Nov 11, 2011

Week's Top Articles on Mexico, Nov. 4-10, 2011

Drug War: Three significant investigative reports were in the news. 
  • The New York Times revealed that the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) is now operating military-style commando units in Latin America. 
  • Human Rights Watch presented President Calderón with a report on torture carried out by Mexican police and the army. 
  • In Washington, Attorney General Holder admitted to Congress that the 'Fast and Furious' gun-walking operation will cause long-lasting damage and should never have happened.
This week brought the dissipation of one of last week's primary stories--the on-line Anonymous threat to out the Zetas. 

Javier Sicila, leader of the Mexican Movement for Peace with Justice, announced at the Drug Policy Conference in Los Angeles that he was considering a caravan in the U.S., like those done in Mexico, to travel from El Paso to Washington, D.C. next year. 

Finally, we share a poignant story of teenage "angels" in Ciudad Juarez who want to "prick the consciences of people who have caused ... so much pain." 

Meanwhile, in neighboring Guatemala, retired general and former intelligence director Otto Perez Molina is elected president on a get tough on crime platform, and the promise to revive the infamous Kaibiles. 

Immigration news includes a Republican-led Congressional committee subpoenaing the Department of Homeland Security for the names of undocumented immigrants arrested by local authorities but not deported by the department. And senators from the Mexican Congress come to the U.S. to try to influence the immigration debate. 

Border news includes a report by the  Government Accountability Office that the government's latest high-tech border security strategy lacks any means of demonstrating its effectiveness. 

Drug War 

U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency Expands War on Drugs Nov. 6, "The D.E.A. now has five commando-style squads it has been quietly deploying for the past several years to Western Hemisphere nations — including Haiti, Honduras, the Dominican Republic, Guatemala and Belize — that are battling drug cartels, according to documents and interviews with law enforcement officials. The program — called FAST, for Foreign-deployed Advisory Support Team — was created during the George W. Bush administration to investigate Taliban-linked drug traffickers in Afghanistan. Beginning in 2008 and continuing under President Obama, it has expanded far beyond the war zone.

... The evolution of the program into a global enforcement arm reflects the United States’ growing reach in combating drug cartels and how policy makers increasingly are blurring the line between law enforcement and military activities, fusing elements of the “war on drugs” with the “war on terrorism.”" read more

Torture surges in Mexico's drug war, rights group says 
Washington Post: Nov. 9, "Human rights activists accused Mexico’s military and police Wednesday of engaging in widespread torture, including the use of cattle prods and waterboarding, in President Felipe Calderon’s U.S.-backed war against crime mafias and drug cartels.

In a highly critical report, the international group Human Rights Watch said it found credible evidence that “strongly suggests” the participation of Mexican security forces in more than 170 cases of torture, 39 “disappearances” and 24 extrajudicial killings in five Mexican states since Calderon began his military-led assault against the powerful crime syndicates in late 2006." read more
See also a further story from the LA Times. Read the full Human Rights Watch report

Attorney General Holder decries 'gotcha games' in Fast and Furious testimony Nov. 8, "Atty. Gen. Eric Holder on Tuesday called a botched gun-tracking scheme hatched by officials with the Bureau of Alcohol Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives on the Southwest border “flawed in its concept, and flawed in its execution” in testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee. The nation’s top law enforcement officer appeared to retreat from earlier testimony that he first learned of the operation, known as Fast and Furious, in the time leading up to a May House hearing, saying instead that he first became aware of some details "at the beginning of this year."" read more

Contradictions mount in Anonymous threat to Zetas Nov. 5, "A story that at first seemed to point ominously to a dangerous new development in Mexico's drug war was spiraling into confusion Friday as social-media users claiming ties to the hackers group Anonymous announced -- and then retracted -- a threat against the Zetas cartel in Mexico.

... If #OpCartel does not materialize, the buzz over the threat would raise thorny questions about mainstream media coverage of such threats and the amplification of random or unfounded claims made on YouTube and Twitter." read more

Mexican poet aims to take drug war protest to US 
AFP: LOS ANGELES, Nov, 5, "The poet, Javier Sicilia, whose son's murder inspired him to lead protest caravans against the drug war in Mexico, says he wants to resume the protest "from the other side of the problem." Sicila wants to lead another caravan, this time from the Mexican border to Washington, D.C. to protest the drug war.

...Sicilia said he would like to march "from El Paso, Texas to Washington." "It's a dream, but it can be done, perhaps next year," he told AFP. "It would be the same, but this time from the other side of the problem." Such a caravan "would have a great impact" in sensitizing Americans to the failure of the war on drugs launched 40 years ago by then-president Richard Nixon, and on the effect US policies have had on their neighbor, he said." read more

Angels in Ciudad Juárez Try to Reduce Violence Nov. 10, "CIUDAD JUÁREZ, Mexico — Angels are not a common sight here in Mexico’s most violent border city, where the public cemetery is putrid and overflowing, and where a handful of churches worship the skeletal saint of death, Santa Muerte. xxx But at crime scenes and busy corners recently, more than a dozen angels have appeared — 10 feet tall, with white robes and wide feathered wings.

The fact that these angels are mostly teenagers from a tiny evangelical church on a dirt road makes their presence no less striking: they carry signs to murder scenes that say “murderers repent." ... “We wanted to prick the consciences of the people who have caused this city so much pain,” Carlos Mayorga, 33, a leader of the group, said.”" read more

Central American Politics

Ex-general wins Guatemalan presidential election Nov. 7, "GUATEMALA CITY --Guatemalans ... elected as their new leader ... retired general and former intelligence director Otto Perez Molina of the conservative Patriotic Party (who) won an easy and early victory on Sunday in a runoff race against tycoon-turned-political populist Manuel Baldizon of the Democratic Freedom Revival party. Perez garnered 54 percent of the vote to Baldizon's 46 percent.

...voters supported Perez's "iron-fist" approach to rampant crime in the country, which has been overrun by gangs, Mexican drug cartels and has one of the highest murder rates in the world. President Alvaro Colom had to send the military to various parts of the country in the last six months to regain control from the drug gangs." read more


House panel subpoenas names of arrested illegal immigrants Nov. 5, "The House Judiciary Committee issued a subpoena Friday requiring the Department of Homeland Security to hand over the names of thousands of illegal immigrants who were arrested by local authorities over the last three years but not deported by immigration officials." read more

Mexican Senators Come to U.S. in Hopes of Influencing Immigration Debate 
Feet in 2 Worlds: Nov. 7, "A group of Mexican senators ... are visiting their U.S. counterparts in Alabama, Arizona, Georgia, South Carolina and Utah to try to influence the immigration debate. These states have passed restrictive immigration laws that are currently being challenged in the court system by the U.S. government and civil rights groups.

“We have high hopes that these laws will not take effect,” Sen. Carlos Jimenez Macias said through an interpreter. Macias and the other Mexican senators spoke last Tuesday at a workshop on international immigration in Washington, D.C. ... “We don’t want the problem of anti-immigrant laws to Mexicanize itself,” ... Macias said that they want state and federal legislators to understand that migration is a constitutive part of globalization and is greatly influenced by market forces, that is, by supply and demand. If there were no demand for migrant labor in the U.S., then people would not cross the border." read more

The Border 

Border Security plan not justified, GAO says
Arizona star net: Nov. 5, "The federal government's latest high-tech border security strategy is already being questioned by the investigative arm of Congress. U.S. Customs and Border Protection hasn't done sufficient homework to justify a plan that went into effect earlier this year, the Government Accountability Office reported Friday. Agency officials have not adequately explained how they determined that strategy is better than other alternatives, the report found." read more

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