Oct 7, 2011

Week's Top Articles on Mexico: Sept. 30 - Oct. 6, 2011

Mexico Drug War
The media debut a week ago, in the state of Veracruz, by a group calling themselves the Mata Zetas, the Zeta Killers, raised discussion in the press of whether or not they were a "paramilitary" group or just another cartel spinoff. In one article, the Mexican government denied the existance of paramilitary groups in the country, but another article discusses the reality of such groups, which are tied to political and economic powers in various parts of Mexico.

In Acapulco, the government announced an agreement to protect teachers who have been on strike because of extortion demands and threats to their lives. However, by late in the week, many supposedly re-opened schools still lacked teachers. 

This week, a developing master narrative in the drug war emerged from the Mexican government, with support by some outside experts. It portrays the Sinaloa cartel and the Zetas as the two drug cartels which have emerged on the top of the heap, as other cartels have been fractured by government attacks. The story line sees a looming final battle for dominance of one cartel over the other, with two possible outcomes: the victory of one as "the" cartel controlling the drug trade through Mexico, or mutual self-destruction, producing a government "victory" in the drug war.

Meanwhile, in Ciudad Juarez, as the federal police -- who replaced the army -- get set to hand duties back to the municipal police, a report portrays how poorly trained and equiped that force remains. 

Lastly, a leading Mexican political analyst, Enrique Krause, writes about the critical importance of the emergence of the Movement for Peace with Justice and Dignity -- and other citizens action groups -- for the future of democracy in Mexico. 

The Justice Department of the Obama adminstration announces that it plans to challenge more state immigration laws. Hispanic children in Alabama begin to disappear from the school system as the law requiring schools to document students' citizenship status goes into effect. And the immigrant flow across the border boils down more and more to those who have lived a significant part of their lives in the U.S., have families there and are, therefore, determined to return no matter what the U.S. Border Patrol does to disuade them on one side or the Mexican cartels charge on the other.

Drug War

Mexico denies that paramilitaries operate
The Washington Post: Sept. 30, "Top Mexican security officials said Thursday that there is no evidence that true paramilitary groups are operating in Mexico, countering video boasts by a shadowy group of masked men who asserted responsibility for the torture-murder of 35 alleged drug cartel members last week."

No Paramilitaries in Mexico?
The Pan-American Post: Oct. 4, "While it may be true that the drug war has not resulted in the rise of paramilitaries on the scale of Colombia (a point which is excellently argued here by InSight Crime’s Elyssa Pachico), Mexico is not completely free from paramilitary groups. According to UN security consultant Edgardo Buscaglia, the country is home to some 167 paramilitary organizations, most of which are in the service of wealthy ranchers and businessmen"

Acapulco Teachers End Strike
NYTimes.com: Sept. 30, "Teachers in Acapulco have agreed to go back to work on Monday after more than a month on strike in protest over crime. Thousands of the city’s teachers have stayed home after receiving extortion threats demanding half their salary. Leaders of the teachers signed an agreement with the state government late Thursday that lays out increased security measures around schools."

Most Acapulco schools stay closed due to extortion threats despite ramped-up security
The Washington Post: Oct. 4, "About 120 soldiers are patrolling streets around schools in Acapulco’s rougher neighborhoods, but that hasn’t persuaded many of the schools to reopen after receiving extortion demands and threats. Some 460 schools have been closed since late August after banners, handwritten signs and other threats had demanded that teachers hand over part of their pay as protection money."

Two Cartels Poised To Battle For Drug Markets
Huffington Post: Oct. 1, "Mexican federal authorities, who asked not to be named for security reasons, told The Associated Press that the Zeta and Sinaloa cartels are now the nation's two dominant drug traffickers. One or the other is present almost everywhere in Mexico, but officials are braced to see what happens next in a drug war ...

The government's success in killing or arresting some cartel leaders has fractured most of the other gangs to such an extent that they have devolved into quarreling bands, or been forced to operate as subsidiaries of the two main cartels. That has often meant expanded territory and business opportunities for the hyper-violent Zetas and drug lord Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman's Sinaloa cartel.

