Nov 30, 2011

Immigration Crackdown - Alabama: Hotline gains huge response in its first month

WBRCFox: "A hotline created to take calls and emails about perceived injustices surrounding Alabama's new immigration law is getting a huge response. Officials with the Department of Justice announced the creation of the hotline last month. They say since then, they've gotten more than one thousand calls or emails coming into the hotlines." read more

Immigration Crackdown: Thousands Of Immigrant Kids Ask Obama To Stop Deportations

Fox News Latino: "Most kids at this time of year get ready to write letters to Santa Claus, but many children of undocumented immigrants now prefer to write President Barack Obama begging him to stop the deportations that are breaking up their families. The campaign of the National Domestic Workers Alliance under the slogan "We Belong Together" aims to send the president letters from youngsters directly affected by the government's deportation policy.

... According to a study by the Applied Research Center, more than 5,000 children of immigrants have been living in foster care since their parents were deported. The report, "Shattered Families," estimates that 15,000 other minors will suffer the same tragedy over the next five years if no change is made to the government's deportation policy.read more

Immigration Crackdown - Alabama: Immigration law will not be repealed, says Alabama House Speaker

al.com: "The Alabama Legislature will not repeal the state’s controversial immigration law ... when lawmakers convene in February, House Speaker Mike Hubbard said Tuesday. "Are we open to pulling the bill back and repealing it? Absolutely not," Hubbard said ..."We’re not going to back up on it." Hubbard ... said he was open to "tweaks" to a law. ... changes could include "anything we find that is onerous to business, that takes time and money, that doesn’t serve a purpose." read more

Immigration Politics: A tightrope for GOP contenders: Tough talk now, but keeping general election in mind

AP/Washington Post: "The Republican presidential contenders are tying themselves in knots over immigration.

Newt Gingrich is endorsing a South Carolina law that allows police to demand a person’s immigration status — a week after taking heat for advocating a “humane” approach. Rick Perry, though defending Texas’ in-state tuition for some illegal immigrants’ kids, spent Tuesday campaigning with a hardline Arizona sheriff in New Hampshire. And Mitt Romney is talking tough on immigration in his second White House campaign, though he previously supported the idea of allowing some illegal immigrants to stay in the U.S.

... The contortions by the Republican candidates illustrate the straddle they’re attempting on a complex issue. In order to win the Republican nomination, they must court a GOP electorate that is largely against anything that could be called “amnesty” for illegal immigrants. But they can’t come off as anti-immigrant, a stance that could alienate the independents and moderates — not to mention Hispanics — they’d need to attract in a general election should they win the party’s nod to challenge President Barack Obama." read more

Drug War: Guadalajara Body Dump Heralds Spread of Massacres in Mexico

InSight Crime: "With 26 dead bodies dumped on the streets of Guadalajara, mass killings in Mexico seem to be growing more common and spreading across the country, as each massacre raises the stakes for other criminal groups.

... While the scale of the violence was certain to grab attention, this incident reflects a couple of trends that are worth noting. One is that Guadalajara, a city of more than 4 million people a few hours inland from the Pacific coast, remains contested. It was long considered the territory of Sinaloa Cartel capo Ignacio Coronel, but his death in July 2010 encouraged Sinaloa’s enemies to enter the region, and Guadalajara has grown far more violent since." read more

U.S. Deports Zetas Cartel Member to Mexico | Fox News Latino

Fox News Latino: "A suspected member of the Los Zetas drug cartel wanted for kidnappings in Mexico has been deported by U.S. authorities, the Attorney General's Office said.

Alfonso Donis Ruiz was arrested on Oct. 17 in Bedford, Texas, by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, or ICE. Donis Ruiz was detained because he was in the United States illegally, the AG's office said. ... Donis Ruiz, who was identified as a member of the Los Flacos cell of Los Zetas, has a long record of involvement in kidnappings." read more

Drug Trafficking and the Border: Authorities discover another border drug-smuggling tunnel in San Diego - The Washington Post

AP/Washington Post: "U.S. authorities said they discovered a major cross-border tunnel Tuesday, the latest in a spate of secret passages found to smuggle drugs from Mexico.

“It is clearly the most sophisticated tunnel we have ever found,” said Lauren Mack, a spokeswoman for U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement in San Diego. She did not provide details. ... Tunnels have emerged as a major tack to smuggle marijuana. More than 70 have been found on the border since October 2008, surpassing the number of discoveries in the previous six years. " read more

Drug War Bloodshed: Member of Mexico’s growing anti-crime protest movement found slain in hometown - The Washington Post

AP/Washington Post: " An activist who publicly accused police officers of kidnapping his teenage son was shot to death in an attack that instantly fueled Mexico’s bitter nationwide debate over crime and corruption.

Corrupt officials were being blamed Tuesday by citizen activists who worked with Nepomuceno Moreno in a national anti-crime movement that has been calling for an end to organized crime, police abuse and a military-led government assault on drug cartels. The prosecutor’s office in the northern border state of Sonora told reporters, however, that Moreno had a criminal past and it was that, not activism, which appeared to have led to his death.

Javier Sicilia, of the Movement for Peace with Justice, said, “The family is terrified. This is collusion with crime. Otherwise it’s not possible for a man to be killed like this. ... I don’t know where the state ends and organized crime begins.”" read more

Mexico Bloodshed: Accuser of Police Is Killed

¡Ya Basta! No! No! No! This is a classic tactic in Mexico, the police contend that the murder of someone proves that they had ties to organized crime. Sr. Moreno was an active participant in the Movement for Peace with Justice and Dignity. In September, he participated in the eleven day Caravan to the South of Mexico. Below is  a picture of Sr. Moreno after he spoke at one of the rallies about his missing son. 




NYTimes.com: "Prosecutors said Tuesday that their primary line of investigation in the killing of an activist who had criticized the police was the possibility that he had ties to organized crime. The activist, Nepomuceno Moreno, had accused police officers of kidnapping his 18-year-old son last year. He was shot to death on Monday in the northern state of Sonora.

Members of the group that had served as a platform for Mr. Moreno, the Movement for Peace with Justice and Dignity, said state and federal authorities did not protect him when he requested it; the authorities said they had not received any requests for protection. Mr. Moreno’s son is still missing."

Nov 29, 2011

Mexico Drug War Corruption: Prison Staff Detained After 11 'Zetas' Escape

Insight Crime: "Eighteen prison officials are under investigation for allegedly helping the escape of 11 suspected Zetas from a prison in the state of Puebla, Mexico.

