Nov 4, 2011

Week's Top Articles on Mexico: Oct. 28-Nov. 3, 2011

Reporting on the drug war this week focused on the threat by the online hacking group, Anonymous, to expose members of the Zetas on Nov. 5. It seemed to be a serious threat, but then members of the informal group seemed to back off. We include two analytic articles: one analyzing the potential negative possibilities  and the other a thought provoking column on the two-edged use of anonymity in the digital--and the real--world in Mexico.

Two other articles on the drug war address the very different issues of money laundering and the collateral damage done to children orphaned by the war. On the Day of the Dead, at the Angel of Independence, Mexico City's most visible monument, the Movement for Peace with Justice and Dignity, led by Javier Sicilia, created a huge 'ofrenda,' an altar offering to the dead of the drug war.

Finally, youth seeking to create offrendas to the dead of Ciudad Juarez were beaten, arrested and jailed overnight until rapid, international protests obtained their release yesterday.

As for Immigration, an article taking the "balanced views" approach, presenting both sides of the arguments about immigration, does present important observations about the negative consequences of the mass deportations being undertaken by the Obama administration. 

At the Border with Mexico, an Austin, Texas, newspaper takes on the report on ostensible border violence done for the State of Texas by two retired army generals. And the environment, endangered animals and plants, may become another form of collateral damage sacrificed in the name of border security.

Drug War

Online hackers threaten to expose cartel's secrets 
Houston Chronicle: Oct. 29,  "An international group of online hackers is warning a Mexican drug cartel to release one of its members, kidnapped from a street protest, or (on Saturday, Nov. 5) it will publish the identities and addresses of the syndicate's associates, from corrupt police to taxi drivers, as well as reveal the syndicates' businesses.

The vow is a bizarre cyber twist to Mexico's ongoing drug war, as a group that has no guns is squaring off against the Zetas, a cartel blamed for thousands of deaths as well as introducing beheadings and other frightening brutality. "You made a huge mistake by taking one of us. Release him," says a masked man in a video posted online on behalf of the group, Anonymous." read more

Anonymous vs. Zetas Amid Mexico's Cartel Violence
STRATFOR: Nov. 3, "The online activist collective Anonymous posted a message on the Internet on Oct. 31 saying it would continue its campaign against Mexican criminal cartels and their government supporters despite the risks. With Nov. 5 approaching, and at least some elements of Anonymous not backing down on their threats to Los Zetas, we thought it would be useful to provide some context to the present conflict between Anonymous and Los Zetas and to address some of its potential implications." read more

Anonymous acts are a key feature of Mexico's drug wars Nov. 1, "It's fitting that the threat to the Zetas cartel should come from the Anonymous hackers – but lack of accountability is aproblem. Anonymity in Mexico is the only form of defence in the increasingly violent conflict involving the country's drug cartels, government, media and public. It provides defence from reprisals, but also hands impunity to those acting with no identity, creating a vicious cycle of ambiguous, unreliable information and fear. And it is pursued by many of the actors in the drug war, mostly via the use of digital social networks – the newest front for the conflict.

The ability to distribute information that is unvetted, unverified and often from unnamed sources across a plethora of platforms is both a blessing and a curse. A blessing because information is harder to suppress and control, but a curse because of the opportunity it creates for propaganda and misinformation that is then reported by the media and acted upon by the public as fact." read more

The Uphill Battle Against Money Laundering
Shannon K. O'Neil: Oct. 28, "On Tuesday, the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) released a new report on global money laundering, “Estimating Illicit Financial Flows Resulting from Drug Trafficking and Other Transnational Organized Crime.” The upshot? It is really hard to estimate. But, the report does provide some tangibles. Surveying numerous studies, it calculates that illicit global proceeds amount to over $2 trillion dollars every year (roughly 3.6 percent of global GDP), with some $1.6 trillion of this laundered.

