Wednesday 18 December 2013

Liberals looking for digital professionals to crop out English

With the offending quote!
The Liberal Party of Canada is now cropping English out of photographs.

In an email blast, in English and in French, as part of its hunt for “five new digital professionals across our engagement, analytics and digital operations departments” the party has used the same photograph twice – but the English version included a quote from the Scots writer Andrew Lang, which was then cropped out of the French version.

Friday 13 December 2013

Bus from Bucerias to Tepic held up

A Pacifico bus
On Wednesday, December 11, the Pacifico bus from Bucerias (north of Puerto Vallarta) to Tepic was held up. There were no injuries or arrests.

The bus left Bucerias at 7:15 a.m. without incident. It made it safely past Las Varas, the last stop before Compostela. However, halfway between Las Varas and Compostela two men pulled out guns and proceeded to rob the passengers.

Thursday 12 December 2013

Shootout rattles tourist zone in Mazatlan, Mexico

Under control?
When authorities in Mazatlan, Mexico, heard last Saturday that armed men were holed up in an upscale house only a few meters off of Avenida Camarón Sábalo, near the Pacific resort town’s tourist zone, they sprang into action, with the city’s municipal cops attending the scene.

(For more recent news see Mazatlan's carnival marred by shooting in Plazuela Machado).

However, the occupants, who allegedly formed part of a car theft ring, weren’t about to leave peacefully. They opened fire on the local officers – it was about 2:30 in the afternoon – resulting in a  brief gunfight.

Wednesday 11 December 2013

Paul Martin calls new Trudeau supporters “brave”

A brave young Liberal jumpin for Justin?
In a recent fundraising email from the Liberal Party of Canada, former Liberal Prime Minister Paul Martin references “6,309 Liberals – including 1,619 brave first time contributors.”

Why is a first time contributor to the Liberal Party “brave”? Apparently, it requires courage to give money to support Justin Trudeau, though La politica would suggest the better term would be “reckless”.

Monday 9 December 2013

Trudeau dodges healthcare question in Dinner With Justin

Dorothy loves Justin
It is not often that a political party gets so drunk on its own Kool-Aid that it produces a promotional video of its candidate ducking questions. Yet, as a testament of sorts to how bizarre the Justin Trudeau phenomenon has become, that is exactly what the Liberal Party of Canada has just done.

In the most recent Dinner With Justin video the winner, Dorothy, is a retired registered nurse. She says she is “passionate about healthcare”.

Cue guitar...

Saturday 7 December 2013

The Liberal Party of Canada’s frightening Borg video

Not the Liberal logo
The Liberal Party of Canada has come out with a disturbing new English-language video titled “Our Priorities for 2014.”

Hosted by Katie Telford, the Liberal’s National Campaign Co-Chair, the eight minute video claims to provide an in-depth look at the priorities that are driving the Liberal Party’s strategy for 2014. 

Telford specifically says that the Liberals have been thinking about what is required to “build for success” and to “build for a better Canada.” She mentions the importance of a great team, as well as next year’s policy platform and convention but then defers, saying “that is what we usually talk about”. (In fact, policy is the last thing Justin Trudeau talks about, but that is perhaps because he better than anyone knows the Liberal Party’s real priorities as spelled out by Telford).

Sunday 1 December 2013

Canadian Bruce Vigfusson’s year in a Mexican jail

Bruce Vigfusson
Canada’s central role in the global mining boom has meant that more Canadians are working in countries where they are at high risk of getting dragged into some serious trouble. That seems to be the case with Canadian Bruce Vigfusson, 43, who has been in jail in northern Mexico since September, 2012.

(For a more recent update on Mr. Vigfusson's death, see: Canadian Bruce Vigfusson dies in custody in Mexico, and also
Embassy suspends visits to Canadian jailed in Mexico).

Vigfusson, who has worked as a surface driller for the Canadian firms G4 Drilling and Teck, as well as a local Mexican company, Itzcoaltl Drilling and Services, is now serving a four and a half year sentence in Mexico for assault.

“Bruce Vigfusson was already in Mexico when he started to work for us,” Robert Daigle, director of G4 Drilling Mexico, tells La politica. “He worked for us from April 27, 2011, until April 13, 2012.”

According to Mr. Daigle, after that Mr. Vigfusson went to work for Teck, where he didn’t last very long, and then to Itzcoaltl Drilling and Services.