The escape was made through a hole in an outer wall of the facility in San Pedro Cholula, southeast of Mexico City. At least six of the escapees are considered highly dangerous and were segregated from the general prison population. One fugitive, Jose Contreras, is believed to lead Zetas operations in Puebla and has a record of three previous prison breaks. " read more

Drug War Strategy: Colombia is no Lesson For Mexico (Part II)

Second part in an analysis of the differences between Colombia and Mexico in their respective wars on drug cartels. See Part I

InSight Crime: "The threat faced by Colombia two decades ago was very different to that faced by Mexico today, and the two countries' governments, by and large, have had distinct aims in their battles against organized crime." read more

Weapons Traffic: Mexico Makes Biggest Ever Firearms Seizure

InSight Crime: "Federal authorities confiscated 911 guns from a container ship in the port of Lazaro Cardenas, on Mexico's Pacific, which was headed to Nicaragua. The guns were found on board a cargo ship en route to Nicaragua, during a planned stop at the Michoacan port of Lazaro Cardenas. The ship is believed to be of Turkish origin, but no information was provided on the origin or destination of the weapons.

The operation was carried out by Mexico’s Navy, working with the Federal Attorney General’s Office and customs officials, and represents the largest seizure of illegal weapons in the country’s history, reports Milenio." read more

Drug War Bloodshed: Mexico Peace Movement Activist Murdered

InSight Crime: "A prominent activist with Mexico's Movement for Peace, who joined the campaign after the disappearance of his son, has been assassinated in the northwestern state of Sonora.



Nepomuceno Moreno Nuñez, known as "Don Nepo," was shot at least seven times by an unknown assailant while driving in downtown Hermosillo." read more

Drug War: Mexican Spillover Violence: The Riddles Grow

Horizon:Mexico: "Is Mexico’s drug war spilling into the United States? Two recent cases bring new prominence -- and new confusion -- to this old question.

The two new cases of spillover violence, on October 30 and November 24, took place in Texas, more than 300 miles apart. Both produced murky and conflicting reports. Each involved a different Mexican crime cartel, on different kinds of missions. These probes by foreign criminals onto U.S. soil were apparently unrelated, and only coincidentally close in time." read more

Immmigration Crackdown: Utah balks as court delays hearing on immigration suit

The Salt Lake Tribune: "A federal court judge Monday ordered two lawsuits filed against Utah’s enforcement-only immigration law to be combined and set a hearing for Feb. 17 — a time frame that had been opposed by Utah’s attorney general.

U.S. District Court Judge Clark Waddoups issued the order after Attorney General Mark Shurtleff’s office took issue with Justice Department lawyers who sought an extension after they swooped in late last week to file suit against HB497." read more

Immigration Politics: Romney On Immigration: Sorting Through The Record

NPR: "Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney has been unofficially running for president for the better part of five years, and in that time, he has been asked about immigration over and over again. Now some of his rivals are arguing that his answers to the question have been inconsistent." read more

Immigration Politics: The Iowa-New Hampshire immigration gap in 2012 primaries

POLITICO.com: "Memo to Perry (and Romney, for that matter): A hard-line, anti-immigrant position is not especially popular in New Hampshire, even among likely Republican primary voters. ...

That doesn't mean that New Hampshire favors a flatly liberal position on immigration, but as the Union Leader also showed in its endorsement of Gingrich, there's more tolerance there than in Iowa for deviations from build-the-fence hawkishness." read more

Immigration Politics: Gingrich voices support for S.C. immigration law

CBS News: " Seeking to preserve his GOP frontrunner status amid charges from some Republicans that he's too soft on immigration, Newt Gingrich expressed support on Monday for South Carolina's controversial law aiming to stop illegal immigration in the Palmetto State.

... "South Carolinians have actually passed a law that I think is a pretty reasonable law - that basically says if you pull somebody over for legitimate reasons, you can ask them whether or not they're a citizen," Gingrich said in a town hall at the College of Charleston. "This is the opposite of sanctuary states. Think of it as enforcement society rather than a sanctuary society."" read more

Drug War Politics: Newt Gingrich on the Drug War: Execute Mexican Cartel Leaders (And More Terribly Draconian Ideas)

Incredible! The "drugs deprive you of full citizenship and lead you to a dependency which is antithetical to being an American" is an old argument from the Reagan War on Drugs.

AlterNet: "Republican presidential nominee contender Newt Gingrich said Saturday he would favor the use of the death penalty against Mexican drug trafficking organization leaders. The comments came in an interview with Yahoo News in which the former Georgia congressman and Speaker of the House also called medical marijuana in California "a joke" and suggested he would try to make life miserable for US drug users as a means of driving down drug use rates.

... "I think if you are, for example, the leader of a cartel, sure," he said. "Look at the level of violence they've done to society. You can either be in the Ron Paul tradition and say there's nothing wrong with heroin and cocaine or you can be in the tradition that says, 'These kind of addictive drugs are terrible, they deprive you of full citizenship and they lead you to a dependency which is antithetical to being an American.' If you're serious about the latter view, then we need to think through a strategy that makes it radically less likely that we're going to have drugs in this country."" read more

Nov 28, 2011

Collateral Damage Crosses the Border: Drug War Sends Emotionally Troubled Kids to Texas

AP/ABC News: "As the war enters its sixth year, it's bringing a new problem to Texas schools: Thousands of students suffering from emotional troubles not unlike those endured by soldiers returning from battle. In response, some districts have started offering the type of classes and counseling more common to the military.

"What you see happening in Iraq or Afghanistan is the same that's happening here in the border. This is not a war like those, but still you have people fleeing their country," said Clara Contreras, coordinator of the Safe and Drug-Free School and Communities program at the Texas Education Agency in Edinburg, Texas." read more

Drug War Bloodshed: Cult mystic holds 'march of skulls' for Mexico's drug war dead

latimes.com: "The call made by the cult mystic Alejandro Jodorowsky said the event would seek to "heal" the country of the cosmic weight of so many dead in the drug war, by gathering for something he called the March of the Skulls. On Sunday, on a wet and frigid morning in this mountain capital, hundreds of Jodorowsky fans answered the open convocation (video link in Spanish).

They donned black top hats and black shawls, and carried canes and Mexican flags colored in black. They wore calavera face paint or masks to give themselves the look of stylish skeletons gathered in this often-surreal city in the name of Mexico's tens of thousands of sometimes nameless drug war dead." read more

The Border: The Psychology of Walls and Fences

A fascinating analysis of the psychology of walls, at the U.S. border or elsewhere. We were recently in El Paso, Texas, and seeing the wall there reminded us of the one in Berlin. 

NYTimes.com: "While walls and fences are certainly physical things — imposing ones at that — a good deal of their power comes from elsewhere. As their role in political discourse makes clear, they are also things of the mind.