Within these staggering figures, roughly $870 billion of these revenues relate to drug trafficking and organized crime, and close to $580 billion of those illicit funds are laundered through financial institutions. The study drills down and looks specifically at the global cocaine market, estimated at some $85 billion."
read more

Drug war takes toll on kids
San Antonio Express-News: Oct. 30, "Legions of children ... — some say as many as 15,000 — have lost one parent or both to the drug-fed malevolence devouring Ciudad Juárez. Fragile seedlings, these children shoulder lives sullied by blood, blackened with loss, gnarled in rage.

“Violent death is doubly bad,” said Silvia Aguirre, director of a volunteer group that provides grief counseling and support to victims' families. “In addition to the hurt of losing someone, the survivors are left with the shame and embarrassment of how and why they died. “If you tend to them, you break the cycle of violence,” Aguirre said of the children. “If you don't, they can grow up to be their father's avengers.”" read more

Movement for Peace Creates Day of the Dead Offering in the Center of Mexico City 
MexicoBlog translation, with added photos, of Original in Spanish, EFE/CNN Mexico. Original has a video report showing the offering. Nov. 1. "Filled with candles and crosses and with written names that tell stories, the monument to the Angel of Independence in Mexico City has become a huge Day of the Dead altar to honor the victims of violence in order, as the poet Javier Sicilia said , "to make the cry of the dead through the living." read more

Ciudad Juarez Protesters Arrested, then Released, Will Press Charges against Police for Brutality
MexicoBlog, Nov. 2, Yesterday, we spent most of the day receiving and passing along information about the arrest of some 29 (some media say 30) protesters who were beaten and arrested in Ciudad Juarez. Many networks of human rights defenders joined in to demand the release of the protesters, including El Paso groups and organizations from both sides of the border.

After pressure from national and international groups, the prisoners were released. A video captures the moment of the release and statements on the beatings and abuse they received from local police. It's in Spanish, but you can tell a lot from the black eyes and deep cuts they demonstrate to the cameras. read more


Obama's Illegal-immigrant Crackdown: Implications for Hispanics ABC News: Oct. 30, "... felony prosecutions for immigration crimes ireased by 42 percent during President Obama's first two years in office, a factor in the record 400,000 deportations this fiscal year ...While these developments may help address some longstanding concerns, they've also had profound implications for Hispanics – most of whom are in the United States legitimately, but some of whom make up the lion's share of the 11 million illegal immigrants in America. In fact, Hispanics are now the majority group being sent to federal prison, largely because of the criminal prosecution of repeat border jumpers.

... "It's unclear ... [whether] officials who are making decisions [about sweeps and increased prosecution] are really comprehending the kinds of social policy implications that they raise," says Deborah Denno, a law professor at Fordham University in New York. "You're taking massive numbers of people and incarcerating them, which means they can't support their families, which leads to serious repercussions."" read more

The Border

Analysis shows that statistics don't back up claims of rising drug cartel-related crime along border 
Austin Statesman: Oct. 30, "Last month, two retired Army generals, flanked by the state officials who had hired them, stood in the Texas Capitol and painted an alarming picture of escalating violence on the Texas-Mexico border. Their report, which relied less on crime statistics than anecdotal evidence, concluded that the Texas side of the border had become a "war zone."

But a closer look at crime numbers in border counties since 2006 ... does not reveal evidence of out-of-control chaos. An American-Statesman analysis of all 14 counties that share a border with Mexico and two dozen border cities shows that violent crime along the Texas side of the Rio Grande fell 3.3 percent between 2006 and 2010. ... ... Questions over statistics highlight the push to control the narrative along the border, which has major repercussions nationally." read more

Senate proposal would waive environmental laws at border Oct. 30,  "A bill sponsored by Ariz. Sen. John McCain passed through a Senate subcommittee this week, which would grant Customs and Border Patrol agents unfettered access to all federal lands within one hundred miles of the U.S. border with Mexico. Currently, Border Patrol officers are not permitted to drive their vehicles through certain areas of the border region due to environmental restrictions. However, many lawmakers, both Republican and Democrat argue that these restrictions create channels where Mexican smugglers travel across the border unabated." read more

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