Apr 15, 2014

"Drug Violence in Mexico: Data and Analysis Through 2013" Now Available

Justice in Mexico Project 
April 15, 2014

The Justice in Mexico Project (JMP) based at the Department of Political Science and International Relations at the University of San Diego is pleased to announce the publication of “Drug Violence in Mexico: Data and Analysis Through 2013.” Thanks to the generous funding of the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, this is the project’s fifth annual report providing a detailed analysis of the problem of crime and violence in Mexico, which has been a major preoccupation for both policymakers and ordinary people in Mexico, as well as a shared concern for the U.S. government and its citizens. Justice in Mexico’s annual reports have compiled the latest available data and analysis to evaluate problems of crime and violence related to drug trafficking and organized crime in Mexico. These reports are especially intended to inform a U.S. and English language audience, since international news media coverage of Mexico tends to be fleeting and gravitates toward sporadic, sensationalistic incidents rather than the analysis of broader issues and longer-term trends.  Read more. 

Apr 14, 2014

Mexican Telecommunication Law Expands Government Surveillance and Censorship Powers: Digital Rights Activist

FSRN Radio News
April 11, 2014

New telecommunications regulations in Mexico have met opposition online and in the streets. The reform was originally presented as a way to break up telecom monopolies, but critics say it is being used to push through laws which would make lawful the mass surveillance of online activites and make government censorship easy and arbitrary. Activists in Mexico City protested the law Thursday by marching from the headquarters of Televisa – the country’s largest broadcaster – to the Senate. At the march, FSRN’s Andalusia Knoll spoke with Mexican digital rights activist Luis Fernando Garcia. Read more. 

Apr 7, 2014

Laura's Blog: The Iceberg in the Desert

Mexican new reports state that 162 migrants were rescued from clandestine camps by the Mexican Army on April 3 and freed. During rounds, soldiers of the 45th Batallion discovered four camps in Saric, Sonora, near the U.S. border, located on the edge of the Sasabe desert, a common crossing zone that has recently become an area teeming with organized crime groups seeking to use crossers to carry contraband.

The Secretary of Defense release gave very few details, stating,
Among the persons liberated were 97 mexicanos, 60 Guatemalans, three Hondurans and 2 Salvadorans, who appeared in good health and were placed in the hands of the corresponding authorities.
The brief note leaves a lot of questions unanswered. It does not tell us who was holding the migrants (if they were kdnapped, they had to have guards), nor why, according to the information provided, not one single culprit was arrested. 

It does not tell us if drugs, arms, cash or other possible contraband was found at the scene of the alleged crime. We don't know how many are men, how many are women, what their ages are or where they were heading. We also don't know what states they are from or if they are indigenous.

The authorities have this information but the fact that it has been reserved from publication creates deep doubts regarding any subsequent investigation or judicial process.

Once again, nameless victims make ephemeral headlines under strange conditions. Then they disappear into anonymity, taking the dark secrets of what really happened with them.

For public consumption, there is only this (again, from SEDENA):
With these actions, the Mexican Army and the Air Force are working alongside the efforts of the Government of the Republic to attain a Mexico in peace, affirming its commitment to guarantee the security and tranquility of the citizenry.
The release of captive migrants is cause for celebration. And 162 is a huge number. But I, for one, don't feel tranquil.

If this represents the tip of the iceberg--and that seems to be the case given the number of similar cases in the area within the last year--then we're looking at a tremendous iceberg in the desert. Local newspapers have been reporting an increase in the use of border-crossers as "mules" to carry small quantities of prohibited drugs over the border. Scores of stories report the abduction, confrontations and murder of migrants in run-ins with alleged criminal groups. In most of the reports, the story is unclear and the migrants' themselves seldom speak publicly about what occurred.

The area is famous for flows of drugs, cash, arms and human trafficking. Inexplicably, this all happens under the nose of the 45th Battalion, police and other security agents and in spite of, or sometimes with the help of, U.S. and Mexican government agents. 

The Globalized Grapes of Wrath
In addition to forced recruitment for the drug smuggling that is the lifeblood of cartels, human trafficking for agrobusiness is growing.

Sin Embargo, a Mexican information service, notes of this recent case and others:
The victims of kidnapping are not just migrants from other countries, but also Mexicans from other states, like the case of 54 day laborers from the state of Puebla who were kidnapped in Caborca by a criminal group. The day laborers escaped to denounce that their captors had offered them a well-paid job in Sonora.
Some 57,000 farm laborers arrive in Sonora every year from the states of Puebla, Chiapas, Guerrero and others to work in the grape harvest, where 59 companies install work camps for the harvest. Companies even receive government support and subsidies to bring migrant workers in. The state of Veracruz, for example, announced this year that it will provide $42,000 pesos "to support the day laborers" being sent from the state to Sonora. 