... Walls ... are built not for security, but for a sense of security. The distinction is important, as those who commission them know very well. What a wall satisfies is not so much a material need as a mental one. Walls protect people not from barbarians, but from anxieties and fears, which can often be more terrible than the worst vandals. In this way, they are built not for those who live outside them, threatening as they may be, but for those who dwell within. " read more

The Border: Customs and Border Patrol to unveil new border security metrics

FierceHomelandSecurity: "Customs and Border Protection will unveil in February new performance measures to characterize security along the southwestern border, according to the Government Accountability Office.

In a report dated Nov. 17 that reviews the fiscal 2011 CBP spending plan for border security fencing, infrastructure and technology, the GAO says that CBP no longer measures border security in terms of "operational control."" read more

Drug War - Money Laundering: U.S. blacklisting seems to have little consequence in Mexico

Third article in a Los Angeles Times series on Mexico drug cartel money laundering

latimes.com: "The U.S. government has blacklisted more Mexican individuals and companies this year than any other single country or group.... Three hundred Mexicans and 180 Mexican companies are on the so-called kingpin designation list, the Treasury Department's roster of people and entities suspected of laundering money for drug traffickers or working for them in other capacities. U.S. banks, companies and people are barred from doing business with them.

The sanctions list is not at all binding inside Mexico. Unlike Colombia, Mexico does not have laws that allow authorities to freeze assets of a person or company, or otherwise punish them, just because they appear on a U.S. blacklist." read more

The Border: Horse sense on the border pays off

USATODAY.com: "Clyde, a lean, copper-colored mustang, is one of the latest weapons in the struggle to tighten the U.S. border with Mexico. The U.S. Border Patrol has used horses since its inception in 1924, but new funds from headquarters and a federal program that captures, breaks and donates wild mustangs is bringing more mounted patrols than ever to the border. "He's doing great," says Border Patrol agent Chris Garza, Clyde's rider. "They do things ATVs and trucks just can't."


... "They're (the drug and people smugglers) looking for (Border Patrol) trucks with green and white stripes," he says. "They're not looking for horses." Garza knows it won't be long before the cartels catch on and adjust tactics. "They're smart," he says. "They'll figure it out."" read more

Movement for Peace with Justice: Sicilia calls for Christmas truce in Mexico's drug war

Fox News Latino: "Mexican poet and peace activist Javier Sicilia called during an appearance over the weekend at the 25th Guadalajara International Book Fair, or FIL, for "a cease-fire" between the government and Mexico's drug cartels on Dec. 24-25 so they can "reflect on what they are doing, what they are doing to the country."

"I ask for this truce as a momentary pause, not just in honor of Christmas, but to think about the harm we're doing to ourselves and what those guilty of murder and corruption are doing to themselves, and the damage done by authorities who do not fulfill their obligations," Sicilia said." read more

Drug War Strategy: Colombia is no Lesson For Mexico (Part I)

A look at how the Mexican cartels are quite different from those of Colombia. In fact, the article maintains, they learned lesssons from the defeat of those in Colombia: to not confront the government directly.

InSight Crime: "Since Mexico's crackdown on organized crime was launched in December 2006, it's become popular to compare the fight with Colombia's own drug war between the 1980s and early 2000s. But the comparisons are both risky and wrong.

Mexico's model for combating organized crime cannot be the same as the one that brought down Colombia's Medellin and Cali cartels and pushed guerrilla movements like the FARC and ELN into a foxhole." read more

Mexico Politics: Mexico Talks Monopoly Reform

O'Grady - WSJ.com: "PRI presidential candidate Enrique Peña Nieto proposes a constitutional amendment to allow private investment in Pemex, the national oil monopoly.


For steady long-term growth, Mr. Peña Nieto argued, Mexico needs to return his party (out of power since 2000) to the presidential palace of Los Pinos so that he can administer the pro-growth policies the country needs. One of his proposals is startling coming from a PRI candidate: a constitutional reform that would allow private investment in the sacrosanct national oil monopoly, Pemex. Speaking of private investment in Pemex would have been PRI heresy only a decade ago. " read more

Mexico Politics: Mexico's early frontrunner formalizes presidential bid

Reuters: "Thousands of cheering supporters rallied around Enrique Pena Nieto, the charismatic young ex-governor of Mexico's most populous state, after he registered in Mexico City as the official presidential candidate of the opposition Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI). With a 20-point lead in national polls, Pena Nieto, 45, is the strongest candidate fielded by the PRI since the party that ruled Mexico for most of the 20th century lost power in 2000." read more

Immigration Crackdown: Have The Crackdowns On Immigration Gone Too Far?

 A look at some of the backlash to state immigration crackdown laws

NPR: "Have the crackdowns on illegal immigration finally gone too far?

"If you asked me this question about a year ago, I would tell you we were on the cusp of seeing more anti-immigration legislation," says immigration analyst Muzaffar Chishti of the Migration Policy Institute. "Now, what's happening is very interesting. I think there is evidence of overreach and some sobering reassessments of 'Is this the right thing to do?' "" read more

Drug War - Money Laundring: International banks have aided Mexican drug gangs

Second in a series by the Los Angeles Times on money laundering, this article reviews some of the recent cases against U.S. banks and their avoiding of prosecution.

latimes.com: "Money launderers for ruthless Mexican drug gangs have long had a formidable ally: international banks. Despite strict rules set by international regulatory bodies that require banks to "know their customer," make inquiries about the source of large deposits of cash and report suspicious activity, they have failed to do so in a number of high-profile cases and instead have allowed billions in dirty money to be laundered." read more

Drug Legalization: The U.S.-Mexico Drug Wars, Legalization and the Republicans

A review of some of the Republican candidates for president that favor drug legalization on libertarian and states rights grounds.

Mexidata.info: "In the United States, the pro-legalization and anti-legalization sides do not correspond to the left/right political spectrum. There are leftists and right-wingers on both sides of the debate.

Currently there seem to be more prominent Republicans than Democrats favoring or leaning toward some form of legalization. Since opposition to Big Government is a tenet of American Conservatism, it is possible to make an argument for drug legalization as being compatible with Conservatism." read more

Drug War Bloodshed: Guadalajara and Sinaloa Massacres Raise Questions

A reveiw of various speculations about what cartel dynamics are behing last weeks massacres in Guadalajara and Sinaloa and what they may portend.

Justice in Mexico: "In a new surge of cartel violence, the city of Guadalajara was shocked last Wednesday when vans full of bodies were found in the center of the city. ... a circle of parked vans loaded with 26 corpses was discovered in a busy area, during the morning of November 23, 2011.