Thursday 14 November 2013

Note to Trudeau and Freeland: China and India are not backing Canada’s middle class

Weiwei after the police assault:
The life of an artist in a "basic dictatorship" 
The Canadian Press recently reported that, as head of Reuters Digital in New York, Chrystia Freeland, who is running as the Liberal candidate in Toronto Centre, “moved the digital newsroom to New York and shipped the bulk of its work to the Bangalore operation”.

That in itself is hardly news. Many news organizations, including the Toronto Star, outsource some of their operations. However, most outsource call centres, classified, and design, while keeping editorial close to their chests. This, in fact, is what the Star does. It can then defend the action because it is able to allocate newsroom resources to its core business: journalism. And in fact the Star can argue it has been successful at this, breaking the Ornge scandal and bringing us the sordid truth about Toronto’s sordid mayor, Rob Ford.

Wednesday 13 November 2013

With Chantal Hébert turning on Trudeau, odds now in favour of having hit Peak Justin

Freeland and Justin: hand-picked and parachuted
The media are often misunderstood. If they are perceived as not being objective, they are criticized as “biased”. The truth is that the media function more like a pack of jackals or, worse, vultures. They descend when they observe weakness, and fawn when they believe they are in the presence of success, confidence, and power.

Which is to say that the media do not behave like individuals, but like craven pack animals. Though they can have ideological slants, which can hasten or delay their arrival at a “story”, once a belly is revealed they will turn and dine on the carcass.

Tuesday 12 November 2013

Media roundup: Justin, we have a problem

Not the leader of the Liberal Party of Canada
For many months now La politica has expressed dismay at the popular support for the phenomenon that is Justin Trudeau. No doubt, Trudeau’s relentless showering of platitudes, aggressive fundraising, low-key performance in the House of Commons,  and unwillingness to offer specifics on any issue outside of the Keystone XL pipeline and Quebec’s proposed “values” charter, have combined to form an effective strategy.

In one day, however, it all fell apart. He participated in an ill-advised “ladies night”, then said he admired China’s government above all others. In a heartbeat, Trudeau found himself in the midst of a withering attack by the media, that very group that for so long has given him an easy ride.

Monday 11 November 2013

Pardons, American style: Peña Nieto frees Alberto Patishtán

Free at last
A pardon is an acknowledgement of two injustices. The first is the injustice of the initial conviction and sentence, and the second the injustice that a regal, presidential, or bureaucratic body can override the rule of law.

In parliamentary democracies, as in Canada, pardons tend to be bureaucratic, and are handled via parole boards. A pardon in Great Britain is rare, and does not have the formal, ritualistic quality common to departing presidents in the United States. Presidential republics, perhaps as a kind of psychological need to mimic the powers of the dethroned monarch, tend to relapse into a medieval, regal authority, with the commander in chief tossing out pardons at the end of a presidency much like condemned kings en route to the guillotine.

Was the Acapulco hit on Moreno Gallo local, or did the Mafia come to town?

The restaurant in Acapulco
At 9:20 Sunday evening at Forza Italia restaurant in Acapulco, Mexico, Moreno Gallo, 68, an Italian mobster who lived for decades in Canada, was gunned down.

Gallo was deported from Canada in 2012 due to his criminal record. He is understood to have once had significant influence within the Montreal mafia.

Mexican oil union boss dead at 91: thanked cartel leader for saving life from government killers

A long life
Joaquín Hernández Galicia “La Quina” the, 91-year-old former Pemex Union leader, has died in a hospital in Tampico, Tamaulipas.

Only last month Hernández Galicia told the Mexican press that it was thanks to psychopathic killer Caro Quintero, erstwhile leader of the Guadalajara Cartel, that his life was saved in prison. Caro Quintero was recently released on a technicality and now has a $5 million US government bounty on his head, with Mexico’s Supreme Court reversing the lower court decision that resulted in his release.

Sunday 10 November 2013

With Aeroméxico, all passengers are treated with equal contempt

Watch out!
On November 6 an airline supervisor for Aeroméxico in the city of Oaxaca, Mexico, refused to let six young indigenous men on the plane. The supervisor, Francisco Cáceres, denied them the right to board allegedly because of their indigenous origin and traje, or dress, despite the fact that all six have valid tickets.

The young men, from the communities of Sola de Vega and San Jacinto in the state of Oaxaca in southern Mexico, took their complaint to the airline, saying that they were denied the right to fly on flight 544 from Oaxaca to México City, and flight 706 from México City to Hermosillo in Sonora.

