Sep 30, 2011

MexicoBlog Editorial: Further Delusions of Power

In its just released report, "Responding to Violence in Central America," the Senate Caucus on International Narcotics Control once again gets it wrong. The failure, of course starts with the overriding goal embedded in the group's name, that is, the desire to "control" the international narcotics market. We have written before as to how this fundamental error -- the assumption that U.S. power can resolve the drug issue -- underlies all U.S. drug prohibition policy. (See MexicoBlog editorial: The Delusion of Power.)

Following from this erroneous premise, the recommendations for helping Central America first of all propose doing more of the same. This includes:
  • expanding the Drug Enforcement Agency -- which a New York Times article documented, "has been transformed into a global intelligence organization" with 87 offices in 63 countries -- into these seven additional countries. 
  • establishing State Department Narcotics Affairs Sections in the U.S. embassies in each country. This is the same section responsible for managing the Merida Initiative and is headed by William Brownfield, who has recently been bragging about the success of that Initiative.
But the most remarkable recommendation -- that is, the one that most demonstrates the blindness of U.S. policy -- is for, "collaboration with the countries of Central America to map the causes and sources of violence" and their connection with Mexican drug cartels. While these countries have more than their share of "causes of violence," this recommendation once again totally ignores that a major force feeding the roots of this expanding violence is U.S. drug policy and the resulting billions of dollars earned by the cartels. (See MexicoBlog editorial, "Why Such Extreme Violence?")

As long as the United States government remains deluded about its ability to use the power of the state to defeat the power of the drug market and as long as it continues to deny that the driving force for the entire catatrosphe of the "war against drugs" lies in its own policy and laws, none of its strategies, plans or recommendations will save Central America or Mexico from their descent into Hell. 

Drug War: Responding to Violence in Central America -- A Report by the United States Senate Caucus on International Narcotics Control

"Violence in Central America has reached crisis levels. Throughout Central America, Mexican drug trafficking organizations, local drug traffickers, transnational youth gangs, and other illegal criminal networks are taking advantage of weak governance and underperforming justice systems. This report outlines a series of concrete steps that the United States can take to support the seven countries of Central America as they try to improve security. The report does not call for large amounts of new money but instead recommends investments in key programs with host country partners.

The report’s most important recommendations for the Administration and
Congress include:

  • Expansion of first-rate, vetted law enforcement units which work with the Drug Enforcement Administration – such as those in Guatemala and Panama – to all seven countries in Central America; 
  • Elimination of  unnecessary red tape by allowing security assistance destined for Central America to be managed directly by each of the U.S. embassies in Central America rather than the U.S. Embassy in Mexico; 
  • Establishment from existing resources of Narcotics Affairs Sections in U.S. embassies in Central America – particularly in Honduras and El Salvador; 
  • Increased support for witness, judge and prosecutor protection programs in Central America which would help empower individuals to utilize their countries’ justice systems;    
  • Greater encouragement of extraditions of high-level criminals from Central America to the United States; and
  • Collaboration with the countries of Central America to map the causes and sources of violence in the subregion to better understand the interactions between Mexican and local drug trafficking organizations, transnational youth gangs and other illegal criminal networks."

Drug War Collateral Damage: Teachers End Strike

Hopefully, the media will follow this to see the actual results.

NYTimes.com: "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."

U.S. - Mexican Relations: U.S.-Mexico border governors sign crime-fighting pacts

The absurdity of this meeting -- only one of three U.S. governors and only three of six Mexican governors attended --  and its ostensible "outcome" reflects, to us, the absurdity of U.S. and Mexican policy and "collaborative" strategy regarding the "drug war." 

Reuters: "Governors along the U.S.-Mexico border agreed on Thursday to examine how to create shared databases where they can swap DNA and other biometric information on criminals in an effort to curb the flow of guns and drugs between the two countries. Officials announced the agreement at the end of an annual conference of regional leaders from both sides of the border that this year failed to attract many chief executives.

New Mexico's Republican governor Susana Martinez was the only U.S. governor in attendance along with three governors, out of the six invited, from the Mexican side. The Texas governor, Republican Presidential hopeful Rick Perry, was not present and his state did not sign the final agreement."

Week's Top Articles on Mexico: Sept. 23-29, 2011

Mexico Drug War: Three articles focus on the efforts of Mexican citizens to use social media to inform one another about the drug war in their communities and the violent response by the Zetas cartel in order to stop this flow of information. 


Three articles talk about the Mexican police and army. The first reports the poor pay police continue to receive, while the second analyzes how simply raising salaries without instituting other major reforms will not end police corruption and collusion with the drug cartels.  The third is about the army's request for a huge increase in funding to add more battalions and purchase modern equipment for the fight against the cartels. Leaders in the Mexican Congress support this proposal. 


Human Rights: Mexico's Supreme Court failed to overturn a state law prohibiting abortion. Seven of eleven judges voted to declare it unconstitutional, but a "super majority" of eight votes is needed to make a law unconstitutional. 


Mexico Border: Two articles talk about Texas' "border security strategy." The first reviews a report prepared for the state of Texas making the case that violence is spilling over from Mexico and that the state therefore needs to do more to achieve "border security." The article points out, however, that no hard data, only anonymous, anecdotal stories, are presented to back up this claim. The second article is an analysis of the political pork barrel that this ¨Texas strategy" feeds.


Immigration: A federal judge upheld most of the provisions of Alabama's law cracking down on unauthorized immigrants.


Drug War: Social Media


Mexico Turns to Twitter and Facebook for Information and Survival
NYTimes.com: Sept. 25, "... according to scholars and many Mexicans, social media has become a necessity in Mexico, with a mission far different from what has emerged in the Arab revolutions, or in China. In those countries, social networks have been used to route around identifiable sources of repression and to unify groups dispersed over large areas. In Mexico, Twitter, Facebook and other tools are instead deployed for local survival.

“These aren’t acts of political sedition or real-time attempts to bring about a change in government,” said Nicholas T. Goodbody, a professor of Mexican cultural studies at Williams College. “These are people trying to navigate daily life.”"

Newspaper, bloggers stunned by killing in Mexico
 MiamiHerald.com: Sept. 27, "The killing of a Mexican woman purportedly in retaliation for her postings on an anti-crime website has left stunned chat users and employees at the newspaper where she worked wondering who can still be safe in the violent border city of Nuevo Laredo.

Press freedom groups condemned the killing of Maria Elizabeth Macias, whose decapitated body and head were found Saturday next to a message citing posts she wrote on "Nuevo Laredo en Vivo," a website used by Laredo residents to denounce crime and warn each other about drug cartel gunfights and roadblocks.

Some bloggers vowed to keep up the fight against powerful drug cartels but warned users to trust no one."

The Zetas' Biggest Rival: Social Networks
InSight Crime: Sept. 28, "The Mexican border town of Nuevo Laredo has seen three brutal killings in an apparent campaign by the Zetas against social media websites -- what is it about these sites that makes the gang so angry?