... The Sinaloa cartel is considered to be the most powerful cartel in Mexico. Control of the Guadalajara area is very valuable to cartels as the routes that run through Guadalajara provide access to both Ciudad Juarez and Mexicali, both the ideal drug trafficking routes to the United States. Guadalajara is the gateway to the main highway running through western Mexico, including mega drug production state Michoacan, and continues north toward the Pacific Coast state of Sinaloa where the Sinaloa Cartel is based." read more

Immigration Politics: GOP Latinos face questions over immigrant pasts

The Associated Press: "As more Latino Republicans seek and win elected office, their families' backgrounds are becoming subject to increased scrutiny from some Latino activists, a reaction experts say is a result of Latino Republicans' conservative views on immigration. It's a new phenomenon that experts say Latino Democrats rarely faced, and could be a recurring feature in elections as the Republican Party seeks to recruit more Latino candidates." read more

Drug War: Mexico arrests 3 in slaying of governor’s guards

Boston.com: "Mexican authorities say they have arrested three members of the Zetas drug cartel who later confessed to the June slaying of bodyguards for the governor of the northern state of Nuevo Leon. A federal prosecutor's aide says the men confessed to killing two of Gov. Rodrigo Medina’s guards in June; a guard for a town mayor last year, and three police officers in May." read more

Nov 27, 2011

Immigration Reality: Florida County's Mexican-Americans Share Same Values as White Community

A close up look at the Mexican immigrant community in Polk County, Florida. 

TheLedger.com: "In many ways, there are no differences between Polk County's Mexican communities and its white communities. They share appreciation for hard work, devotion to their religions, and allegiance to their families.

But the differences — language, culture and the hot-button political issue of the day, illegal immigration — cause a sharp division. Polk's Mexican community is divided mostly between two groups: The larger number are migrant workers, most here illegally, who pick citrus, strawberries, tomatoes and other local crops from fall to spring, then move north for other harvest work. The smaller population of permanent, legal residents own businesses and work in blue- and white-collar jobs. Many in the latter group are second- and third-generation Mexican-Americans whose ancestors came initially as farm laborers.


... Mexicans make up the largest segment of Polk's rapidly rising Hispanic community, which numbered 106,532 people, or almost 18 percent of the county's 602,095 residents counted by the 2010 U.S. Census. That represented a 132 percent increase in just 10 years." read more

The Border: U.S. to extend border fence 300 feet into Pacific

Los Angeles Times: "Pounding surf and corrosive sea air have stymied efforts for years to erect a sturdy fence at the westernmost edge of the U.S.-Mexico border. Now, the U.S. Border Patrol is trying again, with a $4.3-million project that would extend a nearly quarter-mile barrier 300 feet into the Pacific Ocean and remake one of the more scenic spots on the border." read more

The Border: Arizona border outpost one of the quietest in U.S.

An engaging, well-told story about the least used border crossing between Mexico and the U.S.

Azcentral.com: "The official border-crossing point in Sasabe, a southern Arizona town, is one of the loneliest outposts on the entire 2,000-mile U.S.-Mexico border. ... On average, just 165 cars, trucks or pedestrians pass through the Sasabe port a day, according to Bureau of Transportation Statistics. In comparison, the San Ysidro Port of Entry in San Diego, the busiest land port on the southern border, sees 120,000 crossings a day. That is twice as much traffic in a single day than passes through the Sasabe port in an entire year.

... To some border residents, the port also symbolizes broken promises and corruption in Mexico. In the 1990s, the U.S. spent several million dollars upgrading the port after Mexico promised to pave the road leading to El Sasabe. The planned highway was supposed to bring more traffic, commerce and tourism to both sides of the border. Nearly 20 years later, the highway remains unbuilt, leaving the Sasabe border crossing, in short, a port to nowhere." read more

Drug Legalization: British Countess courts rich and famous to end drug war

We had the pleasure of meeting the Countess of Wemyss recently at the International Drug Policy Conference in Los Angeles. Amana Fielding--her given name--is one of those wonderfully eccentric and therefore independent thinking British nobles.  Her status and wealth give her freedom from needing to please others and the ability (like entertainment stars) to occupy public platforms--she recently helped convene a meeting in the House of Lords--such that she can gain attention for drug legalization that us commoners can never achieve.

Scotsman.com: "THE neo-classical splendour of Gosford House, one of Scotland’s finest stately homes, would appear to be a far cry from the misery caused by armed drugs cartels in Mexico. But an aristocratic member of the family which owns the Robert Adam mansion in East Lothian is leading a high-profile campaign to decriminalise drugs in the belief that it is the only way to tackle the suffering and violence caused by the illicit drugs trade.

Celebrities including Sting and Yoko Ono, a string of Nobel Laureates and the former US president Jimmy Carter are among those supporting the Countess of Wemyss in her bid to reform drugs policy. Her impressive list of backers, which includes the Nobel Prize-winning scientists Sir Harold Kroto and Sir Anthony Leggett, are calling on the British government to recognise that the global war on drugs has failed and look at taking a new approach.

Wemyss said she felt “passionately” that it was her “social duty” to persuade the government of the merits of decriminalising drugs." read more

Drug War - Money Laundering: Mexico seeks to fill drug war gap with focus on dirty money

An in-depth look at money laundering in the drug war: how it works and efforts by Mexico and the U.S. to stem the billion dollar tide. 

latimes.com: "Tainted drug money runs like whispered rumors all over Mexico's economy — in gleaming high-rises in beach resorts such as Cancun, in bustling casinos in Monterrey, in skyscrapers and restaurants in Mexico City that sit empty for months. It seeps into the construction sector, the night-life industry, even political campaigns.

Piles of greenbacks, enough to fill dump trucks, are transformed into gold watches, showrooms full of Hummers, aviation schools, yachts, thoroughbred horses and warehouses full of imported fabric. Officials here say the tide of laundered money could reach as high as $50 billion, a staggering sum equal to about 3% of Mexico's legitimate economy, or more than all its oil exports or spending on prime social programs." read more

Border Madness: Border Fence Upends a Rio Grande Valley Farmer’s Life

NYTimes.com: "In 2009 the Department of Homeland Security informed Tim Loop, ... who lives on his family farm in Brownsville, Texas, along the northern bank of the Rio Grande, that the new border fence, which in some areas stands more than a mile from the river, would be cutting through his properties. (A water treaty with Mexico that restricts building within the flood plain prevented the department from simply hugging the north bank.) The three-bedroom home where Mr. Loop lives with his wife and two children ended up on the south side of the fence, inside what essentially became a no-man’s land.

Now, ... the Homeland Security Department plans to install motorized gates and keypads. Like a handful of other border dwellers in the same situation, Mr. Loop and his family will be required to use a secret code to reach their home — and to re-enter the rest of his country." read more

Nov 26, 2011

Drug War Bloodshed: Drug war claims 14 more lives in Mexican Gulf coast state

Hispanically Speaking News: "The drug-war death toll in the Mexican Gulf coast state of Veracruz has risen by 14 over the past 48 hours, authorities said." read more

Immigration Crackdown: Two Undocumented Immigrants Who Sought Arrest are Released and Face Deportation

Fox News Latino: "Two immigrants who were detained for more than two weeks after they walked into a Border Patrol office in Alabama and declared they were undocumented have been released. Isaac Barrera, 20, and Jonathan Perez, 24, were released Wednesday and are scheduled to appear before an Immigration Court judge on Dec. 2.