Venezuela says Mexican jet was full of cocaine, not people

Foreign Minister Elias Jaua
The story of the private Mexican jet downed in Venezuela on November 4 has become more confused. Mexico has claimed that there were two pilots and five passengers, even releasing their names – though it is believed that the identities may have been false. However, Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro now says that there were no passengers, and that the plane was full of cocaine.

Saturday 9 November 2013

Mexico's $50 billion money laundering problem

Cash seized by Mexican authorities
According to Teodoro Briseño Maldonado, Director of Money Laundering Prevention and Terrorism Financing for the Mexican financial services firm TM Sourcing, data from Mexico’s  Unidad de Inteligencia Financiera (UIF), or “Financial Intelligence Unit” indicate that the country launders anywhere from $10 billion to $50 billion annually.

Given that the oft-quoted number is $10 billion, to have Mr. Briseño Maldonado, who also works for Mexico’s National Banking Services Commission (Comisión Nacional Bancaria y de Valores, or “CNBV”), come out with an estimate that tops out at $50 billion is alarming.

Friday 8 November 2013

Did the Venezuelan government murder seven innocent Mexicans?

The crew and passengers killed in the Mexican-registered Hawker jet shot down by the Venezuelan military this week have now been identified. And, given that there were five passengers and two pilots, it calls into question whether this really was a drug-smuggling plane, as Venezuela’s President Nicolás Maduro has suggested.

Jorge López Portillo, the Secretary General for the state of Querétaro, which is situated just north of Mexico City, has confirmed that the passengers consisted of three men and two women flying under false identities. There supposed names were: Isaac Pérez Dubond, Susana Bernal Rivas, Adriana Gesabel Cruz Méndez, Sergio David Franco Moga and Manuel Eduardo Rodríguez Benítez.

Thursday 7 November 2013

High priced gigolo Justin Trudeau charging $250 for the ladies to “really” get to know him

A talented lady person put this together (from Twitter)
Looks like some “ladies” might be showing up in tonight to give Justin Trudeau a piece of their mind as he hosts the $250-a-plate “Justin Unplugged” event at 639 Queen Street West in Toronto.

The event, which has been promoted with an evite telling the “ladies” that they are “INVITED TO (REALLY) GET TO KNOW THE FUTURE PRIME MINISTER” (seriously, we can’t make this shit up) includes the suggestion that they share the following critical questions facing our nation: “What’s your favourite virtue?” and “Who are your real life heroes?”

Venezuela’s military shoots down alleged Mexican drug plane

The wreakage
The Government of Venezuela has announced that it has shot down an aircraft with Mexican registration that it claims was being used to traffic drugs.

Venezuela’s President, Nicolás Maduro, said in a broadcast on radio and television that the plane had been shot down “recently” and that this was the 30th aircraft linked to drug trafficking that had been demolished in this manner. Most recently, two planes were shot down in late October.

Wednesday 6 November 2013

Mexico's Supreme Court overturns Caro Quintero release

Caro Quintero being released
Mexico's Supreme Court has voted to overturn an appeals court decision that allowed drug lord Rafael Caro Quintero to walk free in August.

Caro Quintero had served 28 years of a 40 year sentence for the murder in Guadalajara of U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) agent Enrique “Kiki” Camarena. He was also convicted in the 1985 murder in Guadalajara of John Clay Walker, an American journalist, and Alberto Radelat, a dentist from Fort Worth, Texas.

For widow of DEA agent Kiki Camarena, Quintero’s release is a bitter pill to swallow

A high profile case
On February 7, 1985, U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) agent Enrique Camarena was abducted and murdered in Mexico. Camarena, who went by the nickname “Kiki”, worked out of the DEA’s Guadalajara office. His alleged murderer, Guadalajara cartel leader Rafael Caro Quintero, spend 28 years in prison, but was released in August of this year when the courts decided he was improperly tried at the federal and not the state level. His whereabouts are now unknown.

This has left Camarena’s widow, Mika, and his former partner Steven Delgado calling for action on the part of authorities. The hope is that the U.S. will put pressure on Mexico to capture and extradite Quintero. The most recent news is an offer by the U.S. Department of State of a $5 million reward for the arrest or conviction of Quintero.

Tuesday 5 November 2013

Rob Ford and Justin Trudeau: separated at birth?

Canada’s political Gong Show is ramping up the ratings, with Toronto mayor Rob Ford admitting to crack cocaine use on the same day that the Senate voted to suspend Mike Duffy, Pamela Wallin, and Patrick Brazeau.