... The show of citizens grouping together to defy the criminal groups, prominently displayed on NLV (Nuevo Laredo en Vivio), poses a challenge to the Zetas’ image. Much of the traditional forms of media have been cowed into silence --...  This stands in contrast to the outpouring of tributes to the dead woman, and protests against the Zetas that could be found on the website. Many posters rail against the “ratazzz,” or rats, spelt with a z to represent the Zetas, who are “ruining Nuevo Laredo.” Online forums like NLV represent an arena of defiance that is difficult for the Zetas to control, and this is a challenge to their authority -- one that they are answering with an escalation of brutality."

Drug War: Mexican Police and Army

Despite Violence - Many Mexican Police Still Paid Low Wages
Fox News Latino: Sept. 25, "They are fighting a violent drug war - but a new government report released Sunday shows many Mexican police officers still earn $350 per month or less, despite reform efforts aimed at increasing wages and decreasing corruption among the country's police."

Pay Rises Alone Won't Break Chain of Police Corruption
InSight Crime: Sept. 30, "...  it’s not clear that higher salaries will be a determining factor in cleaning up the police. A pair of recent studies looking at police corruption in Mexico, the first by John Bailey and Matthew Taylor, the second by Daniel Sabet, conclude that salary is just one of the variables that determines whether an officer decides to actively work with criminal gangs, to merely tolerate them, or to confront them.

The other factors, which can weigh just as heavily, include the likelihood of being caught and the severity of the resulting penalty; the moral cost and the degree of personal commitment to the job; and the probability of suffering physical attacks, both in cases of agreeing or refusing to work with the gangs."

Mexico's Army Seeks More Funding, But Should it Have Key Security Role?

InSight Crime: Sept. 26, "Mexico's Ministry of Defense (SEDENA) is lobbying the country’s Congress for more than 13 billion pesos ($980 million) in funding to modernize the army and add thousands of new soldiers to its ranks. According to chairman of the Congressional Defense Committee, Rogelio Cerda Perez, the expansion and modernization of the army is “not a luxury but a necessity." He has called for "more troops on the streets," to fight drug trafficking gangs. The need to renew weaponry and vehicles is urgent, Cerda argues, with some equipment dating back to World War II. The 13 billion pesos demanded by the ministry would be used to reshape the army entirely, adding 10,800 troops and creating 18 new special forces battalions specialized in combating drug trafficking.
read more

Human Rights

Mexico supreme court upholds state’s right-to-life amendment, making abortion ban state issue
The Washington Post: "Mexico’s supreme court on Wednesday let stand a right-to-life amendment to the Baja California state constitution that says life begins at conception and effectively bans elective abortions in the northern border state. The ruling appeared to allow Mexican states to decide individually on the abortion question, though the court has also agreed to review a similar amendment from the state of San Luis Potosi.

Sixteen of Mexico’s 31 states have adopted right-to-life amendments that severely restrict abortions, though almost all continue to allow it under some circumstances like rape or danger to a mother’s life. Only Mexico City has legalized abortion on demand in the first trimester."
Mexico Border

Is violence spilling across the border? New report sheds little light
Austin Statesman: Sept. 29,  "Few topics in Texas are more politically charged than the issue of violence spilling into Texas from the ongoing drug war in Mexico. ... But what’s been missing in the debate is conclusive evidence of whether spillover violence is actually occurring along the Texas border.

As we reported in Tuesday’s paper, the latest report seeking to bring clarity to the issue is the $80,000 “Texas Border Security: A Strategic Military Assessment.” Produced by two retired generals and commissioned by the Texas Departments of Agriculture and Public Safety, the report comes to some powerful conclusions: Not only is spillover violence real, but conditions on both sides of the Texas border are akin to a “war zone” and border residents are under attack “around the clock.” America’s fight against “narco-terrorism” is taking on “the classic trappings of a real war.”

But the report relies not on new statistics, or analysis of existing statistics. Instead it largely uses anonymous anecdotal evidence from ranchers and farmers, most of it culled from online postings. (The website, protectyourtexasborder.com is run by the state agriculture department and aims to win more federal help for border security.)"
How Unaccountable Private Contractors Pocket Your Tax Dollars Militarizing the Texas Border
AlterNet: Sept. 27,  "Heavy on outsourcing and lacking documented success, the "Texas model" of border security's features are not original, but borrowed directly from the DHS or the military and are funded with federal money."

Immigration

Alabama to enforce strict immigration laws
CBS News: Sept. 29, "Police in Alabama are getting ready to enforce what is considered by many as the toughest immigration law in the United States. Beginning Thursday, authorities can question people suspected of being in the country illegally and hold them without bond, and officials can check the immigration status of students in public schools, Gov. Robert Bentley said. Those two key aspects of Alabama's new law were upheld by a federal judge on Wednesday. The governor said parts of the law take effect immediately. "We intend to enforce it," Bentley said."

Mexico Drug War: The 'Zeta Killers' and the Rise of Narco-Horror

This analysis of the Mexico crug cartels' use of media rambles a bit, but presents some interesting points of view on the history and function of "narco-horror" as communication.

InSight Crime: "The release of a new video showing an armed group calling themselves the "Zeta Killers" confirms the evolution of Mexico's drug war into a battle of information, images, and propaganda played out in the media."

Mexico Drug War: Mexico denies that paramilitaries operate

The Washington Post: "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."

Immigration Crackdown: Repatriation flights to Mexico end for '11

Arizona StarNet: "Nearly 9,000 illegal border crossers took free flights home to Mexico City this summer in the eighth annual edition of a binational Mexican Interior Repatriation Program aimed at saving lives. The 8,893 people who participated are the fewest since the program was launched in 2004. At least 10,500 had participated each year, with a record 23,384 taking the flights in 2010, government figures show.

The decrease in participants this summer is likely attributable to a precipitous decline in Border Patrol apprehensions. Officials reduced the program this year to one flight a day, instead of two, because of that decrease. Under the voluntary program, non-criminal Mexican illegal immigrants caught by the Border Patrol in Arizona are offered free flights to Mexico City. From there, they are given bus passes to return to their hometowns.

Drug War - Collateral Damage: School threats spread to northern Mexico

Forbes.com: " Banners similar to those left by Mexican drug cartels appeared Thursday threatening to attack schools in three communities outside the northern Mexico city of Monterrey.

... But there was no immediate indication that the banners left in communities in the township of Santiago on the outskirts of Monterrey would affect classes there. Santiago Mayor Vladimiro Montalvo Salas said he asked state and federal authorities to step up security in the township, but urged parents to continue sending their children to school."

U.S. - Mexico Relations: Three Governors From U.S. Skip Meeting With Mexican Governors

An insult to the country we call "our neighbor."

NYTimes.com: "The opening ceremony of a border governors forum here had it all: mariachi singers and a fireworks show entertained dignitaries who vowed to renew a spirit of cooperation between the states lining both sides of the United States-Mexico border.


There was only one thing missing from the 29th annual Border Governors Conference: Three United States governors. Only one of the four American governors whose states share a border with Mexico — Gov. Susana Martinez of New Mexico — attended the conference. The other three — Gov. Rick Perry of Texas, Gov. Jan Brewer of Arizona and Gov. Jerry Brown of California — said their schedules prevented them from attending. "

Immigration Politics: Obama administration widens challenges to state immigration laws

The Washington Post: "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."