The men, who live in California, traveled to Alabama to risk arrest in order to challenge the state’s controversial hard-line immigration law and call attention to the need for immigration reform, they said." read more

Weapons Traffic: Guatemala and the Black Market for US Weapons

InSight Crime: "The trafficking of weapons over the U.S.-Mexico border is well-documented -- lesser known but also significant is the sale of U.S. weapons to Guatemalan government contractors, which are then siphoned off to criminal groups.

... Guatemala is a major source country for Mexico's guns, with both weapons left over from the Cold War and ones trafficked into the country from the U.S. Many of these weapons are imported to Guatemala by government contractors, who then sell them on to private security firms. The three-stage process was described by Rafael Antonio, a retired Guatemalan military officer, in an interview with Noticias Televisa." read more

Drug War and Human Rights Abuses: Complaint Over Calderón Is Filed With Hague Court

NYTimes.com: "A Mexican human rights lawyer, Netzaí Sandoval, filed a complaint on Friday against President Felipe Calderón with the International Criminal Court in The Hague, claiming that Mr. Calderón covered up and tolerated war crimes and crimes against humanity. The document, signed by 23,000 Mexicans, also accuses organized crime syndicates, Public Security Minister Genaro García Luna, and the country’s army and navy of partaking in the “systematic repetition” of abuses against civilians."

Drug War: Drug violence increases in Puerto Rico

Speaking of "spillover," the drug war has spread to Puerto Rico. Gee, we forgot about Puerto Rico. And they're U.S. citizens, not "aliens." 

The Washington Post: "Much has been said about the Mexican drug wars that have left 40,000 dead since 2006. Yet proportionally, the level of violence in Puerto Rico is higher than in Mexico. Last year there were 26 homicides for every 100,000 Puerto Ricans vs. 18 for every 100,000 Mexicans, according to the U.N. Office on Drugs and Crime. Puerto Rican police are clearly overwhelmed.

The recession devastated the Puerto Rican economy. From 2006 to 2010, gross national product and employment there contracted at a rate three times higher than that of the United States overall, according to the Center for the New Economy. This economic downturn coincided with crackdowns on drug cartels by the Mexican and U.S. governments, which caused some drug traffic to shift to Caribbean routes. Puerto Rico’s unimpeded access to the mainland made it an ideal entry point to the U.S. drug market." read more

Mexico Drug War: Zetas lay claim to Sinaloa turf

AFP: " The increasingly powerful Zetas are likely behind the killings of 50 people in strongholds of the rival Sinaloa cartel in western Mexico, analysts say.... The message left by the Zetas near some of the 26 corpses found Thursday in Guadalajara, Mexico's second largest city, make the targets quite clear: the Sinaloa gang and its fugitive boss, Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman.

The messages also apparently slam an alleged alliance between Guzman and the leaders of Sinaloa state, where 24 bodies were found Wednesday, and Jalisco state, of which Guadalajara is the capital." read more

Nov 25, 2011

Movement for Peace with Justice Meets with U.S. Ambassador to Mexico

From the Spanish original published by the Movement for Peace with Justice. Translated by Americas MexicoBlog.

Mexico City November 23, 2011 At the request of the U.S. Embassy in Mexico, a meeting was held yesterday between Javier Sicilia and Emilio Álvarez Icaza of the Movement for Peace with Jusitce and Dignity and U.S. Ambassador Anthony Wayne, as well as close associates of his team, at the U.S. embassy in Mexico City.

This meeting was a follow-up to the two men's visit last month to Washington DC and Los Angeles, California, where several working meetings were held with both authorities and human rights organizations of the United States. These meetings have the aim of further raising the need to control the arms trade between the two countries and the importance of taking into account the drug war strategy and the public policy debate on drugs from a public health approach.

Javier Sicilia spoke about the erroneous focus of the strategy to fight organized crime, as it has generated as a result thousands of deaths and disappearances as well as widows, widowers and orphans, in addition to displacement of people. It is not possible that a country not know where its people are, he said.

Emilio Alvarez Icaza argued that the problems currently found in Mexico correspond to a global, international framework. He put on the table that the situation of national emergency that Mexico is going through relates to the criminal activity that has increased and also to the institutional weakness of the Mexican State which undertook this security strategy. An additional problem is not taking firm action about "money laundering,"  but only focusing on the use of force.

Both men insisted on creating a partnership between the two countries that addresses the need to strengthen the social fabric, taking into account civil society as well as the victims of crime, the abuse of power and the violence generated by the current security strategy.

The Ambassador expressed his interest in this exchange and its continuity, given that the Movement for Peace with Justice and Dignity has develope
d a working dialogue with different social and civil activists and with national and international NGOs. MPDJ

Immigration Crackdown: Alabama immigration law set back again

USATODAY.com: "Some portions of Alabama's law, known as HB 56 and described by supporters and critics as the harshest state immigration law in the country, were already blocked by a federal judge. On Wednesday, U.S. District Judge Myron Thompson took an additional step by ordering the state to stop denying manufactured home registration permits to people who couldn't prove their U.S. citizenship." read more

Corruption in Mexico's casinos reaches across U.S. border

An investigative report on the corruption in the Mexico gambling industry.

McClatchy| Sacramento Bee: "When a Mexico casino czar named Juan José Rojas-Cardona offered an Upper Michigan Chippewa Indian tribe, the Lac Vieux Desert Band, the chance to invest in Mexico's booming gambling industry, it seemed like a godsend. But rather than a big payout, the disadvantaged Lac Vieux tribe got swindled. Its multimillion-dollar "investment" disappeared, adding the tribe to a list of victims...

Rojas-Cardona, however, has gone on to build one of the biggest gambling empires in Mexico. Relying on a silky sales pitch and apparent close connections to Mexico's top politicians, perhaps including presidents, Rojas-Cardona holds 60 permits to operate casinos in Mexico – even though gambling remains technically illegal there.

... A McClatchy probe in the months since has found evidence that the corruption in Mexico's gambling industry goes much deeper than a shakedown by drug gangs. Indeed, the entire industry appears to be deliberately opaque, designed by political barons as a way for them to hand out licenses as favors, tap casino coffers for cash, and let casino operators flout the law." read more



Week's Top Articles on Mexico: November, 18-24, 2011

Drug War news this week starts with an article on charges of human rights abuses and torture being made against the former police chief of Tijuana, who was hailed as winning the drug war there. He is now the chief in Ciudad Juarez. Another article looks at how extortion is undermining small Mexican businesses. 

