Oct 30, 2014

Enough! Mexico Is Ready to Explode

Huffington Post: Mexico has been profoundly shaken by atrocities and high-level corruption in Guerrero. The earthquake's epicenter is Iguala, the state's third largest city.

Fifty thousand marchers thronged Mexico City's main avenues last Wednesday, and demonstrations took place all over the country. More than 80 delegates to the Inter-University Assembly have called for a nationwide halt to all educational activities on Nov. 5, and are asking other social groups to join them. Protesters set fire to state headquarters in Chilpancingo, Guerrero's capital, and are sacking supermarkets and shopping centers. Read more. 

Behind Mexico’s latest massacre: Authorities were warned but didn’t listen

The Hill: The U.S. government-funded Merida Initiative was supposed to bolster Mexican government efforts to promote the rule of law and human rights. The accountability failures exposed by the Iguala atrocity suggest that it’s time to take a closer look, to ensure that U.S. taxpayer money is part of the solution rather than part of the problem.

Yet so far, Mexico’s government has long treated Guerrero’s civil society as a threat rather than as a partner – jailing its leaders – like Nestora Salgado, a migrant who became a naturalized U.S. citizen in the state of Washington. She returned to her hometown of Olinala to lead the community police, taking on rapists and murderers. Her “crime” was to challenge her local government’s collaboration with organized crime, naming names. She remains in federal prison even though a court dismissed the charges – and her daughter has recently received death threats. Read more.

Oct 29, 2014

Despite 'Disgust' with Obama, U.S. Hispanics Need to Vote (La Jornada, Mexico)

La Jornada: In a couple of days elections will be held in the United States, but unlike the presidential race, these don’t generate the same level of excitement. A presidential aide carried out a survey which found that millions of voters are unaware even that there are elections, and of course what day they are being held. He also noted that African American and Hispanic voters are the principle groups absent from the polls during these types of elections.  Read more. 


Oct 18, 2014

Report from Guerrero: The real criminals

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Thousands March for Safe Return of Disappeared Youth

Saturday, Oct. 18. Acapulco:  Shops are closed, with metal shutters pulled tight over the storefronts.  Government employees have be18. en given the day off and warned to stay inside. Schools are out for the day, to the delight of the children. The new car agency has even removed the models from the show floor.

Acapulco, the Pearl of the Pacific, looks like it's in hurricane mode. But there was no hurricane Friday. The government ordered the city lockdown to scare people off the march. Despite the campaign to create fear among the local population, close to ten thousand people marched to demand the safe return of 43 education students, forcibly disappeared by local police on Sept. 26 in the nearby city of Iguala .

Acapulco is the most violent city in the nation, and murder and extortion are everyday events. One resident who defied official warnings and joined the march told me,  "You've seen those movies about the gangster days and Al Capone, with shoot-outs in the street and pay-offs to the cops? That's us. I used to think that only happened in movies."

But in a city where violence has become commonplace, for the city government the presence of citizens demonstrating for justice was the main threat to be reckoned with. 

"Due to the protest, municipal authorities decided to suspend work and close offices, to avoid exposing personnel," read the local Novedades Acapulco newspaper Friday. Municipal spokesperson Ricardo Castillo made the rounds of radio and television stations warning residents to remain inside their homes because of the possibility of violence.

"This is a peaceful march. Walk in your contingent, everyone behind the front banner. Men line up on the outside, women inside." March organizers gave specific instructions to the thousands of teachers, students, local residents and regional grassroots organizations, including indigenous community police. The protesters followed them to the letter and despite high emotions at the assassinations and disappearance of the students, the march proceeded without incident. Even the graffiti was reserved for OXXO stores and politicians' propaganda.

Two demands dominated the march: safe return of the missing students, and the resignation of the state governor, Angel Aguirre. Aguirre is blamed for the impunity that characterizes the state, a "cemetery of organized crime", where the surrounding hills hide hundreds of bodies and body parts in mass graves. Members of the criminal gang, Guerreros Unidos, implicated in the disappearances originally led investigators to the supposed grave of the students, but the Attorney General announced this week that the semi-burned bodies are not those of the students. The fact that everyone has forgotten to even ask whose bodies were in the graves gives an idea of how "normal" mass graves and unidentified bodies have become in this part of the country.