Meanwhile the lower-key comedy – consistent and rock-solid in its insistence on vacuous platitudes – known as Justin Trudeau continues to deliver numbing bromides on the “middle class”, all without delivering a single idea on how to assist this aggrieved constituency.

Military and federal police take control of Lazaro Cardenas port on Mexico’s Pacific coast

The Maersk Sarnia
Mexico’s navy, army, federal police, and federal attorney general’s office have together taken control of the Pacific port of Lazaro Cardenas in the embattled state of Michoacán, Mexico.

The port is the number one cargo destination on Mexico’s Pacific coast, and is a major transit point for the precursor chemicals used to make methamphetamines. The federal government has concluded that the level of corruption and collusion with organized crime has made efforts at internal reform pointless. Instead, the port captaincy and chief administrator roles will now be held by military officers. Another 156 officers will work at the port in an effort to weed out corruption.

Monday 17 June 2013

Justin Trudeau’s “hard work” hustle

Anyone following the “messaging” of Justin Trudeau as leader of the Liberal Party of Canada may be feeling a little worn down by now.  Every missive is a paean to the “middle class”, usually with some “hope” thrown in. But by far the most insufferable are Trudeau’s repeated and fatuous references to “hard work”.

For those of us unfortunate enough to be on the Liberal Party’s mailing list, we have:  June 17, “with hope and hard work, I know we can make change happen”; May 1st, “we need to hit our fundraising targets and show that hope and hard work trumps cynicism and tired attacks”; April 17, “the leadership race is now behind us. And before us, much work to be done.”

Thursday 23 May 2013

The schoolyard turns on the bully: Rob Ford’s demise imminent

Not a photo of Toronto mayor Rob Ford smoking crack cocaine
Strange days indeed. It’s been one week since Gawker and two Toronto Star reporters claimed to have seen a video with Toronto mayor Rob Ford allegedly smoking crack and calling Liberal leader Justin Trudeau a “fag”.

Nonetheless, Ford apparently still feels himself qualified to be mayor of Toronto, even though the Toronto Catholic District School Board has fired him as head coach of the Don Bosco Eagles senior football team. No reason was given. It may be the crack allegations, or it may be that Ford referred to the team’s neighbourhood as "crime ridden," and the youth as "gang bangers."

Wednesday 15 May 2013

Justin Trudeau crowdsources leadership

Really? Tuck in your shirt! Buy a belt!
Justin Trudeau has been fundraising on vague promises to the middle class, while echoing the Obama formula of hope and hard work. In the political sphere, hard work gets results when a leader’s role and vision is clearly defined, which in turn can make hope seem reasonable. Sadly, the problem faced by the Liberal Party is that Justin Trudeau is not interested in leadership, as can be exemplified by his recent “speak up and be heard” campaign, in which Canadians are supposed to submit a question on “middle-class concerns”.

The man is a millionaire; he’s paid $157,731 a year and, apparently, wants folks to sign up to do his job for him.

Justin Trudeau’s calculation appears to be that Canadians won’t care if he is a competent leader or not. In fact, his new-found support, when you scratch the surface, isn’t support at all. Instead, his legion of followers fall into one or a combination of two camps: the “he will have good advisers" camp and the “he’s better than Harper" camp. Which is to say, these alleged supporters would presumably vote for any well-meaning person with enough cash to hire a crew of politically savvy anti-Harperites. This time around, it just happens to be an oleaginous dude named Justin Trudeau.

Tuesday 14 May 2013

Note to Loblaw and Joe Fresh: if you can find the Canadian consumer, you can find the Bangladeshi worker

Reshma: Galen Sr. can afford 17.1 million years of her labour
Modern capitalism is very effective. It can locate customers with pinpoint accuracy. It knows, for example, how to find a small-town girl to encourage her to buy a T-shirt. In Canada, a clothing division of the supermarket chain Loblaw, called Joe Fresh, will extend significant time and resources on marketing and advertising, including social media campaigns, to find that girl. In fact, adult Canadians go to work every day, either within Joe Fresh or the advertising agencies that Joe Fresh employs, doing one thing and one thing only: busting their butts to target and reach that kid. Millions of dollars are spent on the effort.

Friday 26 April 2013

Stephen Harper has always been a robot, and Justin Trudeau was never a math teacher

Justin: Math is way more dramatic
The pissing match between the Conservative Part of Canada, led by a cyborg name Stephen Harper, and the Liberal Party of Canada, led by a ponce named Justin Trudeau, has revealed, if you’ll allow the oxymoron, the profound shallowness of both leaders.