Two articles look at the apparent leveling off of drug war deaths, the spread of death to new areas and what this tells or doesn´t tell us about the realities of crime in Mexico.  A fifth article reports a poll showing that only 14% of Mexicans believe the drug war can be won, while at the same time 80% affirm their desire to see more millitary presence in their cities. These numbers evidently reflect Mexicans' growing despair and their search for security.

Lastly, Javier Sicilia, founder of the anti-drug war Movement for Peace with Justice and Dignity, announced that he is stepping down from his leadership role and that the movement is reorgainzing.

Immigration and Border news this week included Alabama police arresting a Mercedes Benz executive for failing to carry proof that he was a legal foreign visitor. This caused embarrassment to Republican legislators who passed the state's restrictive anti-immigrant law. 

A second focus arose from the debate by Republican candidates for president. Newt Gingrich, current front runnrer, proposed backing off from deportations of "family members" and providing "red card" work visas. Both proposals brought immediate attacks by competing candidates, including Mitt Romney, who clarified that he believed all undocumented immigrants should go back home and get in line for visas.

Providing a reality check on such political rhetoric, a report was released on "How America’s Immigrants Will Integrate by 2030," predicting that Hispanic and other immigrants--just like all their immigrant predecessors--will "learn English, buy homes, acquire citizenship, and attain solid economic footing in the United States." That is, they will become Americans.

Drug war 

Mexico state’s rights officials allege former Tijuana police chief abused, tortured suspects 
Washington Post: Nov. 18, " Baja California state’s Human Rights Commission accused former Tijuana police chief Julian Leyzaola and subordinates of violating the human rights of suspects and torturing people in custody. Leyzaola, a retired army lieutenant colonel, became known nationally as a tough cop after cracking down on police corruption and drug gang violence in Tijuana. He resigned the Tijuana post in November 2010, but Ciudad Juarez hired him as police chief last March." read more

Mexican Businesses Forced to Pay Up or Play Along with Criminal Groups
InSight Crime: Nov. 18, "Small businesses in Mexico often have no other option in the extortion economy but to pay up, or get involved in criminal activities themselves. Those who don’t pay risk their lives, and those who do risk bankruptcy." read more

Mexico’s changing drug war: Shifting sands
The Economist: Nov. 24, "Since 2006, ... each year the number of deaths in Mexico's drug war has risen, ... most of them ... concentrated in a handful of cities. But this year (it) look as if this may have started to change. The annual death toll seems to have plateaued at around 12,000. Hotspots have cooled, only for violence to invade places previously considered safe.

(Some outside experts) are sceptical about whether government forces are reducing the violence in cities like Juarez and Tijuana. ...  The dip in violence suggests that the powerful Sinaloa “cartel” has at last beaten or reached an accommodation with its rivals, believes David Shirk of the Trans-Border Institute.

...Though Sinaloa’s expansion may have slowed the violence in Juárez and Tijuana, ... it has stirred it up (in Monterrey, Acapulco and Veracruz)... This “suggests that what has happened in Juárez can happen anywhere in Mexico,” Mr Shirk says." read more

Speculation on Homicide Rate Distracts from Real Issues in Mexico
InSight Crime: Nov. 24, "The annual race to chart Mexico’s homicide rates has begun, but an examination of the claim that the drug-related killings have levelled off shows the inadequacy of this measure. Some news outlets (are) reporting that drug-related homicides in Mexico may have plateaued. However, tracing the trail of such data shows the futility of trying to use this metric to understand Mexico’s crime problem and ignores the more important question of how to lower the actual murder rate." read more

Mexico Loses Faith in Drug War, as Bodies Pile up
InSight Crime: Nov. 24, "According to the ninth annual survey on the Perception of Security in Mexico, only 14 per cent of the public believes that the administration of President Felipe Calderon will win the war against organized crime. This represents a considerable decline in public confidence from March 2010, when 23 per cent of respondents in a similar survey believed the government would succeed.

The survey... found that 44 per cent of those surveyed believe the security situation in Mexico will remain the same in 2012, while some 30 per cent believe that security will deteriorate further. Eight in 10 Mexicans believe that insecurity has increased compared to the same period a year ago. ... However, in spite of criticism of President Calderon’s use of the military..., 86 per cent of those surveyed were in favor of increasing the number of troops in cities across the country." read more

Movement for Peace with Justice at a Crossroads
Americas MexicoBlog, Nov. 19, "Javier Sicilia, the Mexican poet and social critic who founded the Movement for Peace with Justice following the murder of his son on March 28 of this year, has announced that he is stepping down from his leadership role. In an interview with the weekly magazine, Proceso, Sicilia said that he will stop being the leading image in order for the organization to become better orgniazed and more militant. "I will continue as a moral figure, the weight is too great for me to continue as the main figure," he said." read more

Immigration and the Border

Alabama Considers Revision of Immigration Law Ensnaring Mercedes Executive
Bloomberg: Nov. 24, "On Nov. 16, a German businessman paying a visit to his company’s ... plant near Tuscaloosa, Alabama, was pulled over for driving a rental car without a tag. ... Because the man couldn’t prove he had the right to be in the U.S., he was arrested and hauled off to the police station. ... The businessman turned out to be an executive with Mercedes-Benz, one of Alabama’s prized manufacturers, ...

“I was really embarrassed and overwhelmed,” says state Senator Gerald Dial. “Mercedes has done more to change the image of Alabama than just about anything else. We don’t want to upset those people.” ... (Because of a number of such unforeseen, negative consequences, some Alabama Republicans are considering revising the state's harsh immigration law.) However, none of the politicians who expressed doubts about HB56 wants it repealed. ... They say their aim is to calm concerns about the law without watering it down." read more

Debate puts Newt Gingrich on defensive over immigration
latimes.com: Nov. 23, "... Current GOP frontrunner, Newt Gingrich, is on the defensive after another debate (in which) he seemed to advocate what critics call a form of amnesty for illegal immigrants. The former House speaker weighed in ... during last night's national security focused debate.  "I do not believe that the people of the United States are going to take people who’ve been here for a quarter of a century ... [and] separate them from their families and expel them," Gingrich said.

"I do believe we should control the border. I do believe we should have very severe penalties." He continued, "I don't believe that the party that says it's the party of the family is going to say it’s going to destroy families that have been here for more than a quarter of a century. ... Let's be humane in enforcing the law."" read more

Immigration activists slam Gingrich on ‘Red Card Solution’
The Washington Post: Nov. 24, "Newt Gingrich is trying to carve out a middle way on illegal immigration, pushing a “Red Card Solution” that would essentially expand the guest-worker program without giving those immigrants a pathway to citizenship. But ... activists on both left and right say that Red Carding fails to address fundamental problems with the U.S. immigration system.