Human Rights: Mexico court upholds 2nd state right-to-life code

The Associated Press: "For the second time in two days, Mexico's supreme court has let stand a state right-to-life amendment that severely limits abortions. Thursday's decision involves Mexico's north-central state of San Luis Potosi. The court upheld a similar measure in Baja California on Wednesday."

Human Rights: Mexico supreme court upholds state’s right-to-life amendment, making abortion ban state issue

The Washington Post: "Mexico’s supreme court on Wednesday let stand a right-to-life amendment to the Baja California state constitution that says life begins at conception and effectively bans elective abortions in the northern border state.

The ruling appeared to allow Mexican states to decide individually on the abortion question, though the court has also agreed to review a similar amendment from the north-central state of San Luis Potosi.

Sixteen of Mexico’s 31 states have adopted right-to-life amendments that severely restrict abortions, though almost all continue to allow it under some circumstances like rape or danger to a mother’s life. Only Mexico City has legalized abortion on demand in the first trimester."

Sep 29, 2011

A Mexican View: Authoritarian Despair

A column by John Ackerman on the passage of a law in the state of Veracruz punishing the use of social media to spread information if it proves to be false and creates public alarm and disorder. This law was a reaction to the so-called "Twitter Terroists."  Ackerman is a researcher in the Institute for Judicial Research of the National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM) and editorial director of the Mexican Law Review. 
Translated by AMB. Original in Spanish

MEXICO CITY, Proceso. The regime reacts in a desperate manner to its obvious failure in achieving the goal of controlling the violence and social unrest that runs through the country. Instead of solving the underlying problems, daily it deepens its repressive and propagandistic strategy. Recall that six months ago, on March 24, more than 50 media outlets signed an agreement for the coverage of violence within the framework of the so-called Mexico Initiative. The pact proposed "to standardize" propagandistic journalism, to give a feeling of greater security to the population and to bolster the legitimacy of the government of Felipe Calderón and the entire political class.

That agreement has failed miserably. Today, official data from the National Institute of Statistics and Geography (INEGi) show that Mexican feel more insecure and less confident than ever about government institutions. 69.5% of people over 18 feel unsafe in their state, four percentage points higher than last year. In the same period, confidence in the Navy fell eight points to reach 47% in the Army, seven points to 46%, and the Federal Police, nearly 10 points, to close at just 17%. These opinions are based on facts, since the same study shows that the number of common law offenses rose by a whopping 90% between 2009 and 2010, 12 to 23 million. Of crimes in 2010, only 12% were reported by victims, and 8% are being investigated by the authorities.

The reality of the political crisis has laid bare the fiction of Mexico Initiative. The fire at the Casino Royale has uncovered a cesspool of corruption and complicity within the PAN political class in Monterrey. Kidnappings and extortion against teachers in Acapulco have shown the total failure of the governments of the PRD regarding its intention to conduct a real political and institutional transition. The explosion of violence and the blatant appropriation of public space by criminals in states like Veracruz, Tamaulipas, Nuevo Leon, Coahuila and Mexico reveal the loss of governability in the main bastions of the old party-state.

Faced with few results from the "Agreement" of the national media, Calderon is now seeking to move the smoke screen to the north. The president's presentation last Thursday in New York on the television program The Royal Tour, where he served as a tour guide, was not a genuine effort to promote investment and travel to our country, but another attempt to "shield" the president's image from the increasingly frequent criticism for his administration. The basic objective is to shore up the eventual candidate of the PAN who will face the presidential elections next year.

But in recent weeks, the effort to control the flow of information has taken a truly macabre twist. Three weeks ago the governor of Veracruz, Javier Duarte, unjustly imprisoned journalist Jesus Maria Bravo and teacher Gilberto Martinez for forwarding information on social networks that proved false regarding the commission of acts of violence in some primary schools in Veracruz. (My analysis here: http://bit.ly/oVyB37.) While the governor has “pardoned” them for a crime they never committed, he has simultaneously pushed through the state legislature a true legal aberration that penalizes not only the freedom of expression but also fear and social solidarity.

On Tuesday September 20 an amendment to Penal Code of Veracruz was published in the Official Gazette of the state to include the new crime of "disturbing public order". Whoever, "by any means, falsely claims the existence of explosive devices or of assaults with firearms, or toxic chemicals that can cause health damage, thereby causing disruption of public order, shall be liable to imprisonment one to four years and a fine of 500 to a thousand days of minimum wage, taking into account the alarm or disturbance actually produced.”

This amendment violates all international treaties and international standards on freedom of expression as it punishes communication" any means, " without specification, and does not require the existence of" premeditated” or antisocial intent. So today in Veracruz any housewife who warns her neighbor to be careful when going to market because she heard gunshots at the corner, although this has not happened, can be apprehended and sent to jail for four years. In contrast, the real criminals are allowed to place 35 bodies in public, calmly and in broad daylight in the middle of one of the busiest and most touristic areas of the city.
.
This crude and insulting contradiction is the perfect example of the institutional crisis that exists in Mexico today. Our leaders are more concerned with silencing the public and social criticism than stopping the violence and corruption.

Fortunately, there are still some legal avenues to overturn the “Law Duarte”. The national ombudsman, Raul Plascencia, should immediately file a motion of unconstitutionality before the Supreme Court. (Here the application made ​​by two prominent activists: http://bit.ly/p63QO9.) Attorney General Marisela Morales should also do the same. Otherwise, before national and international public opinion, she will prove herself to be a direct accomplice of repression led by Duarte.

An omission in this matter by the Attorney General would also give the green light to the possible adoption of similar reforms in other states and even at the federal level. For example, the Congress of Tabasco is now in the process of preparing a law that would penalize “social alarm” in the Veracruz manner. What is in play here is no more nor less than our very own democratic life. 

Www.johnackerman.blogspot.com

Drug War Bloodshed: 2 Confidantes of Juarez Police Chief Gunned Down in a Weekend

InSight Crime: "Two men described as trusted associates of Ciudad Juarez police chief Julian Leyzaola were shot dead in the Mexican border city in separate incidents within a 12 hour period.

Simon Saul Estrada Luevano, acting chief guard at the city’s prison, was killed on his day off while at home with his family Saturday night. An armed gang broke into his home and shot him 30 times. The 36-year-old had only recently been appointed to his post.

Less than 12 hours later, police officer Roberto Carlos Maldonado Ruiz, 38, was ambushed by armed men as he travelled home, after leaving a police station where he was in charge of the night shift. After being shot several times, his vehicle crashed into a concrete wall and he died at the scene."



Drug War - Police Corruption: Pay Rises Alone Won't Break Chain of Police Corruption

InSight Crime: Sept. 30, "...  it’s not clear that higher salaries will be a determining factor in cleaning up the police. A pair of recent studies looking at police corruption in Mexico, the first by John Bailey and Matthew Taylor, the second by Daniel Sabet, conclude that salary is just one of the variables that determines whether an officer decides to actively work with criminal gangs, to merely tolerate them, or to confront them.

The other factors, which can weigh just as heavily, include the likelihood of being caught and the severity of the resulting penalty; the moral cost and the degree of personal commitment to the job; and the probability of suffering physical attacks, both in cases of agreeing or refusing to work with the gangs."