"They are the two most successful cartels, or at least they have been able to expand in recent years," said drug trade and security expert Jorge Chabat. ...
"The question is whether the Sinaloa cartel and Zetas are going to break at some point or not," said Chabat. "Right now they are very strong, but if in two or three years these cartels are pulverized, they may say that (the drug war) was a success.""
Doubts Emerge as Juarez Police Step Up, Feds Withdraw
InSight Crime: Oct. 4, "As federal police withdraw from the troubled Mexican border city of Ciudad Juarez, a newly-published report paints an alarming picture of the municipal police force as underequipped and overburdened. ...

The report, entitled “A Comprehensive Diagnosis of the Municipal Police in Ciudad Juarez,” is based on a collection of survey responses from over 2,400 of the city’s 3,146 police officers, which amounts to one of the most comprehensive independent studies of a local police force in the country. The authors asked the policemen a number of questions regarding different aspects of their work, ranging from their degree of experience to their perceptions of corruption in the department.

Can This Poet Save Mexico?

NYTimes.com: Oct. 2, "Enrique Krauze is the editor of the magazine Letras Libres and the author of “Redeemers: Ideas and Power in Latin America.” This article was translated by Hank Heifetz from the Spanish.

SOMETHING amazing is happening in Mexico. A few weeks ago, a 14-bus caravan, which had been traveling under the leadership of Javier Sicilia, a poet and the founder of the Movement for Peace With Justice and Dignity, arrived here after a 10-day trek around the country. Its every move was followed by the national media, and thousands showed up to greet its return.

The caravan was organized in protest against the onslaught of drug-related violence that has cost my country 40,000 dead and at least 9,000 unsolved “disappearances” since 2006 — a few weeks ago, 35 bodies were left on a busy highway in Veracruz. It was just one part of a larger awakening of civil society here, which can be seen in the strengthened investigative efforts of the press, a more aggressive application of anticorruption laws, and the formation of voluntary associations, focused on everything from the environment to poverty."


Obama administration widens challenges to state immigration laws
The Washington Post: Sept. 30, "The Obama administration is escalating its crackdown on tough immigration laws, with lawyers reviewing four new state statutes to determine whether the federal government will take the extraordinary step of challenging the measures in court.

Justice Department lawyers have sued Arizona and Alabama, where a federal judge on Wednesday allowed key parts of that state’s immigration law to take effect but blocked other provisions. Federal lawyers are talking to Utah officials about a third possible lawsuit and are considering legal challenges in Georgia, Indiana and South Carolina, according to court documents and government officials."
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Hispanic students vanish from Alabama schools
msnbc.com: Oct. 1, "Hispanic students have started vanishing from Alabama public schools in the wake of a court ruling that upheld the state's tough new law cracking down on illegal immigration. Education officials say scores of immigrant families have withdrawn their children from classes or kept them home this week, afraid that sending the kids to school would draw attention from authorities.

There are no precise statewide numbers. But several districts with large immigrant enrollments — from small towns to large urban districts — reported a sudden exodus of children of Hispanic parents, some of whom told officials they planned to leave the state to avoid trouble with the law, which requires schools to check students' immigration status."

Mexican Immigrants Repeatedly Brave Risks to Resume Lives in United States
NYTimes.com: Oct. 3, "Migrant shelters along the Mexican border are filled not with newcomers looking for a better life, but with seasoned crossers: older men and women, often deportees, braving ever-greater risks to get back to their families in the United States — the country they consider home.

They present an enormous challenge to American policy makers, because they continue to head north despite obstacles more severe than at any time in recent history. It is not just that the American economy has little to offer; the border itself is far more threatening. On one side, fences have grown and American agents have multiplied; on the other, criminals haunt the journey at every turn. And yet, while these factors — and better opportunities at home — have cut illegal immigration from Mexico to its lowest level in decades, they are not enough to scare off a sizable, determined cadre."

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