On the right, advocates who want greater restrictions ... say the Red Card Solution simply gives businesses a pool of cheap labor at the expense of native-born workers. ... Pro-immigration advocates argue that the Red Card plan would undermine the rights of immigrants... “It virtually guarantees that we create second-class status for workers and their families — lawful but with no real rights,” says Mary Giovagnoli, director of the Immigration Policy Center." read more

Mitt Romney's Immigration Stance Now Clear: Pressure Undocumented To Leave The Country
Huffington Post: Nov. 24, " Mitt Romney's evolution into a full-fledged immigration hawk is complete. The Republican presidential candidate's comments... made clear where he stands now: The U.S. government should do nothing proactive beyond creating a hostile environment for those in the country illegally, in the hopes that they leave.

Anyone in the United States in violation of federal law should go back to his or her country of origin, Romney said Wednesday during a tele-town hall with Iowa voters. ... a "path to citizenship" for undocumented immigrants.... "consists of going to their home country, applying for citizenship or permanent residency just like everybody else, and getting back in the line."" read more

Assimilation Tomorrow: How America’s Immigrants Will Integrate by 2030
Center for American Progress: Nov. 24, "The Center for American Progress released a ... study called, “Assimilation Tomorrow: How America’s Immigrants Will Integrate by 2030.” The ... report finds that at astonishingly high levels, immigrants are projected to learn English, buy homes, acquire citizenship, and attain solid economic footing in the United States.

... Hispanic immigrants ... are projected to make great strides. Contrary to the assertions of some ... that Hispanic immigrants are not assimilating and will not assimilate to American life, the authors find that these newcomers follow the same upward trajectory as immigrants overall, albeit from a lower starting point. Homeownership, for example, (is predicted to jump) from 21 percent of the Hispanic immigrant population in 2000 to 67 percent in 2030." read more

Nov 24, 2011

Drug War: South Mexico Land Conflict Aggravated by Drug Gangs

InSight Crime: "A land conflict in southern Mexico is heating up, with the danger heightened by the prospect of intervention by drug trafficking groups and illegal logging interests.

The Chimalapas rainforest, located on the border between the southern Mexican states of Oaxaca and Chiapas, is the largest tract of tropical rainforest in Mexico. Its 2,300 square miles are home to a wealth of natural resources, as well as a large percentage of the country’s biodiversity. However, it is also home to a decades-old land conflict, one that could get worse as criminal activity increases in the region." read more

Drug War: Speculation on Homicide Rate Distracts from Real Issues in Mexico

InSight Crime takes a critical look at how the "homicide rate" in Mexico is variously calculated,  whether it is accurate and whether such date diverts the media from investigating more important questions about how crime is defined and then treated by the justice system of police, courts and prisons.

InSight Crime: "The annual race to chart Mexico’s homicide rates has begun, but an examination of the claim that the drug-related killings have levelled off shows the inadequacy of this measure.

Some news outlets have kicked off by reporting that drug-related homicides in Mexico may have plateaued. However, tracing the trail of such data shows the futility of trying to use this metric to understand Mexico’s crime problem and ignores the more important question of how to lower the actual murder rate." read more

Drug War Bloodshed: At least 20 found dead in Mexico's second city

Reuters/AMC:: "Mexican authorities found more than 20 bodies in several cars left around a major traffic intersection in the western city of Guadalajara, officials said on Thursday. ... The state attorney-general's office said there could be up to 23 dead.

Guadalajara is the capital of the state of Jalisco, home to mariachi music and tequila ... Known as a stronghold of the Sinaloa cartel, headed by Mexico's most-wanted trafficker Joaquin "Shorty" Guzman, Guadalajara saw a spike in killings as other gangs, including the Zetas, started to contest their dominance of the region." read more

Drug War: Mexico Loses Faith in Drug War, as Bodies Pile up

InSight Crime: "According to the ninth annual survey on the Perception of Security in Mexico, only 14 per cent of the public believes that the administration of President Felipe Calderon will win the war against organized crime. This represents a considerable decline in public confidence from March 2010, when 23 per cent of respondents in a similar survey believed the government would succeed.

The survey, carried out jointly by Mitofsky Consulting and the NGO Mexico United against Crime (MUCD), found that 44 per cent of those surveyed believe the security situation in Mexico will remain the same in 2012, while some 30 per cent believe that security will deteriorate further. Eight in 10 Mexicans believe that insecurity has increased compared to the same period a year ago.

... However, in spite of criticism of President Calderon’s use of the military in the fight against organized crime, 86 per cent of those surveyed were in favor of increasing the number of troops in cities across the country." read more

Mexico’s changing drug war: Shifting sands

An overview of shifts in the levels of drug war violence across Mexico during 2011.  Government spokesmen and outside critics offer differing explanations of why violence in decreasing in some places, like Ciudada Juarez, while increasing eleswhere.  A state by state map of levels and changes in those levels accompanies this article from the British newspaper, the Guardian. 

The Economist: "Since 2006, when Mexico’s president,  Felipe Calderón, ... launched  his war on the drug cartels... each year the number of deaths has risen, most of them concentrated in a handful of cities. But this year both those tendencies look as if they have started to change. The annual death toll seems to have plateaued at around 12,000. Hotspots have cooled, only for violence to invade places previously considered safe.

Ciudad Juárez, in Chihuahua state and on the border with Texas, is the most striking example of this... The turnaround is the fruit of better co-operation between the municipal, state and federal branches of government, according to Héctor Murguía, Juárez’s mayor.

... Others are sceptical about the relevance of the government in reducing the violence in places such as Juárez and Tijuana. In both cities ...  the dip in violence suggests that the powerful Sinaloa “cartel” has at last beaten or reached an accommodation with its rivals, believes David Shirk, head of the Trans-Border Institute at the University of San Diego. ... Some of the (police) busts may be thanks to rival cartels’ tip-offs. “The government is an instrument that contributes—but whose hand is on the instrument?” asks Mr Shirk.

...Though Sinaloa’s expansion may have slowed the violence in Juárez and Tijuana, elsewhere it has stirred it up (in Monterrey, Acapulco and Veracruz)... violence in places such as (Monterrey,) Nuevo León “suggests that what has happened in Juárez can happen anywhere in Mexico,” Mr Shirk says." read more

Immigration Crackdown: Alabama immigration arrests highlighting Obama policy

Washington Examiner: "Two men visiting Alabama to protest the state's tough new law on illegal immigration walked into a U.S. Border Patrol office and said they were in the country illegally, resulting in their arrest. They remain in federal custody more than two weeks later awaiting deportation proceedings. ...Isaac Barrera, 20, and Jonathan Perez, 24, Mexican men, ... lived in California before coming to Alabama to demonstrate against the state law.