The Conservative Party came out the gate after Trudeau’s coronation as Liberal leader with an attack ad showing the dauphin bowing and prancing as he removes his shirt. Poor form, given that Trudeau was doing the striptease as part of a charity fundraiser for the Canadian Liver Foundation.

Venezuela’s Argo moment

Tracy doesn't fit the profile (Photo: family handout)
Yesterday Venezuelan authorities arrested Timothy Hallett Tracy, a US citizen and aspiring documentary film-maker, accusing him of being part of a master plot to foment a right-wing revolt.

Tracy, 35, had been active in the film business in California, having worked as a consultant and producer. He has been in Venezuela since last year, and had been detained twice by Venezuela’s intelligence police before his arrest at the international airport in Venezuela’s capital, Caracas.

Tensions are high in Venezuela. President Nicolás Maduro, who succeeded the late Hugo Chávez, narrowly defeated the opposition candidate Henrique Capriles Radonski in an election held April 14. Capriles has said he was robbed of victory, and is challenging the vote. During post-election rioting at least seven people were killed and many more injured.

Monday 22 April 2013

Meteorite falls near Toluca, followed by a minor earthquake in Mexico City

Over Toluca
At 8:05 pm local time on April 21 residents of Toluca, México – a city about 45 minutes west of Mexico City – saw a “luminous body” falling in the sky.

Eleven minutes later, an earthquake registering 5.8 on the Richter scale hit Mexico City.

The coincident events created a flurry of activity on social media, with #MeteoritoToluca trending on Twitter.

Sunday 21 April 2013

SNC-Lavalin could now be on the hook for “moral damages” to Cynthia Vanier

SNC-Lavalin's image refresh. Yikes!
As soon as Cynthia Vanier was arrested on November 10th, 2011, in Mexico City, she was at a disadvantage. Accused of being the mastermind of a complex plot to smuggle Saadi Gaddafi, the third son of Libyan dictator Muammar Gaddafi, from war-torn North Africa to Mexico, she was expected to defend herself from behind bars.

She was supposed to do this in a foreign country, in a language she did not understand, and in a highly politicized and possibly corrupt environment.

From the beginning, Vanier quarterbacked her game-plan with the help of her husband Pierre – always at her side, and an effective advocate. From Mexico the Vaniers made a strategic decision: focus on the legal route and play defense with the media. The rules were strict and, at times, arbitrary.

There were to be no interviews from jail, unless Vanier needed to call the CBC’s As It Happens. A media strategy, including press releases, was rumoured, but never occurred. Journalists were offered candy or starved.

Saturday 20 April 2013

Cynthia Vanier arrives in Toronto

Vanier arrived on the evening of Saturday, April 20, at
Toronto's Pearson International Airport
Cynthia Vanier, the Canadian mediator held in Mexico for 18 months as the accused “ringleader” of a plot to bring Saadi Gaddafi, former Libyan dictator Muammar Gaddafi’s playboy third son, from war-torn North Africa to Mexico, has arrived safely in Toronto, Canada.

Vanier had been released before dawn on Friday, April 19, and sent to an immigration holding facility to work out the details of her formal deportation.

Her co-accused, Gabriela (Gabby) de Cueto, was released at the same time and is now in the United States. A third accused, Danish national Pierre Flensborg, is expected to be deported from Mexico to Copenhagen on Sunday. A fourth accused, the Mexican  Jose Luis Kennedy Prieto, remains in prison.

Cynthia Vanier: linking up the emails in the Mexican evidence and the RCMP search warrant of SNC-Lavalin’s offices

The emails put Vanier at the centre of the alleged conspiracy
On Friday, January 11 of this year an RCMP search warrant was unsealed. The warrant had been used to gain access to the offices of the Canadian engineering giant SNC-Lavalin back in April, 2012. The big news upon its release was the $160 million in kickbacks that SNC-Lavalin was alleged to have paid Saadi Gaddafi, the third son of the late Libyan dictator Muammar Gaddafi.

But also in the partly redacted affidavit were alleged emails between SNC-Lavalin executive Stephane Roy and Cynthia Vanier, the Canadian mediator who spent 18 months in prison in Mexico facing charges that she conspired to smuggle the younger Gaddafi to Mexico.

Friday 19 April 2013

Gabriela de Cueto on US soil as Cynthia Vanier awaits deportation

Gabby de Cueto
At approximately 4:30 p.m. Pacific time on Friday, April 19, Gabriela (Gabby) de Cueto, the Mexican-American woman detained for 18 months in Mexico for having allegedly plotted to smuggle Saadi Gaddafi to Mexico, entered US airspace.