This is not a subsidy to low-wage farmworkers--it's a subsidy to private-sector agribusiness. The government of Tlaxcala also has a program to send migrant laborers to the grape harvest. Sin Embargo and others have documented child labor and the death of several children-workers in the Sonora farmworker camps.

Dossier Político, out of Hermosillo, Sonora notes that in May of 2010 in a similar incident 66 farmworkers were rescued. The workers reported being recruited and held as virtual slaves, working 13-hour days in the vineyards without pay and prohibited from communicating with their families.

The grape industry has sprung up in Sonora since the eighties and especially since NAFTA. Tucson Business reported in 2012 that the Mexican state produces 16.3 million, 19-pound boxes that pass through at the U.S. Port of Entry at Nogales beginning in May for about nine weeks.
Sonora accounts for 90 percent of Mexico’s table grape production. The state exports almost all of its production, dispatching several dozen brands to more  than 30 countries. Some10,000 acres are under cultivation...
the recent abductions could indicate a trend toward the alliance of agrobusiness with organized crime to provide virtual slave labor in the harvest. The possibility merits at least full investigation.

The news reports on the rescue of migrants indicates that at least some were kidnapped as forced labor for the harvest.

The government of Veracruz states that the average wage for the farmworkers is $153 dollars a week, with some workers earning more. However, reports from the region say it's more like ten dollars a day, and half that for children.

So what kind of a society makes it an attractive business plan to kidnap workers as slaves rather than to pay ridiculously low wages?

A society where life is cheap. And where the criminals know they can get away with murder.

Why Murders Of Women In This Mexican State Have Gone Up 800 Percent In The Past Few Years

The Huffington Post 
By Alissa Scheller
April 7, 2014

A growing number of women are victims of drug-related violence in Mexico. Sexual and gender-based violence against women in the country has a long history marked by lack legal intervention, and more recently, fueled by drug cartels and organized crime. Read more. 

U.S., Mexico Agree to Tell Migrant Mexican Workers in U.S. About Their Rights

Latin American Herald Tribune 
April 7, 2014

Mexican Secretary of Labor and Social Welfare Jesús Alfonso Navarrete Prida and U.S. Secretary of Labor Thomas E. Perez signed a joint ministerial declaration that will result in action to inform Mexican workers in the United States about their labor rights under U.S. laws.

The action falls under the provisions of the North American Agreement on Labor Cooperation, a side agreement to the North American Free Trade Agreement, the U.S. Department of Labor said in an April 3 press release.

The Mexican Secretariat of Labor and Social Welfare had requested ministerial consultations with the Department of Labor on issues raised in three public submissions filed with the Mexican secretariat under the Agreement on Labor Cooperation. The submissions concerned the rights of Mexican migrants working in the United States on H-2A and H-2B visas in sectors such as agriculture, forestry, food packing, fairs and carnivals.  Read more. 

More Deportations Follow Minor Crimes, Records Show

NY Times
By Ginger Thompson and Sarah Cohen
April 6, 2014

With the Obama administration deporting illegal immigrants at a record pace, the president has said the government is going after “criminals, gang bangers, people who are hurting the community, not after students, not after folks who are here just because they’re trying to figure out how to feed their families.”

But a New York Times analysis of internal government records shows that since President Obama took office, two-thirds of the nearly two million deportation cases involve people who had committed minor infractions, including traffic violations, or had no criminal record at all. Twenty percent — or about 394,000 — of the cases involved people convicted of serious crimes, including drug-related offenses, the records show. Read more. 

Apr 2, 2014

At Vatican, Obama's Immigration Hypocrisy Shines Through (La Jornada, Mexico)

La Jornada – Original Article (Spanish)
Translated By Acosta-Florizul Perez for WorldMeetUs
April 1, 2014

In the meeting last week at the Vatican between U.S. President Barack Obama and Pope Francis, the two heads of state addressed the issue of our northern neighbor's immigration policy, issuing a call to "eradicate the trafficking of human beings around the world," to work so that "international and humanitarian law is respected within conflict zones," and to seek "negotiated solutions."

Bearing in mind the upsurge in persecutions of undocumented immigrants and the consequent violations of human rights during Obama’s terms in office, such declarations constitute an act of hypocrisy on his part. It must be remembered that the current U.S. president has not only shown a reluctance to abandon his country's traditional policies of persecution and violations of human rights regarding immigration, but he has continuously intensified them. Proof of this is the fact that his government has deported more than two million undocumented immigrants, nearly 140,000 this year alone, the highest figure on record, behind which are so many untold stories of personal and family suffering.  Read more.