Sep 16, 2011

Week's Top Articles on Mexico: September 9 - 15, 2011

We lead off this week’s summary with two articles related to the Merida Initiative. The first looks at the U.S. drug czar’s comment to a Spanish news agency in support of demilitarization of the counternarcotics struggle in Mexico—a comment ‘clarified’ the next day by the Obama administration. The second is the appointment of the new U.S. ambassador to Mexico, whose swearing-in remarks include explicit support for Merida Initiative.

The following two articles report on statements by Mexico’s Foreign Affairs Secretary that Mexico expects an acceleration of counternarcotics aid next year and a hearing of the Foreign Relations Committee that concludes that the threat from Mexican cartels is increasing as they evolve into a wider variety of crimes. 

A counterpoint to official statements that reaffirm the commitment to a militarized drug war comes from the Caravan for Peace with Justice led by Javier Sicilia, which began its tour of southern Mexico this week. The demand to end the drug war, gradually withdrawing the armed forces, is central to the movement. Americas Program reporter Kristin Brinker writes from the Caravan on violence in Acapulco and against migrants.

Following up on the Veracruz ‘Twitter’ case, the first article in the rule of law section notes that the government of the state of Veracruz, Mexico, wants to change its penal code so it can bring lesser charges against the two Mexicans accused of terrorism after an outcry by human rights and freedom of speech defenders; the second reports claims that the panic began at least two hours before the Tweets appeared.

On immigration and the border, the articles reflect growing divisions in how to approach challenges. The first reports a GAO study indicating that the current security strategy and use of the National Guard is unfocused and ineffective. Second, the Obama administration announced a crackdown program to check the status of immigrants to the U.S. who have overstayed the terms of their visas by using a new system that automatically consults multiple national security, immigration and law enforcement databases, and third, a new study recommends less military and police deployment and more selective measures.

Drug War - Merida Initiative

"Kerlikowske Was Right"

The U.S. drug czar goes off script calling for demilitarization of the drug war, and is corrected by his own office. Sept 12, "In an interview on Sept. 9 with the Spanish news agency Efe, under the headline Kerlikowske Supports Demilitarization of Counternarcotics Struggle in Mexico, the drug czar said (translated from the original article in Spanish), "Enforcing the law and policing need to be carried out with the police, not the military. The police need to be professional and reliable, and have the trust of the citizenry." The next day, the Mexican daily La Jornada ran the declarations on the front page... On Sept. 10 the U.S. Embassy issued a communiqué from the spokesperson of the Office of National Drug Control Policy, which Kerlikowske leads, saying his remarks were "misinterpreted"...

"Anthony Wayne, U.S. Ambassador to Mexico Swearing In Remarks"

The new ambassador affirms that the Merida Initiative will be the center of U.S.-Mexico collaboration.

Mexidata Info: Sept 12, "Today, we are working together to address a series of daunting challenges to assure the well-being of the citizens of Mexico and the United States - issues ranging from public health to the environment, from natural disasters to crime and security. Indeed, our collaborative efforts to provide security for citizens and communities on both sides of the border through the Merida Initiative remain a central focus of our shared agenda."

"Mexico Expects U.S. to Accelerate Anti-Drug Aid, Espinosa Says"

Mexico's Foreign Affairs Minister calls for the U.S. to speed up delivery of Merida Initiative aid and urges continuation of security cooperation after 2012 elections.

Bloomberg: Sept. 14, "Mexico expects the U.S. to accelerate the disbursement of aid to strengthen its fight against drug gangs and put back on track a $1.4 billion program that has been hamstrung by delays in recent years, Foreign Affairs Minister Patricia Espinosa said."

"Mexico Drug War: U.S. reassess Drug War aid to Mexico"

House Foreign Affairs Committee examines cartel activities and possible strategies to beef up border security on both sides.

AHN: Sept 14, "The threat to the United States from Mexican drug cartels is increasing as they evolve into a wider variety of crimes," witnesses at a congressional hearing said Tuesday. The House Foreign Affairs Committee held the hearing to consider new strategies against drug cartels as the three-year Merida Initiative expires this year."
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Caravan for Peace with Justice

Two articles from the Caravan for Peace and Justice demonstrate the crisis situation for many Mexicans and migrants in the country, with shocking first-hadn accounts of violence and impunity. 

"Guerrero Protesters Demand Education, Not War" 

AmericasProgram: "Several thousand people marched on Acapulco, Guerrero, this past Saturday chanting, “We don’t want war, we want education!” The march occurred during poet Javier Sicilia’s visit to the seaside city as his caravan of drug war victims makes its way to the Mexico-Guatemala border."

"On the Mexico-Guatemala Border, Migrants Demand End to Violence" 
AmericasProgram: "Standing on the imaginary line that divides the two countries, Sicilia said, “We came to ask our Central American brothers and sisters to forgive us for having not spoken up before, for not having the consciousness and the strength necessary to prevent the kidnapping and murder that has affected thousands of migrants and Mexican citizens and has torn apart their families.”

Human Rights - Rule of Law

Following the uproar over terrorism charges against youth Twitter users, the government is seeking to lower the charges and defuse the situation, as the case against the two becomes more muddled.

"State of Veracruz proposes lesser charges for Twitter terrorism suspects" Sept 14, "The state of Veracruz in Mexico wants to change its penal code to apply a lower charge against the jailed Twitter and Facebook users accused of terrorism for spreading unconfirmed rumors of an attack on local schools...."

Veracruz panic started before 'terrorist' tweets, reports say Sept 10, "Cracks are appearing in the case against the Twitter users in Mexico accused of terrorism for spreading rumors of an attack. Local reports and claims suggest that the "panic" that spread over rumors of child abductions at school campuses started at least two hours before the online messages that could put a man and woman behind bars for 30 years. The Veracruz government has not responded to the claims."

Immigration and Border 

"National Guard's use on border worrisome, feds report" 
As Rep. Connie Mack calls for doubling the Border Patrol on the Mexico border (see above), a new General Accounting Office Report finds the lack of a comprehensive security strategy for the border and questions the use of the National Guard. 

Arizona Daily Star: "The lack of a comprehensive security strategy for the U.S.-Mexico border hampers the ability of the Department of Defense to make the best use of guardsmen assigned to help the Border Patrol, a federal report says."

"Broader security checks to reduce visa overstays"

In a move that to identify migrants who overstay their visas and could pose "a potential threat to  a national security", the Obama administration moves to links immigration and law enforcement data systems.

The Associated Press: Sept 13, "WASHINGTON (AP) — The Obama administration is cracking down on immigrants in the U.S. who have overstayed the terms of their visas by using a system that automatically checks multiple national security, immigration and law enforcement databases at the same time, a senior Homeland Security Department official said." 

"Guns, Drugs, and Money: Tackling the Real Threats to Border Security"

A paper on border security by UT Professor Josiah Heyman questions the uniformly military/police enforcement model and calls for a closer analysis of threats and challenges, with more focused strategies. 
Immigration Policy Center: Sept 12, "The external borders of the United States matter to security, but how and in what ways is neither automatic nor obvious. The current assumption is that borders defend the national interior against all harms, which are understood as consistently coming from outside—and that security is always obtained in the same way, whatever the issue."

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