By 10:30 p.m. La politica had heard that Ms. de Cueto, who does not have US citizenship but who calls San Diego home, had arrived at a secure location State-side.

La politica had been hearing for over a week that Ms. de Cueto and her co-accused, the Canadian Cynthia Vanier, were to be released from their prison cells in Chetumal, Mexico. That happened just before dawn on Friday, April 19.

However, the narratives surrounding the circumstances of the releases were divergent.

Cynthia Vanier release echoes Cassez case

Vanier in hospital in Chetumal, October 14, 2012 (La politica)
Cynthia Vanier’s release from her prison cell in Chetumal, Mexico, has come about as a result of a protracted legal battle in which she had challenged the basis for her arrest.

An initial finding had not been in her favour, but this most recent decision, which does not reflect on her guilt or innocence with regard to an alleged plot to smuggle Saadi Gaddafi to Mexico in 2011, concluded that there were enough procedural snafus to make her detention illegal.

These circumstances, though wildly differing in detail to the Florence Cassez case, nonetheless echoed the circumstances surrounding the release of the French national, who had been convicted of kidnapping, but was later released when it was determined that the process of evidence collection was so profoundly corrupted it was impossible for her to receive a fair trial.

Vanier, who was arrested early in November 2011 along with three others, had argued that lack of consular and legal access and the flimsiness of the evidence – much of it from anonymous sources that could not be verified, or from questionable sources that could not be cross-examined – made the case against her untenable.

Now, a Supreme Court Tribunal has agreed, and Vanier, along with her co-accused Gabriela de Cueto, has been released. A third man, Pierre Flensborg, is also expected to be released. The fate of the fourth, a Mexican national, is unknown.

La politica has been following this case closely and had deliberately held back on some reporting as the release date neared. This story is still breaking: we will soon be in a position to report extensively on the circumstances behind the release.

(TE Wilson is the author of Mezcalero, a Detective Sánchez novel.)

For related stories see also:

April 20, 2013: Gabriela de Cueto on US soil as Cynthia Vanier awaits deportation

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

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Thursday 18 April 2013

U.S. researcher dies on Colima volcano in western Mexico

The volcano has been more active of late
An American volcanologist has died on the slopes of volcano Fuego de Colima, in western Mexico, where he had been conducting investigations into the explosive activity of the crater.

The body of Kelby Hicks, aged 30, was found Wednesday morning at a temporary monitoring station set up on the volcano by the University of Colima.  The cause of death appears to have been the rupture of a coronary artery.

Wednesday 17 April 2013

Have Veracruz officials "gone rogue" in pursuit of Proceso journalist?

Martínez Pérez: beaten and strangled 
 in Xalapa, Veracruz on April 28, 2012
The Mexican weekly news magazine Proceso, known for being one of the last bastions of hard-hitting investigative reporting in this violence-plagued country, is reporting that one of its journalists, Jorge Carrasco Araizaga, has become the subject of a government-sponsored campaign in the State of Veracruz to threaten his personal security.

Carrasco Araizaga, who has reported extensively on the death of fellow Proceso correspondent Regina Martínez Pérez, who was also active in Veracruz, is allegedly the subject of an intimidation campaign among former and present state officials, including those within the Attorney General’s office.

According to Proceso, the plan was hatched in the Las Ánimas neighbourhood in the state capital of  Xalapa, and included an effort to use state and national databases to determine Carrasco Araizaga’s whereabouts. This was allegedly an ambitious plan that involved dispatching government agents from Veracruz to Mexico City and the states of México, Morelos and Querétaro, in order to gather information on the journalist.

Mural newspaper attacked in Guadalajara, Mexico

Not much damage (Source: Mural)
Two grenades were thrown at the offices of Mural newspaper in Guadalajara, Mexico, in the early hours of Wednesday, April 17, causing some property damage but no injuries or loss of life. As of this posting the perpetrators have not been found.

The attack occurred around 3:30 am local time at the newspaper’s offices in the municipality of Zapopan, which is part of the greater Guadalajara area in the state of Jalisco. The two explosions appear to have occurred only seconds apart.

Mural, which is part of the Reforma Group, stated that this is the first attack against it in 14 years. The damage from the attack was not observed until guards inspected the exterior of the property at 6 am.

One bomb exploded on Mariano Otero avenue, next to the front door of the newspaper, and another on Lopez Mateos near the newspaper’s parking lot. These were not powerful devices – the first created a one inch deep hole in a wall.

