Sep 30, 2011

Week's Top Articles on Mexico: Sept. 23-29, 2011

Mexico Drug War: Three articles focus on the efforts of Mexican citizens to use social media to inform one another about the drug war in their communities and the violent response by the Zetas cartel in order to stop this flow of information. 

Three articles talk about the Mexican police and army. The first reports the poor pay police continue to receive, while the second analyzes how simply raising salaries without instituting other major reforms will not end police corruption and collusion with the drug cartels.  The third is about the army's request for a huge increase in funding to add more battalions and purchase modern equipment for the fight against the cartels. Leaders in the Mexican Congress support this proposal. 

Human Rights: Mexico's Supreme Court failed to overturn a state law prohibiting abortion. Seven of eleven judges voted to declare it unconstitutional, but a "super majority" of eight votes is needed to make a law unconstitutional. 

Mexico Border: Two articles talk about Texas' "border security strategy." The first reviews a report prepared for the state of Texas making the case that violence is spilling over from Mexico and that the state therefore needs to do more to achieve "border security." The article points out, however, that no hard data, only anonymous, anecdotal stories, are presented to back up this claim. The second article is an analysis of the political pork barrel that this ¨Texas strategy" feeds.

Immigration: A federal judge upheld most of the provisions of Alabama's law cracking down on unauthorized immigrants.

Drug War: Social Media

Mexico Turns to Twitter and Facebook for Information and Survival Sept. 25, "... according to scholars and many Mexicans, social media has become a necessity in Mexico, with a mission far different from what has emerged in the Arab revolutions, or in China. In those countries, social networks have been used to route around identifiable sources of repression and to unify groups dispersed over large areas. In Mexico, Twitter, Facebook and other tools are instead deployed for local survival.

“These aren’t acts of political sedition or real-time attempts to bring about a change in government,” said Nicholas T. Goodbody, a professor of Mexican cultural studies at Williams College. “These are people trying to navigate daily life.”"

Newspaper, bloggers stunned by killing in Mexico Sept. 27, "The killing of a Mexican woman purportedly in retaliation for her postings on an anti-crime website has left stunned chat users and employees at the newspaper where she worked wondering who can still be safe in the violent border city of Nuevo Laredo.

Press freedom groups condemned the killing of Maria Elizabeth Macias, whose decapitated body and head were found Saturday next to a message citing posts she wrote on "Nuevo Laredo en Vivo," a website used by Laredo residents to denounce crime and warn each other about drug cartel gunfights and roadblocks.

Some bloggers vowed to keep up the fight against powerful drug cartels but warned users to trust no one."

The Zetas' Biggest Rival: Social Networks
InSight Crime: Sept. 28, "The Mexican border town of Nuevo Laredo has seen three brutal killings in an apparent campaign by the Zetas against social media websites -- what is it about these sites that makes the gang so angry?

... The show of citizens grouping together to defy the criminal groups, prominently displayed on NLV (Nuevo Laredo en Vivio), poses a challenge to the Zetas’ image. Much of the traditional forms of media have been cowed into silence --...  This stands in contrast to the outpouring of tributes to the dead woman, and protests against the Zetas that could be found on the website. Many posters rail against the “ratazzz,” or rats, spelt with a z to represent the Zetas, who are “ruining Nuevo Laredo.” Online forums like NLV represent an arena of defiance that is difficult for the Zetas to control, and this is a challenge to their authority -- one that they are answering with an escalation of brutality."

Drug War: Mexican Police and Army

Despite Violence - Many Mexican Police Still Paid Low Wages
Fox News Latino: Sept. 25, "They are fighting a violent drug war - but a new government report released Sunday shows many Mexican police officers still earn $350 per month or less, despite reform efforts aimed at increasing wages and decreasing corruption among the country's police."

Pay Rises Alone Won't Break Chain of Police Corruption
InSight Crime: Sept. 30, "...  it’s not clear that higher salaries will be a determining factor in cleaning up the police. A pair of recent studies looking at police corruption in Mexico, the first by John Bailey and Matthew Taylor, the second by Daniel Sabet, conclude that salary is just one of the variables that determines whether an officer decides to actively work with criminal gangs, to merely tolerate them, or to confront them.

The other factors, which can weigh just as heavily, include the likelihood of being caught and the severity of the resulting penalty; the moral cost and the degree of personal commitment to the job; and the probability of suffering physical attacks, both in cases of agreeing or refusing to work with the gangs."

Mexico's Army Seeks More Funding, But Should it Have Key Security Role?

InSight Crime: Sept. 26, "Mexico's Ministry of Defense (SEDENA) is lobbying the country’s Congress for more than 13 billion pesos ($980 million) in funding to modernize the army and add thousands of new soldiers to its ranks. According to chairman of the Congressional Defense Committee, Rogelio Cerda Perez, the expansion and modernization of the army is “not a luxury but a necessity." He has called for "more troops on the streets," to fight drug trafficking gangs. The need to renew weaponry and vehicles is urgent, Cerda argues, with some equipment dating back to World War II. The 13 billion pesos demanded by the ministry would be used to reshape the army entirely, adding 10,800 troops and creating 18 new special forces battalions specialized in combating drug trafficking.
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Human Rights

Mexico supreme court upholds state’s right-to-life amendment, making abortion ban state issue
The Washington Post: "Mexico’s supreme court on Wednesday let stand a right-to-life amendment to the Baja California state constitution that says life begins at conception and effectively bans elective abortions in the northern border state. The ruling appeared to allow Mexican states to decide individually on the abortion question, though the court has also agreed to review a similar amendment from the state of San Luis Potosi.

Sixteen of Mexico’s 31 states have adopted right-to-life amendments that severely restrict abortions, though almost all continue to allow it under some circumstances like rape or danger to a mother’s life. Only Mexico City has legalized abortion on demand in the first trimester."
Mexico Border

Is violence spilling across the border? New report sheds little light
Austin Statesman: Sept. 29,  "Few topics in Texas are more politically charged than the issue of violence spilling into Texas from the ongoing drug war in Mexico. ... But what’s been missing in the debate is conclusive evidence of whether spillover violence is actually occurring along the Texas border.

As we reported in Tuesday’s paper, the latest report seeking to bring clarity to the issue is the $80,000 “Texas Border Security: A Strategic Military Assessment.” Produced by two retired generals and commissioned by the Texas Departments of Agriculture and Public Safety, the report comes to some powerful conclusions: Not only is spillover violence real, but conditions on both sides of the Texas border are akin to a “war zone” and border residents are under attack “around the clock.” America’s fight against “narco-terrorism” is taking on “the classic trappings of a real war.”

But the report relies not on new statistics, or analysis of existing statistics. Instead it largely uses anonymous anecdotal evidence from ranchers and farmers, most of it culled from online postings. (The website, is run by the state agriculture department and aims to win more federal help for border security.)"
How Unaccountable Private Contractors Pocket Your Tax Dollars Militarizing the Texas Border
AlterNet: Sept. 27,  "Heavy on outsourcing and lacking documented success, the "Texas model" of border security's features are not original, but borrowed directly from the DHS or the military and are funded with federal money."


Alabama to enforce strict immigration laws
CBS News: Sept. 29, "Police in Alabama are getting ready to enforce what is considered by many as the toughest immigration law in the United States. Beginning Thursday, authorities can question people suspected of being in the country illegally and hold them without bond, and officials can check the immigration status of students in public schools, Gov. Robert Bentley said. Those two key aspects of Alabama's new law were upheld by a federal judge on Wednesday. The governor said parts of the law take effect immediately. "We intend to enforce it," Bentley said."

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