... Viewed this way, police corruption becomes a self-perpetuating feedback loop, and if the authorities tinker with only one of the variables, whether by raising salaries or recruiting better qualified officers, the corrupting dynamic will likely remain intact. An effective plan to reduce corruption needs to address all of the factors more or less simultaneously. This would involved (among other measures) more robust internal affairs bureaus and vetting tests for officers, protection for threatened police, and, yes, higher salaries to improve institutional morale and reduce the appeal of illicit earnings."

Mexico Drug War Cartels: No Need to Worry About Mexico's Elusive Paramilitary Groups

InSight Crime: "For anyone looking to explain why paramilitarism is on the rise in Mexico, the case of the Mata Zetas, or "Zeta Killers" is a terrible example. The group, which first appeared in late July, has spoken of their desire to rid Veracruz of the Zetas drug gang, describing themselves as a "paramilitary arm of the people."

The group does not appear to be a collection of citizens who have mobilized against drug violence and crime. The most accepted version of their origins is that they are a faction of a Jalisco-based drug gang looking to displace the Zetas from the Veracruz plaza. To describe them as "paramilitary" implies a certain level of grassroots, citizen-led organization, spurred by funding from influential families, or else sources in the private sector or politics. However, in the case of the Mata Zetas, it's unclear whether are backed by anyone other than a criminal group, the Jalisco Cartel - New Generation (Cartel de Jalisco Nueva Generacion - CJNG)."

Immigration Crackdown: Alabama to enforce strict immigration laws

CBS News: "Police in Alabama are getting ready to enforce what is considered by many as the toughest immigration law in the United States. Beginning Thursday, authorities can question people suspected of being in the country illegally and hold them without bond, and officials can check the immigration status of students in public schools, Gov. Robert Bentley said. Those two key aspects of Alabama's new law were upheld by a federal judge on Wednesday. The governor said parts of the law take effect immediately. "We intend to enforce it," Bentley said."

Drug War - Fast and Furious: Gunrunning Informant Used Taxpayer Money To Buy Drugs, Possibly Guns, Lawmakers Allege | Fox News

Fox News: "Congressional investigators are confronting the Justice Department about evidence they say indicates an FBI informant used U.S. taxpayer money not only to buy drugs but also possibly to buy guns for the Sinaloa cartel.

...The informant first received at least $3,500 in official law enforcement funds as payment for illegal narcotics, according to a letter Tuesday to Attorney General Eric Holder from Rep. Darrell Issa and Sen. Charles Grassley. Issa and Grassley, who don’t elaborate on the nature of that payment, say the informant then became the "financier" for a firearms trafficking ring while cooperating with the FBI and receiving "additional payments as a confidential informant.""

Drug War - Fast and Furious: ATF Fast and Furious guns turned up in El Paso

latimes.com: "A cache of assault weapons lost in the ATF's gun-trafficking surveillance operation in Phoenix turned up in El Paso, where it was being stored for shipment to Mexico, according to new internal agency emails and federal court records. Forty firearms along with ammunition magazines and ballistic vests were discovered in Texas in January 2010 during the early stages of the program, meaning the firearms vanished soon after the program began."

Immigration Crackdown: U.S. makes deported immigrants take the long way home

latimes.com: "the Alien Transfer Exit Program ... tries to disrupt immigration patterns. For years, immigrants were deported across the border from where they were caught, a practice that allowed them to easily reconnect with smugglers who would try to bring them across again, sometimes within hours.

Under the transfer program, many immigrants who are caught in California are flown to Texas border cities, and the flights return west filled with immigrants caught in Texas. In Arizona, immigrant groups are divided, with some deported through Texas and others through California."

The Other Border: U.S. eyes fencing along Canadian border

Of course, this means more money for the Customs and Border Protection agency of the Department of Homeland Security . And Republicans have said they will not cut the Homeland Security budget. 

The Globe and Mail: "The United States is looking at building fences along the border with Canada to help keep out terrorists and other criminals. The U.S. Customs and Border Protection agency has proposed the use of “fencing and other barriers” on the 49th parallel to manage “trouble spots where passage of cross-border violators is difficult to control.”

The border service is also pondering options including a beefed-up technological presence through increased use of radar, sensors, cameras, drones and vehicle scanners. ... The agency considered but ruled out the possibility of hiring “significantly more” U.S. Border Patrol agents to increase the rate of inspections, noting staffing has already risen in recent years."

The Border: Is violence spilling across the border? New report sheds little light

For a recent critical look at the Texas "border security model, see our post by Tom Barry of the TransBorder Project. The "retired generals," who produced the report discussed in this article run a security consulting firm and are the designers and operators of Texas' border security program. So by painting a picture of increasing violence, they are making the case that Texas needs to do more and, therefore, pay them more money. Most of the money comes from federal grants, not state funds. See also: Tom Barry's indepth report on the Texas strategy, At War in Texas 

Focal Point: "Few topics in Texas are more politically charged than the issue of violence spilling into Texas from the ongoing drug war in Mexico. ... But what’s been missing in the debate is conclusive evidence of whether spillover violence is actually occurring along the Texas border.

As we reported in Tuesday’s paper, the latest report seeking to bring clarity to the issue is the $80,000 “Texas Border Security: A Strategic Military Assessment.” Produced by two retired generals and commissioned by the Texas Departments of Agriculture and Public Safety, the report comes to some powerful conclusions: Not only is spillover violence real, but conditions on both sides of the Texas border are akin to a “war zone” and border residents are under attack “around the clock.” America’s fight against “narco-terrorism” is taking on “the classic trappings of a real war.”

But the report relies not on new statistics, or analysis of existing statistics. Instead it largely uses anonymous anecdotal evidence from ranchers and farmers, most of it culled from online postings. (The website, protectyourtexasborder.com is run by the state agriculture department and aims to win more federal help for border security.)"



Immigration Crackdown: Companies Use Immigration Crackdown to Turn a Profit

This article focuses on Australia, but gives some informantion about privately run detention centers in the U.S.

NYTimes.com: "In the United States — with almost 400,000 annual detentions in 2010, up from 280,000 in 2005 — private companies now control nearly half of all detention beds, compared with only 8 percent in state and federal prisons, according to government figures."

Sep 28, 2011

Immigration Politics: Rick Perry campaign defends his record and debate performance

latimes.com: "Rick Perry's campaign is fighting back forcefully to defend his record and reassure supporters concerned about his shaky debate performances, sending the Texas governor's wife on the campaign trail to explain his position on immigration and holding telephone town halls in which the candidate himself engaged voters on those subjects.

During a swing through Iowa, Texas First Lady Anita Perry argued that her husband, who has faced fire about his support for in-state college tuition rates for illegal immigrants and his opposition to a border fence, was being unfairly castigated."

Mexico Drug War: The Zetas' Biggest Rival: Social Networks

InSight Crime: "The Mexican border town of Nuevo Laredo has seen three brutal killings in an apparent campaign by the Zetas against social media websites -- what is it about these sites that makes the gang so angry?

... The show of citizens grouping together to defy the criminal groups, prominently displayed on NLV (Nuevo Laredo en Vivio), poses a challenge to the Zetas’ image. Much of the traditional forms of media have been cowed into silence --...  This stands in contrast to the outpouring of tributes to the dead woman, and protests against the Zetas that could be found on the website. Many posters rail against the “ratazzz,” or rats, spelt with a z to represent the Zetas, who are “ruining Nuevo Laredo.” Online forums like NLV represent an arena of defiance that is difficult for the Zetas to control, and this is a challenge to their authority -- one that they are answering with an escalation of brutality."