Intimidation is a possible purpose of the attack, although with no one claiming responsibility and it is uncertain what the specific intention was.

México is one of the world's most dangerous countries for journalists, with about eighty journalists killed since 2000.

(TE Wilson is the author of Mezcalero, a Detective Sánchez novel.)

For related stories see:

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

N.B.: If you are having difficulty submitting to the e-mail feed at the top of this page, press "enter" on your keyboard instead of the "submit" button.

Monday 8 April 2013

Spike in threats reported after Tahoe Resources receives mining licence for Escobal project in Guatemala

Location of Escobal mine (source:
Vancouver-headquartered Tahoe Resources has received the final mining license for its Escobal silver deposit in southeast Guatemala. The company has indicated that it is fully funded to complete preparation and move toward commercial production in 2014.

The stock jumped 10% on the news, pushing the company’s market capitalization to $2.7 billion. However, Ellen Moore of the Network in Solidarity with the People of Guatemala also stated that “since the licence was issued on Wednesday (April 3) there has been a spike in threats against vocal mine opponents.”

Friday 29 March 2013

Joaquín "El Chapo” Guzmán's Sinaloa Cartel brings in $3 billion a year

El Chapo - all business
According to a report to be released next week, Joaquín "El Chapo” Guzmán controls 80% of the methamphetamine market in the United States and is the main trafficker of opium from Asia to Mexico and the United States.

Guzmán, the de facto head of the Sinaloa Cartal, Mexico’s largest, is estimated to earn about US$3 billion annually, comparable to Netflix or Facebook.

Thursday 28 March 2013

Army to accompany aid workers into 49 Mexican communities

"To live better" says SEDESOL
In January 21 of this year the Mexican government announced its National Crusade Against Hunger (Cruzada Nacional contra el Hambre), which is specifically targeted at the 7.4 million of Mexico’s 11.7 million people who are living in extreme poverty.

The Crusade will be staffed by the Secretariat of Social Development (SEDESOL) and will address the needs of 400 communities. However, in 49 of those communities the security situation is so bad that government aid workers will have to be accompanied by the army.

The program is set to start April 1 and in its first stage will address the needs of 4.5 million people. It has an overall budget of 294 billion pesos (US$23.8 billion) and will include 70 programs. As a result of the high risk of violence in some areas, it will also involve a security strategy integrated with the Department of Defense.

Wednesday 27 March 2013

The cardboard-on-grass tobogganers of Montevideo, Uruguay

Some have heard of Jamaican bobsledders, and of Canadians who play golf in the snow.

Now there are the cardboard-on-grass tobogganers of Montevideo, Uruguay.

During a recent visit we went for a walk along the Uruguayan capital’s lovely coastline, which is scalloped with sandy beaches. It’s not the best swimming, but people were out sunbathing, walking their dogs, jogging, cycling, rollerblading, and...toboganning.

Friday 22 March 2013

Argentina skirts full blown currency crisis

"I have the strength you give me"
The Argentine peso was hit hard this past week on the black market: the official rate hovers slightly above 5 to the US dollar, but on Wednesday the “parallel” market saw it move up 48 centavos (cents) to trade at $8.75. That’s 75% over the official rate.

The peso made a comeback later in the week to drop into the $8.45 range. Black market dealers in the “caves” on the pedestrian malls on Florida Street and near Plaza de Mayo reported that the streets were suddenly flooded with dollars, a possible attempt by the government to cause some pain to speculators.

By comparison, on Wednesday Buenos Aires was crawling with hawkers yelling “Cambio! Cambio!” – it seemed everyone, young and old, male and female, wanted to get in on the game. Local press also reported arrests at the Bolivian border of people trying to move large sums of $US into the country. The black market for the “blue” – an Argentine colloquialism for the US dollar – is being further driven by increasing government restrictions on dollar purchases.

CEO Kevin McArthur says suggestions of possible Tahoe Resources complicity in murder of Guatemalan indigenous leader “a complete fabrication”

Approximate location of proposed mine site
In response to a query from La politica, Ira M. Gostin, Vice President Investor Relations for the Canadian silver mining company Tahoe Resources Inc., as well as CEO Kevin McArthur, have rejected any suggestion that the company or its subsidiary, Minera San Rafael (MSR), were involved in the murder earlier this week of the indigenous activist Exaltación Marcos Ucelo.

“Tahoe Resources along with its Guatemala operating company Minera San Rafael (MSR) emphatically reject and condemn criminal activities in our surrounding communities and in Guatemala at-large,” Mr. Gostin told La politica in an email.