The false warnings of violent protest are just the latest in years, if not decades, of government efforts to criminalize the students of the rural teaching college, Ayotzinapa. Casting a permanent image of dangerous youth threatening law-abiding citizens is part of a strategy to isolate the students. 

Now they are the victims of police who opened fire and murdered six people, abducting and disappearing 43 with the participation of Guerreros Unidos, an organized crime gang, But still, the press and government officials continue to paint the young people as the problem. Within local society, residents have grown soused to media and poltiicians'  harangues against the students for commandeering buses and blocking roads, that many will tell you privately that they belive the dead and missing got what they deserved.

But thousands more don't agree. The movement to support the students and hold all levels of government accountable for the crime is growing. As the federal government insists that organized crime is behind the disappearance with just a few corrupt politicians, at the march not one of the chants or slogans or demands was directed at organized crime. All laid responsibility at the feet of the government, primarily the state government.

First, because citizens can't make demands of organized crime. Criminals are criminals. It is the responsibility of the state to protect its citizens, which in Guerrero is clearly not happening.  Second, because the protesters view the drug cartels and the state as partners. 

"Sicarios, policia--la misma porquería" read one sign. (Hit men, police--the same trash"). The mayor of Iguala implicated in the attack on the students of Ayotzinapa and currently on the run, allegedly has tied through his wife and friends to the local crime gang. He is accused of knocking off people who cross him, notably grassroots leader, Arturo Hernandez Cardona, two years ago who he is said to have murdered in person.

This also is not the first time that the governments' hostility toward Ayotzinapa has led to violence.  In 2011 police assassinated two students at a roadblock in a crime for which no one was held accountable.

The media and political push to blame the victims is particularly surreal when compared to the attitude of the state towards the real criminals. The state Congress decided yesterday--three weeks after the crime--to withdraw immunity for the mayor, José Luis Abarca. It's not even clear if the federal government has issued an arrest order for him despite his obvious involvement in the crime from the outset.

Now Abarca is long gone,  on the lam and with a 21-day lead on police who apparently have little interest in capturing him. One can't help but doubt that justice will prevail.






Oct 14, 2014

US Signals Shift in International Drug Policy

Insight Crime: In a press conference that received little media attention, US drug czar William Brownfield laid the groundwork for a new US approach to international drug policy, pointing to the changing political landscape on drug regulation in the Americas.

In a meeting with reporters at the United Nations in New York on October 9, Brownfield set out the United States' position on international drug policy, including to "accept flexible interpretation" of the UN Drug Control conventions, which were first drafted in the 1960s. He stated that:

Things have changed since 1961. We must have enough flexibility to allow us to incorporate those changes into our policies ... to tolerate different national drug policies, to accept the fact that some countries will have very strict drug approaches; other countries will legalize entire categories of drugs.  Read more.

Oct 13, 2014

As Mexico cracks down, drug money comes to U.S.

Denver Post: For a company that booked $12 million in annual sales importing snacks such as chile- and lime-flavored chips from Mexico, Baja Distributors Inc.'s offices were oddly quiet.

There were no signs outside. Its small warehouse was almost empty. Phones went unanswered.

Investigators say there was a reason for the anonymity: The business was laundering money from Mexican drug traffickers. Baja Distributors, whose executives denied laundering drug money, brought more than $17 million from Mexico in 18 months.  Read more. 

Oct 10, 2014

Mexico captures Juarez Cartel boss -government source

Reuters: Mexico captured the leader of the once-feared Juarez Cartel in the country's restive north on Thursday, the second drug kingpin to fall in just over a week, a government source said.

Vicente Carrillo, 51, long-time head of the Juarez Cartel, was a fierce rival of Joaquin "Shorty" Guzman, the leader of the Sinaloa Cartel and the world's most wanted drug boss until his capture in February. Read more.