Immigration Politics: Rick Perry Walks Back ‘No Heart’ Comment on Immigration

ABC News: "Facing heat for his positions on illegal immigration, Rick Perry walked back last week’s statement at a Republican presidential debate that people who oppose in-state tuition for illegal immigrants have “no heart.”
“I probably choose a poor word to explain that. For people who don’t want their state to be giving tuition to illegal aliens, illegal immigrants in this country, that’s their call, and I respect that,” Perry said in an interview with Newsmax. “I was probably a bit over-passionate by using that word, and it was inappropriate.”"

Immigration crackdown: Raids net 2,900 criminals in largest national crackdown

latimes.com: "About 2,900 illegal immigrants with criminal records have been arrested in what authorities on Wednesday called the largest such nationwide crackdown.

... The latest arrests involved more than 1,900 agents from U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement working with state and local officers across the country over the last week, part of an operation called "Cross Check." Officials said 2,901 illegal immigrants were arrested and all had at least one criminal conviction.

Of that group, at least 1,282 had been convicted of multiple charges and more than 1,600 had felony convictions including manslaughter, attempted murder, kidnapping, armed robbery, drug trafficking, child abuse, sexual crimes against minors, and aggravated assault, ICE said in a prepared statement. Forty-two were identified as gang members, the agency said."

Immigration Crackdown - Alabama: Judge Partially Rejects Challenge to Alabama Immigration Law

WSJ: "U.S. District Judge Sharon Blackburn of Alabama upheld key sections of the Alabama law concluding that they are not preempted by federal law. Blackburn let stand the provisions authorizing local police to inquire about detainees’ immigration status and requiring public schools to verify students’ immigration status.

But the judge did enjoin other sections of the law, ruling that “there is a substantial likelihood” that the Justice Department can establish that the sections are preempted by federal law. Blackburn, for example, blocked regulations that make it a crime for illegal residents to apply for a job and that make it unlawful for people to “conceal, harbor or shield” an illegal resident."

Immigration Crackdown - Alabama: Federal judge set to rule on legal challenges to Alabama’s tough new immigration law

The Washington Post: "A federal judge is set to rule on lawsuits challenging the constitutionality of Alabama’s tough new law on illegal immigration. U.S. District Judge Sharon Blackburn wrote last month that she would issue a ruling on the law no later than Wednesday. Her order delaying enforcement of the law expires Thursday."

Drug Trafficking: Smugglers making hand-offs through bars of border fence

From the article: "We block them for awhile and they come up with another plan," Nogales police Lt. Castillo said of the cat-and-mouse game between drug smugglers and law enforcement." When will they ever learn, you can't beat the smugglers?

Nogales International: News: "In another change of tactics precipitated by the new Nogales border fence, smugglers appear to be making narcotics hand-offs from Mexico to the U.S. through the bars of the barrier, authorities say. Lt. Gerry Castillo of the Santa Cruz County Metro Task Force said his office is looking into a case that began in July when investigators discovered a number of oddly shaped bundles of marijuana during a seizure at an undisclosed location.

He said the investigators at first thought the 48 pounds of marijuana that had been wrapped in thin tubular packages might be "tunnel bundles." However, upon closer examination, they discovered that the bundles were not dirty. That's when investigators decided that the packages had likely been passed through the fence, which features interconnected, concrete-filled steel tubes with an approximately 4-inch open space between them.

"Boom-boom," is how Castillo described the suspected hand-offs, in which someone on the Mexico side quickly hands a bundle to a person on the U.S. side before taking off. "We block them for awhile and they come up with another plan," Castillo said of the cat-and-mouse game between drug smugglers and law enforcement."

Drug War - Fast and Furious: Informant helped smuggle guns to Mexico, investigators say

latimes.com: "An FBI/DEA confidential informant helped smuggle firearms from the ATF's Fast and Furious gun-trafficking surveillance operation to drug cartels in Mexico, according to evidence compiled by congressional investigators.

The investigators said the informant obtained the weapons from Manuel Celis-Acosta, considered by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives to be the "biggest fish" of 20 individuals indicted in Fast and Furious. At the same time the informant was receiving large amounts of "official law enforcement funds as payment" for his services, they said."

Drug War Bloodshed: Five severed heads left outside Mexican school

BBC News: "Mexican police have found five decomposing heads left in a sack outside a primary school in Acapulco. Handwritten messages were also found, reportedly threatening the state governor as well as local drug lords.

It was not clear if the discovery of the heads and five decapitated bodies elsewhere in the city was linked to extortion threats against teachers. Dozens of schools have been closed since last month after teachers went on strike over security concerns."

¡Viva Mexico!: Human footprints dating back up to 25,000 years found in Mexico

Fox News Latino: " National Anthropology and History Institute, or INAH, specialists have discovered five human footprints in northern Mexico's Sierra Tarahumara that could be between 4,500 and 23,000 years old, officials said. The find took place in the northern state of Chihuahua after a local resident notified the authorities about the imprints, which were probably left by some of the first humans to populate that region of northern Mexico.

INAH said in a communique that these are "the first human footprints to be found" in Chihuahua and that if their antiquity is verified, "they will be added to the few footprints left by the earliest inhabitants of the American continent that are preserved in Mexico.""

Drug War - Collateral Damage: Education Is Latest Casualty In Mexico's Drug War

NPR: "In the coastal Mexican city of Acapulco, teachers are out on strike — not over wages, working conditions or pensions, but because of crime. Teachers say they're being extorted, kidnapped and intimidated by local gangs and they're refusing to return to their classrooms until the government does something to protect them. Over the last two years, drug cartels fighting for control of Acapulco have terrorized the once-popular tourist resort.

... Manuel Lozano Hernandez, a veteran educator in the Acapulco public schools, says the teachers are publicly fighting a problem that's plaguing taxi drivers, shopkeepers, restaurant owners and even street vendors in Acapulco. "I believe that this fight that the teachers are making is a defining moment, because having been a teacher for 32 years, I'm convinced that teachers have their finger on the pulse of what's happening in every house, every neighborhood, every street, every family. Thus, this issue is very important," he says."

Sep 27, 2011

Mexico Drug War: US Cocaine Prices and Imported Violence

InSight Crime: "The jump in killings in Mexico since 2006 coincided with a rise in cocaine prices in the U.S. -- analyst Alejandro Hope suggests how the price increase could have triggered the outbreak of violence, as traffickers responded to new economic incentives."

MexicoBlog Story: A Rite of Purification and Rededication in the Sacred Space of Monte Albán, Oaxaca


On September 12, the Caravan to the South of Mexico, organized by the Movement for Peace with Justice and Dignity, was in Oaxaca City.  Early in the morning all 300-400 of the caravaneros, those traveling with the Caravan in 13 buses and many cars, joined by their host organizations from Oaxaca, went up a mountain to Monte Albán, one of the oldest sites of Mesoamerican civilization. There they were received by an indigenous Zapotec ceremony of healing. 