Wednesday 20 March 2013

Tensions rise after murder of Guatemalan indigenous activist opposed to Canada’s Tahoe Resources silver project

The vote (Photo: C.P.R.Urbana)
An indigenous Guatemalan activist opposed to Canadian mining company Tahoe Resources’ plan for a silver mine was found dead on the morning of Monday, March 18.

Four indigenous Xinca leaders, including the President of the Xinca Indigenous Parliament, were abducted by a group of heavily armed men shortly after 8 pm on the night of Sunday, March 17. Two of the kidnapped men escaped, and Roberto González Ucelo, President of the Xinca Parliament, was freed a day later.

However, the lifeless body of the fourth man, Exaltación Marcos Ucelo, who acted as Secretary of the Xinca Parliament, was discovered the morning after the kidnapping in a ravine in Mataquescuintla. According to Guatemala’s deputy minister of state, Edy Juárez, the community activist had been severely beaten before being killed.

Tuesday 19 March 2013

Buenos Aires and the plague of the Adidas track suit

The classic look
Upon arriving in Buenos Aires the first thing we noticed was that the people were friendly, and that they spoke Spanish like Italians.

We noticed too what a lovely city it is architecturally, and its vibrant feel. But something was off. The people looked as if they had “let themselves go”, and in a manner that had nothing to do with poverty.

Then, one day while walking down Independencia, we witnessed an extraordinary sight. A well-dressed middle-aged woman was casually tearing a strip off a man in his thirties. He had his nose stuck in his device. In his left hand, a cigarette smouldered.

But this wasn’t what offended her.

Argentina’s President Kirchner asks Pope Francis to mediate Falkland Islands dispute

Honour guard at the war memorial in Buenos Aires
President Cristina Kirchner of Argentina has asked Pope Francis, an Argentinian, to help solve the Falkland Islands dispute between Argentina and the United Kingdom (UK).

Kirchner specifically asked for “his brokerage” of the dispute. The islands in the South Atlantic, which the Argentine government refers to as Las Malvinas, were subject to a brief war in April 1982, which Argentina lost. Most residents of the islands speak English and wish for the Falklands to remain a British Overseas Territory.

Of seven killed in Cancún bar attack, six were innocent victims after “everything went out of control”

Behind the scenes...not so pretty
The depressing regularity of drug violence in Mexico took another brutal turn on Thursday, March 14, when seven people were shot to death in a bar outside the hotel zone in Cancún.

Now, according one of two men arrested in connection with the murders, it turns out that the attack was only intended to target one man.

The attorney general of the state of Quintana Roo on the Yucatán peninsula, Armando García Torres, has told the Mexican press that one of the arrested men, Héctor Cacique Fernández (aka “el Diablo”),  confessed to only wanting to kill one individual, Asís Achach Castro (aka “Barbi”).

Monday 18 March 2013

Pope Francis buys Argentina’s Kirchner some time

The churches in Buenos Aires got the posters up pretty quick
Buenos Aires. When President Hugo Chávez of Venezuela died on March 5 his political ally president Cristina Fernández de Kirchner of Argentina arrived within 24 hours to show her respects.

However, she then returned to Buenos Aires the next day, on March 7, and didn't attend Chávez’s funeral. This caused some pundits  in her home country to opine that she was either trying to distance herself from the legacy of the deceased socialist leader, or that she feared being upstaged by Iran’s Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, another friend of Chávez.

Either way, back at home problems were mounting: inflation was on the rise, and the country’s two main right-of-center newspapers, La Nacion and Clarín, were maintaining their critical stance against the Peronist president.

Sunday 17 March 2013

The wild dogs of Mexico

Not guilty
On March 6 Notimex reported that an inebriated 61-year-old Mexican man was attacked and killed by wild dogs in Tlalnepantla, north of Mexico City. This followed an attack in early January in an ecological reserve within the Federal District (Mexico City), in which four people were killed. And after that news broke, it was reported that a 15-year-old girl had been found dead and partly eaten last December in the same area. She is now believed to have been the first victim.

All six victims were partly eaten by the dogs, suggesting that this is not rabies, or fear-based: it is hunting for food.

In an interview with Mexico’s La Prensa, Julio Cancino, who is finishing his studies in veterinary and zoological sciences at the National Autonomous University in Mexico City (UNAM), said that stray dogs usually live in streets and subsist off of garbage. In that environment, it makes sense to fear people.