and murders across the country she considers to be a positive sign.

She also stated that one of the main obstacles to achieving justice and an end to impunity in Mexico is the high number of people involved in these crimes.

Accompanied by Lisa VeneKlasen, director of Just Associates, an international feminist organization, and Imelda Marrufo, of the Women's Network in Ciudad Juarez, Williams stated that, despite the oppression and dangers, there is hope. "This problem requires a constant struggle if we want to see a society in which we can live without fear," she said.

Her visit is part of an investigation being carried out by the Nobel Prize winner Rigoberta Menchú regarding murders of women in Mexico, Honduras and Guatemala. It began Saturday and ends on January 31. The activists are scheduled to go tomorrow to the state of Guerrero for a meeting with women and on Tuesday to meet with diplomats and women who hold high positions in Mexican political life and the judicial system.

The objectives of the visit is to make visible the role, contribution and actions that women have taken to eradicate violence and insecurity in the country and to urge the Mexican government to ensure the protection of human rights defenders.

During 2010, in Mexico about 3,100 women were killed, while in Honduras it amounted to about 1,500 between 2008 and 201, and in Guatemala over 5,000 women died in the last 10 years in a violent way.

Activist Williams won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1997 for her intense struggle for the prohibition and removal of landmines."
 
Twitter: @TimothyEWilson
Email: lapoliticaeslapolitica [at] gmail [dot] com

Also, if you have read this far, perhaps you would support our efforts? We do this for free. Supporting La politica es la politica is easy - simply click on the "donate" button on the upper right-hand side of the page. We are talking small generosities, not big bucks. As a heads up, Pay Pal will insist that you use it if you are already on account. For direct credit card payment, you will then have to use a number and email that Pay Pal doesn't recognize in order to escape their benevolent grasp.