Women and men whose families have lost someone in the drug war, the victims, led the procession. Everyone else descended the steep stairs into the plaza holding hands five abreast
. They were walking in the footsteps of  Zapotecas and Mixtecas who have trod those stones for nearly three thousand years. 

The victims of the war formed an inner circle, around an altar constructed in the style of an ofrenda for Dia de los Muertos, Day of the Dead, with flowers, candles and burning copal incense. The rest of the caravaneros and their Oaxacan hosts formed a large circle around them. A Zapotec woman, speaking in a clear, strong voice, explained the significance of each act and item in the ritual and recited prayers to the gods. 



Each one of the victims was then blessed with copal by curanderas, woman healers in traditional dress. They passed the copal smoke slowly from head to foot, side to side and front and back of each person, totally bathing and purifying them with the sacred fumes.


The leader then had the assembled call on the four cardinal directions:  holding both hands up, palms outward, everyone first faced East, the source of the warmth and fierce power of Father Sun; then to the North, whose cold makes us strong and able to endure, then to the West, towards the darkness of night, the underworld and the source of our dreams, and finally to the South, the direction of Mother Earth, the source of fertility. 

Javier Sicilia, leader of the Movement for Peace with Justice and Dignity and a victim of the war through the loss of his son, was asked to step forward. The leader explained that according to Zapotec custom -- and the custom of all indigenous communities -- when a person has completed all the cargos, the various and increasingly demanding communal charges or responsiblities, he is considered ready to lead the community. As a symbol of this highest cargo, he is given a staff (a bastón, symbolic of a stalk of maís-corn, the staff of life). As Javier Sicilia was seen to have completed his cargos, he was instructed to kneel.  The senior woman of the community then gave him the bastón.  He was then massaged with healing herbs and cleansed with copal. 


Next, the assembled group was instructed to walk in a circle to the left and reflect on all the burdens of life that they carried. Then the direction was reversed. Walking to the right, they were to let go of those burdens. 


Finally, as an act of communion with the gods of life and death and with one-another, a symbolic meal of corn tortillas, honey and mezcal -- an alcoholic drink made from the maguey or agave plant -- was shared by everyone. 


In silence, all then walked back up the stairs, leaving the ancient, sacred place, blessed -- and hopefully purified -- to re-enter the mundane world and the sacred work of the Caravan. 



The Border: How Unaccountable Private Contractors Pocket Your Tax Dollars Militarizing the Texas Border

From our CIP colleague, Tom Barry of the TransBorder Project, the facts on Texas Gov. and presidential contender Rick Perry's much touted "Texas model" of border security.

AlterNet: "Heavy on outsourcing and lacking documented success, the "Texas model"of border security's features are not original, but borrowed directly from the DHS or the military and are funded with federal money."

The Border: U.S. Congress Still Wants “Operational Control” of Borders

The Pan-American Post: "Monday, the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Homeland Security announced the approval of HR 2199, the “Secure Border Act of 2011.” The key mandate of the bill is to “achieve operational control of and achieve security at the international land borders of the United States.” The most important term here is “operational control.” As laid out by Congress in the Secure Fence Act of 2006 (pdf), the concept is defined as “the prevention of all unlawful entries into the United States.” As the 2011 bill reaffirms, Congress wants the Department of Homeland Security to essentially seal off the border.

So just how impossible is this task? "

Mexico Drug War: Newspaper, bloggers stunned by killing in Mexico

MiamiHerald.com: "The killing of a Mexican woman purportedly in retaliation for her postings on an anti-crime website has left stunned chat users and employees at the newspaper where she worked wondering who can still be safe in the violent border city of Nuevo Laredo.

Press freedom groups condemned the killing of Maria Elizabeth Macias, whose decapitated body and head were found Saturday next to a message citing posts she wrote on "Nuevo Laredo en Vivo," a website used by Laredo residents to denounce crime and warn each other about drug cartel gunfights and roadblocks.

Some bloggers vowed to keep up the fight against powerful drug cartels but warned users to trust no one."

Mexico Drug War - Irony of the Day: Wife of fugitive Mexican drug lord gives birth in U.S. hospital - latimes.com

latimes.com: "The spaces for "Name of Father" are blank. But the L.A. County birth certificates list the mother, who happens to be the young wife of a highly sought-after drug lord, Joaquin "Chapo" Guzman. Emma Coronel traveled to Southern California in mid-July and gave birth Aug. 15 to twin girls at Antelope Valley Hospital in Lancaster, according to birth records and a senior U.S. law enforcement official.

Turns out Coronel, a 22-year-old former beauty queen, holds U.S. citizenship, which entitles her to travel freely to the United States. By being born in California, and to a mother who is an American citizen, her little girls also have U.S. citizenship."

Mexico Politics: Mayor Marcelo Ebrard is in campaign mode -- for president

latimes.com: "The mayor of Mexico City has thrown himself into the running for Mexico's presidency, making him the latest high-profile figure to enter the 2012 election fray.

Mayor Marcelo Ebrard, a career leftist who governs one of the largest urban centers on the planet, said last week that he would step down from his post by Jan. 1, in compliance with federal campaign rules, to devote himself to the race (link in Spanish).

Over the weekend, while visiting the cities of Guanajuato and Queretaro, Ebrard said Mexico was in need of a "new social pact" founded on "leftist ideals" that could appeal to voters who don't initially consider supporting the Democratic Revolution Party, or PRD."

'via Blog this'

Movement for Peace with Justice: Mexico’s Caravan for Peace Unites Voices of Resistance in Oaxaca

A report from Witness for Peace on the multiple issues of justice and human rights in Oaxaca presented to the Caravan for Peace with Justice and Dignity when it visited on Sept. 12.

Witness for Peace: "In an effort to unite the southern half of the country with the movement against the drug war, the Caravan for Peace and Justice with Dignity is currently traveling (from) Mexico City, through seven Mexican states, and Guatemala. While the war on drugs and state repression play out differently in the southern half of the country, many pressing issues threaten the livelihood and security of these communities. The Caravan’s southern tour brings together the voices of those suffering violence in order to develop new peaceful strategies for repairing the social disintegration that is endemic to Mexican society under the militarized drug war."

Mexico Drug War: Mexican government rejects videos calling for extermination of Zetas cartel

The Washington Post: "The Mexican government said it is investigating videos posted on the Internet in which a gang of masked men vow to exterminate the violent Zetas drug cartel, and said it opposes such vigilante methods.

At least two videos have been posted by a group believed linked to the powerful Sinaloa cartel that calls itself the “Mata Zetas,” or “Zetas Killers.” ... In the most recent video, posted over the weekend, the group says it is attacking the Zetas because people are tired of the gang’s kidnappings and extortion."

Mexico Drug War Politics: Mexicans in favor of continuing the fight against organized crime

AMB translation of the following article: "The next president of Mexico ought to continue the fight against organized crime that was iniciated in this administration according to the opinion of 70% of  some 7,400 citizens interviewed by private organizations for the study "Citizenship, Democracy and Narcoviolence that will be presented this Tuesday.


In comparison, only 27% are in favor of the next president negociating a pact with the narcotraffickers. Nevertheless, the general perception of the citizenry is that the government is losing the fight against crime while only 26% believe it is winning. 


