Sep 9, 2011

Week's Top Articles on Mexico: September 2 - 8, 2011

We start this weekly summary with two analytic articles about the drug war. One looks at how Plan Colombia has turned out not to be such a success and is, thus, not a model to be applied in Mexico. The second looks at the Mexico drug cartels from the point of view of being rational actors in a business market. 

The Mexico drug war also demonstrated this week how it is interwoven with three other major issues in Mexico: freedom of speech, government corruption and violence against women. 

Two ordinary Mexicans tweeted rumors of cartel violence in Veracruz that proved to be false. This led to their arrrest on "terrorism" charges and an explosion of controversy over both the use of social media when mainstream media have censored themselves and the issue of free speech in Mexico. 

Secondly, the story of the Monterrey casino fire shifted even further from its original frame as a "terrorist act" to one of corruption, very likely involving local and state government figures. We are now classifying that continuing story under the heading "Mexico Corruption." 

Third, the gruesome murders of two women journalists in Mexico City, for as yet undetermined motives, brought not only the issue of attacks against journalist and freedom of the press to the fore, but also that of violence against women. A separate report on how women are fleeing Mexico because of violence against them also was released this week. 

We end with an immigration story that sheds light on a little reported side of the realities of border crossing: that of unaccompanied minors and problems with how they are treated by the U.S. Customs and Immigration Services. 

Drug War

Mexico's Unwinnable War

A look into how Plan Columbia was not only not so successful as touted by the U.S. government, but also evidently fed corruption and the abuse of power. Thus,the author warns, it is not a model to be applied to Mexico.

The National Interest: Sept 2, "Some experts on the drug wars in Latin America have argued for years that Colombia is a great success story and U.S. leaders should try to apply the same model to neutralize the drug-related violence that continues to convulse Mexico. ...Although both the Cali and Medellin cartels were broken by the mid-1990s, the extent of drug trafficking in Colombia and the surrounding region did not diminish. Indeed, the amount of illegal drugs coming out of Colombia is not much different today than what it was two decades ago.

... Recent revelations have not only cast doubt on the extent of the success of the Colombia model, they have also underscored some unsavory aspects of that campaign. ... "                              

Criminal Gangs Are Rational Actors

An analysis, from an economic point of view, of the logic of Mexico cartel behavior

InSight Crime: Sept 3, "Though notorious for their brutality, Mexico’s organized criminal groups are rational actors who respond to market dynamics. If they are not forced into a showdown or loss of face, their behavior can be influenced. ...Yes, the criminal gangs’ methods are harsh and designed to compel compliance, but their intense violence and cruelty is driven by objectives that can, with expert guidance, be used to positively influence the threat they pose.

These groups are competing to prosper in a fragmenting and hyper-competitive market that has seen its primary market (drugs) placed under pressure. This has forced them to enter new markets, such as extortion of corporations and individuals, kidnapping, robbery and oil theft. The leadership of these groups are actively trying to reduce both their own risk and their "costs of doing business," while maximizing profit."

2 Mexicans deny terrorism, face 30 years for tweet

We will be keeping our eye on how this develops. 

The Associated Press: "A former teacher turned radio commentator and a math tutor who lives with his mother sit in a prison in southern Mexico, facing possible 30-year sentences for terrorism and sabotage in what may be the most serious charges ever brought against anyone using a Twitter social network account.

Prosecutors say the defendants helped cause a chaos of car crashes and panic as parents in the Gulf Coast city of Veracruz rushed to save their children because of false reports that gunmen were attacking schools."

Mexico's Twitter 'terrorism' case sparks controversy

This article includes interviews that look at the issues of free speech vs. public security. Sept 8, "One Mexican state's tough stance on Twitter posts could have a chilling effect on social media throughout the country, analysts say.

After false rumors about school attacks spread on Twitter and Facebook and caused real-life chaos on the streets of the city of Veracruz, state prosecutors accused two people of terrorism and sabotage for their posts. The charges could put the suspects behind bars for up to 30 years.

... several experts say the state government's harsh response could stifle social media, an increasingly common way to communicate about violence in Mexico at a time when some don't trust reports they're getting from the government or more traditional sources."
Mexico Corruption

Mexico ruling party asks mayor, governor step down

The Associated Press: Sept 8, " Mexico's ruling party on Tuesday asked the governor of Nuevo Leon state and the mayor of its capital city to step down temporarily while police investigate an arson that killed 52 people and a casino corruption scandal.

President Felipe Calderon's National Action Party, or PAN, said in letters sent to Nuevo Leon Gov. Rodrigo Medina and Monterrey Mayor Fernando Larrazabal that they should leave their posts so that the probe into last month's deadly casino arson attack doesn't become "a struggle between political forces."
Larrazabal is a member of the PAN but Medina belongs to the opposition Institutional Revolutionary Party."

Monterrey casino attack: More suspects sought over fire

BBC News: Sept. 8, "Mexican authorities have identified 18 more suspects as they widen their investigation into last month's deadly arson attack on a Monterrey casino."

Violence Against Women

Mexican journalists found dead in Mexico City Sept 2, "Two Mexican journalists have been found dead in a park in Mexico City. Two joggers discovered the bodies of Marcela Yarce, the founder of a political magazine, and Rocio González, a freelance journalist, near a cemetery in El Mirador park in the poor, crowded neighbourhood of Iztapalapa."

Murders of Reporters Heighten Despair and Shock

This article goes beyond the facts of the murder of two women journalists to look at "The consequences of the violence (that) can be devastating for communities, because fear and despair cause a breakdown of the social fabric."

IPS Sept 3, "And how do you escape this anxiety, this sensation that nothing we do does any good?" a Mexican journalist wrote on her Facebook page after the murder of two of her colleagues in Mexico City.

The brutal murders of Marcela Yarce, 48, and Rocío González, 48, rocked Mexico when their bodies were found Thursday....  The two women were the first female journalists killed in the capital since the government of conservative President Felipe Calderón declared "war" on the drug trade and put the army on the streets shortly after taking office in December 2006.

"Mexican journalists are in mourning, not only because of these killings, but because of all of the murders committed against us," the "Los Queremos Vivos" (We Want Them Alive) collective that organises protests against attacks on journalists, wrote in an open letter to Mexico City Mayor Marcelo Ebrard."

Women Flee Drug Violence in Mexico

InSight Crime: "A recent press release from womens’ advocacy group REDGE said that most female migrants from Mexico to the U.S. are escaping violence and insecurity. The organization said this was a bigger driver of illegal migration by Mexican females than the more commonly cited motivation of joining their male relatives or partners in the U.S."

Border-Crossing Kids Need more Assistance, say Child Advocates

A close look at another of the realities of undocumented immigration: minors, mostly teenagers who cross the border without adult relatives. 

The Cutting Edge News: Sept. 6, "Last year, Border Patrol agents detained about 30,000 minors, more than half of them unaccompanied by parents. More than 80 percent of minors overall and unaccompanied were Mexican, and the rest were Central American, Chinese or nationals of other countries....

The debate over how to best handle minors once agents detain them goes back a couple of decades, and laws affecting them have changed incrementally. Because of concerns about keeping children in immigration detention with adults, the Homeland Security Act of 2002 transferred responsibility for long-term custody of all unaccompanied minors to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS)."

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