Seventy six percent of those interviewed are opposed to legalization of marijuana and consider that the reduction of poverty. unemployment and the use of military and police force are the ways to combat organized crime. 


Calderon maintains almost 60% approval for his work among the citizens interviewed and only 13% disapprove completely.


Despite the fact that 47% think the army has been corrupted by the narcotraffickers, 60% -- and in states such as Chihuahua up to 80% -- think that the army has reduced the effects of the violence derived from narcotrafficking. 


The army, together with the marines, maintain a high level of approval among Mexicans, according to this poll.  Only 4% disapprove. In comparison, political parties, congressional deputies, senators, the Supreme Court, governors and mayors maintain the greatest levels of disapproval and lack of confidence, while on the other side are the church, universities and the media."

CNNMéxico.com: "El próximo presidente de México debe continuar la lucha contra el crimen organizado que inició en este sexenio, opinó el 70% de unos 7,400 ciudadanos encuestados por organismos privados para el estudio Ciudadanía, Democracia y Narcoviolencia que será presentado este martes.

En contraparte solo un 27% dijo estar a favor de que el siguiente presidente negocie o pacte con los narcotraficantes.

La percepción general del ciudadano entrevistado sin embargo es que el gobierno está perdiendo la lucha contra la delincuencia, pues solo un 26% cree que la va ganando..

..El 76% de los entrevistados dijeron estar en contra de la legalización de la marihuana y consideraron que la reducción de la pobreza, el desempleo, el uso de la fuerza militar y policiaca son los caminos para combatir a la delincuencia organizada.

Calderón cuenta con con casi un 60% de aprobación en su trabajo por parte de los ciudadanos entrevistados, y solo un 13% lo desaprueba totalmente.

... A pesar de que un 47% piensa que los militares han sido corrompidos por el narcotráfico, un 60% -y estados como Chihuahua, hasta un 80%-, opinan que es el Ejército el que ha reducido los efectos de la violencia derivados del narcotráfico.

El Ejército junto con la Marina conservan un alto nivel de aprobación entre los mexicanos según esta encuesta; en promedio solo un 4% de los entrevistados reprueba su actuación.

En contraparte, partidos políticos, diputados, senadores, la Suprema Corte de Justicia de la Nación, gobernadores y alcaldes, mantienen los mayores índices de reprobación y desconfianza, mientras que en el lado opuesto están la Iglesia, las universidades y los medios de comunicación."



Sep 26, 2011

Mexico Drug War: Counterinsurgency is not the Answer for Mexico

InSight Crime: "Some in Washington are calling for a counterinsurgency strategy against Mexico's drug gangs -- this not only misrepresents the security situation in that country, but its proponents have provided no good arguments for the move."

Mexico Drug War: Mexico's Army Seeks More Funding, But Should it Have Key Security Role?

Mexico continues to go down the same wrong militarization path as the U.S.

InSight Crime: "Mexico's Ministry of Defense (SEDENA) is lobbying the country’s Congress for more than 13 billion pesos ($980 million) in funding to modernize the army and add thousands of new soldiers to its ranks. According to chairman of the Congressional Defense Committee, Rogelio Cerda Perez, the expansion and modernization of the army is “not a luxury but a necessity." He has called for "more troops on the streets," to fight drug trafficking gangs. The need to renew weaponry and vehicles is urgent, Cerda argues, with some equipment dating back to World War II. The 13 billion pesos demanded by the ministry would be used to reshape the army entirely, adding 10,800 troops and creating 18 new special forces battalions specialized in combating drug trafficking.

... despite .... the evident deterioration of the security situation in Mexico since 2006, Rogelio Cerda Perez is adamant that the blame for the failures of the last four years should be placed on insufficient government funding of the army, rather than on the unsuitability of the armed forces for internal security work. Under this theory, the army is simply not adequately equipped to combat the powerful transnational drug cartels, which have laid siege to many towns and regions. Cerda believes that the government’s aspirations to counter drug trafficking gangs through a military strategy will remain unsuccessful, unless defense spending increases significantly on current levels."

Immigration Realities vs. Politics: The Illegal Immigration Collapse

WSJ.com: "To listen to the recent Republican Presidential debates, you'd think illegal immigration was the biggest threat to the U.S. economy—not to mention to the rule of law, our social fabric and national security. We hate to spoil the political reverie, but the real immigration story these days is how many fewer illegal migrants are trying to get into the land of the free.

That's the news from the Department of Homeland Security, which reports that border apprehensions have dropped to their lowest level in nearly 40 years. For fiscal 2010, arrests were 463,000, down from 724,000 in 2008—a one-third decline in two years. In the first 11 months of fiscal 2011, through August, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement reports that apprehensions were 316,458, well below last year's level. As the nearby chart shows, as recently as 2006 more than one million illegals were arrested entering the country each year."

'via Blog this'

Sep 25, 2011

Mexico Drug War: Despite Violence - Many Mexican Police Still Paid Low Wages, Report Says

Fox News Latino: "They are fighting a violent drug war - but a new government report released Sunday shows many Mexican police officers still earn $350 per month or less, despite reform efforts aimed at increasing wages and decreasing corruption among the country's police."

Drug War Bloodshed: Decapitated woman mourned by social media website

latimes.com: "A woman found decapitated in the border city of Nuevo Laredo is being mourned as an apparent member of a social networking site used by local residents to share information on drug cartel activity. The victim was found early Saturday with a note nearby saying she was killed for posting messages online about violent or criminal incidents in Nuevo Laredo.

The Tamaulipas state attorney general's office identified the woman as Maria Elizabeth Macias Castro, 39, and said she was an editor at the newspaper Primera Hora (links in Spanish). The Associated Press, however, quoting an employee of the newspaper, identified the victim as Marisol Macias Castaneda, and said she held an administrative and not an editorial post at Primera Hora."

Mexico Crime: Mexican Teachers Push Back Against Gangs’ Extortion Attempt

NYTimes.com: Acapulco, "Extortion is a booming industry in Mexico, with reported cases having almost tripled since 2004. To some analysts, it is an unintended consequence of the government’s strategy in the drug war: as the large cartels splinter, armies of street-level thugs schooled in threats and violence have brought their skills to new enterprises.

But the threat to teachers here in this tarnished tourist resort has taken the practice to a new level. Since the anonymous threats began last month, when students returned to classes after summer break, hundreds of schools have shut down."

MexicoBlog Editorial: Why Such Extreme Violence?

My seatmate on the Caravan to the South was a mature woman from Cuernavaca, the birthplace of the Movement for Peace with Justice and Dignity. I asked her why she was on the journey. She responded that her son was a school mate and close friend of Juan Francisco, the murdered son of Javier Sicilia, the leader of the Movement. Both she and her son are well aware that he could have been one of the friends who died with Juan Francisco.

So she joined the nascent Movement from its first vigil in Cuernavaca's plaza. She had marched and traveled as part of each of its subsequent demonstrations - walking for three days and fifty miles over the mountains from Cuernavaca to Mexico City and then traveling with the first Caravan 1,500 miles north to Ciudad Juárez and the frontier with the United States. Now she was traveling 1,800 miles south from Cuernavaca to Acapulco, Oaxaca, Chiapas and the frontier with Guatemala. I was humbled to be her companion.

She is a lawyer by profession, specializing in human rights. Learning that I was a retired psychoanalyst, she asked me a most striking and profound question. "Why is the violence of the cartels so extreme?" I had to give it much thought for a day before daring to venture a response.

No More Blood!
Violence," I said, "always erupts from extreme discrepancies in power, actual or perceived splits between the powerful and the powerless." Between Mexico and the United States there are extreme differences of power, as well as within Mexico." 

The relationship between the two countries began with an explicit imposition of the greater power of the U.S. upon Mexico, the invasion of the Mexican-American War. The outcome was the U.S.'s seizure of over half of Mexico's territory and the drawing of an arbitrary border between the two nations. The border was drawn to take the best of the land, Texas and California, to raise slave-grown cotton and to give the U.S. seaports on the Pacific. The land in between, New Mexico and Arizona, was to provide a path for a railroad through the new territory. 

After some Congressional debate about taking "all of Mexico," the harsher land of mountains and desert to the south was left to the "poor, brown, Catholic people" on the other side. Only thirteen percent of the land is arable. Because of lack of water, most fields only produce one crop a year. The "line in the sand" between the two countries -- marking and reinforcing the extremes of power and powerlessness between them -- is now being further reinforced daily to defend the powerful against the threats of the powerless.

On one side of the divide, in the U.S., there is much wealth. The people of the U.S. live with the assumption -- at least up until of late -- that one has power over one's own life. Anyone can become a finanacial success. Anything is possible; the future is open, always offering opportunity. One can have anything one wants, and -- in this internet world, with the click of a finger and a credit card -- virtually instantaneously. This is the Manifest Destiny deserved by an exceptional people.

In sharp contrast, Mexico has always had a clear, marked split between those with wealth and power and those without. For at least five hundred years, the people had no power in relation to authoritarian and corrupt governments -- first under the Spanish, then under a series of virtual dictators and, lastly, under the seventy-year long, one-party hegemony of the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI).

The Spanish conquerors, the peninsulares, imposed an explicit caste system to define the difference between los de arriba y los de abajo, the haves and the have-nots. The ostensibly pure Spanish-blooded Mexicans, the criollos, and the Ladinos, hispanicized, mixed-race mestizos, continued this discriminatory split after Independence in spite of outlawing it in their constitutions. This split persists between the nouveau riche of the post-NAFTA, privatized, Mexico -- the world of Carlos Slim -- and el pueblo, the common people.  According to a recent study by the World Bank, the bottom fifth of the country earns about 4 percent of the income while the top tenth controls 41 percent.

Nearly half of Mexicans are very poor, despite the acclaimed rise of the GDP since globalization. The public education system remains abysmal, stuck in traditonal methods of rote learning for students and a patronage system for teachers, who can sell their positions when they retire. Nearly fifty percent of workers are in the "informal economy," earning a few pesos a day as laborers and vendors, without government health or pension benefits.

Corruption remains endemic among the police and courts, as well as other government agencies. Local and state police remain vestiges of the enforcement arms of corrupt, authoritarian politicians. They are poorly paid and educated, often having at best a junior high education and being functionally illiterate. They do not know how to collect evidence. They are accustomed to using torture to gain confessions. Those they arrest are frequently released for lack of evidence. As a result, less than two percent of reported crimes lead to convictions. In prison, the prisoners run the show. So there is, in reality, no rule of law, no real justice. There is only impunity.

Thus, for many Mexicans there is still no future, no opportunity to prosper. There is only the despair of powerlessness, lack of faith in the government and in the institutions of civil society, and fear of and disdain for the justice system. A recent poll found that political parties, congressional deputies, senators, the Supreme Court, governors and mayors maintain high levels of public disapproval and lack of confidence.

Three sources of economic power in the United States bridge -- or offer to bridge -- the chasm between the "land of opportunity," the United States, and Mexico, partially equalizing the extreme discrepancies of wealth and power: the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), migration to find work and the drug market.

NAFTA was touted to bring economic opportunity to the average Mexican. Instead, it brought low-wage, assembly-line jobs in maquiladoras, factories south of the border which import car parts and components of other manufactured items in order to assemble cars, TV's and the like for re-export to the U.S. International and Mexican owners make the profits. The workers make mimimum wages without protection of labor laws. NAFTA also brought U.S. corn into Mexico where, ironically, it originated. Mexican famers were forced out of the corn market and could turn only to one or the other of the two remaining economic bridges to the wealth of the U.S.

The second bridge is the market of mano de obra, the Mexican manual labor that supplies the needs of U.S. business in the fields of agriculture, construction, service industries and home care. Remittances, the money sent back to Mexico by these laborers, has been one of the largest sources of income in the country and kept many families from the depths of poverty. Border "security enforcement," begun under the administration of Ronald Regean with the Immigration Reform and Control Act (IRCA), was continued by President Bill Clinton, and -- with the creation of the Homeland Security Department in 2003 under George W. Bush --  was raised to the level of a defense against a "national security threat". The Obama administration has continued and accelerated this strategy. This "border security strategy" has made the flow of Mexican labor --and thus access to this source of economic opportunity and relative power -- exceedingly difficult and dangerous.

This leaves the third bridge to money and power between the U.S. and Mexico: the drug market. People in the U.S. want their desires for mind-altering substances satisfied. Legal alcohol and cigarettes are not powerful enough. U.S. citizens are willing and able to spend billions of dollars a year to obtain what they seek. They have few qualms about the consequences -- for themselves or anyone else -- of doing so. U.S. laws prohibiting the sale and consumption of such drugs has not stopped its citizens from seeking what they want. They have only forced the market into the hands of people willing to risk jail in return for earning huge profits.

Through its drug market and its paradoxical prohibition laws, U.S. has created the only remaining access to the wealth of the "land of opportunity" for the hopeless of Mexico. This opportunity to overcome the discrepancy in power between the two worlds is so great that those in the drug market, the so-called cartels, are willing to commit murder and mayhem to gain and keep control of the largest amount of power possible.

Given the lack of a criminal justice system in Mexico -- or rather, one that even works for the cartels -- there are no actual limits placed upon them. The cartels can act with impunity, flaunting the efforts of the Mexican goverment to control them and terrifying the populace into silence. Their brutality -- going beyond all human limits in their torture, massacres, beheadings and other heinous acts -- speaks of their sociopathy, their complete sense of being beyond the formal law or human morality. They are acts of ultimate impunity in the face of both Mexican and U.S. governments' impotent attempts to stop them. This violence is rooted in the chasms between wealth and power and poverty and powelessness both within Mexico and between Mexico and the United States.

The Movement for Peace with Justice and Dignity is beginning to dispel the powerlessness of Mexicans. Victims of violence, injustice and impunity are speaking up, joining together to make the truth visible, to tell their stories and demand justice. They are discovering the power of united voices and common action.

However, the violence in Mexico will only be significantly reduced when the citizens and politicians of the United States recognize the split between the impotence of U.S. drug policy and the power of the drug market and also recognize how this split fuels the violence. Only with this recognition of the role of U.S. power in the destruction of Mexico will the U.S. take the action -- legalizing the regulated sale and consumption of these drugs -- that will lead to reduction in the violence. Under the current strategy of the U.S. and Mexican governments, the violence will only worsen.