... The Obama administration said this summer it would concentrate on deporting illegal immigrants with criminal records rather than people only living in the United States without the proper legal documents, so Barrera and Perez staged a test of the policy Nov. 10 at the Border Patrol office in Mobile. " read more

Immigration Politics: Mitt Romney's Immigration Stance Now Clear: Pressure Undocumented To Leave The Country

Huffington Post: " Mitt Romney's evolution into a full-fledged immigration hawk is complete. The Republican presidential candidate's comments this week on the issue of undocumented immigrants made clear where he stands now: The U.S. government should do nothing proactive beyond creating a hostile environment for those in the country illegally, in the hopes that they leave.

Anyone in the United States in violation of federal law should go back to his or her country of origin, Romney said Wednesday during a tele-town hall with Iowa voters. ... a "path to citizenship" for undocumented immigrants.... "consists of going to their home country, applying for citizenship or permanent residency just like everybody else, and getting back in the line."" read more

Immigration Realities: Assimilation Tomorrow: How America’s Immigrants Will Integrate by 2030

Center for American Progress: "The Center for American Progress today released a ... study that projects today’s immigrants’ integration patterns through the year 2030. The report, “Assimilation Tomorrow: How America’s Immigrants Will Integrate by 2030,” The ... report finds that at astonishingly high levels, immigrants are projected to learn English, buy homes, acquire citizenship, and attain solid economic footing in the United States.

... Hispanic immigrants as well are projected to make great strides. Contrary to the assertions of some who argue that Hispanic immigrants are not assimilating and will not assimilate to American life, the authors find that these newcomers follow the same upward trajectory as immigrants overall, albeit from a lower starting point. Homeownership, for example, jumps from 21 percent of the Hispanic immigrant population in 2000 to 67 percent in 2030.

CAP Vice President for Immigration Policy and Advocacy Angela Kelley notes, “This research is a must-read for any policymaker who is concerned that America's newcomers aren't becoming new Americans and for politicians who think the immigrant community can be ignored."" read more

Immigration Politics: Immigration activists slam Gingrich on ‘Red Card Solution’

The Washington Post: "Newt Gingrich is trying to carve out a middle way on illegal immigration, pushing a “Red Card Solution” that would essentially expand the guest-worker program without giving those immigrants a pathway to citizenship. But Gingrich’s compromise isn’t eliciting much praise within the immigration community: Activists on both on left and right say that Red Carding fails to address fundamental problems with the U.S. immigration system.

On the right, advocates who want greater restrictions on immigration say the Red Card Solution simply gives businesses a pool of cheap labor at the expense of native-born workers. ... Pro-immigration advocates argue that the Red Card plan would undermine the rights of immigrants and would be massively difficult to put in place. “It virtually guarantees that we create second-class status for workers and their families — lawful but with no real rights,” says Mary Giovagnoli, director of the Immigration Policy Center." read more

Immigration Crackdown and Politics: Opponents of Alabama’s immigration law say it causes fear, anxiety

BostonHerald.com: ""HB 56 has caused a chain reaction that prevents Hispanics from living with dignity," said Trini Garcia, who came to Alabama on a tourist visa 15 years ago and stayed after it expired.

"I never thought Arizona’s law was going to come to Alabama," she said. "Now it’s created chaos among Hispanics in Alabama." Garcia was one of several speakers Monday at a hearing called by congressional Democrats who traveled to Birmingham to rally opposition to HB 56, the state anti-immigration law patterned after Arizona’s SB 1070." read more

Immigration Politics: Where the Candidates Stand on Immigration

A summary of the positions on undocumented immigrants held by candidates for the Republican nomination for president. NYTimes.com:

Immigration Crackdown: Alabama Considers Revision of Immigration Law Ensnaring Mercedes Executive

Bloomberg: "On Nov. 16, a European businessman paying a visit to his company’s manufacturing plant near Tuscaloosa, Alabama, was pulled over for driving a rental car without a tag. ...  Because the man couldn’t prove he had the right to be in the U.S., he was arrested and hauled off to the police station.

... The businessman turned out to be an executive with Mercedes-Benz, one of Alabama’s prized manufacturers, ... “I was really embarrassed and overwhelmed,” says state Senator Gerald Dial. “Mercedes has done more to change the image of Alabama than just about anything else. We don’t want to upset those people.”

... None of the politicians who expressed doubts about HB56 wants it repealed. All want to preserve its central provisions: penalties for hiring illegal immigrants and the mandate for police to question the legal status of traffic violators. The politicians say their aim is to calm concerns about the law without watering it down." read more

Immigration Politics: Newt Gingrich’s Words on Immigration Become a Target

NYTimes.com: "DES MOINES — An intense debate over immigration flared among the Republican presidential candidates on Wednesday as Mitt Romney declared that Newt Gingrich “offered a new doorway to amnesty” when he called for a “humane” immigration policy to avoid deportation for people who are deeply rooted in their churches and communities.

... Representative Steve King of Iowa, a leading voice against illegal immigration, said he was puzzled that Mr. Gingrich had suddenly injected such a red-hot issue into his campaign. He said it was difficult to overstate how potent of a problem it could be for Mr. Gingrich, saying it set off “a viral discussion among activists." read more

Immmigration Crackdown: Alabama city drops immigration law case against German executive

latimes.com: "Authorities in Alabama dropped charges Wednesday against a German Mercedes-Benz executive who was arrested under the state's stringent new illegal-immigration law after a police officer caught him driving without required identification." read more

Drug War: Zetas Drug Cartel Allegedly Conducts 'Mexico-Style Attack' near Houston

Fox News Latino: "A multi-agency undercover drug bust in Texas spun out of control Monday afternoon when a civilian working for law enforcement was killed and a police officer injured in what has been described by the local press as a “Mexico-style” attack.

The incident occurred in Texas' Harris County, where parts of Houston are located, when the secret operative disguised as a truck driver delivering a 300 pound package of marijuana was driving through the northwest part of the county to a rendezvous point. Out of nowhere three sport-utility vehicles carrying alleged Zetas drug cartel gunmen cut off the 18-wheeler truck and opened fire on the cab, killing the driver." read more

Drug War Bloodshed: 24 killed in drug cartel-plagued Mexican state

The Associated Press: "CULIACAN, Mexico (AP) — Attacks in the home state of Mexico's most powerful drug cartel left 24 people dead and 17 of the victims' bodies were found burned in two pickup trucks, officials said Wednesday." read more

Nov 23, 2011

Violence Against Women: In Mexico, a Deadly Cocktail of Sexual Violence and Impunity

IPS ipsnews.net: "Sexual violence against women in Mexico is on the rise, alongside the escalation of violence between police and soldiers and the drug cartels, women's rights activists warn. "We have seen an increase in sexual harassment, groping, gang rape, and rapes of girls," Imelda Marrufo, founding director of the Red Mesa de Mujeres, a network of women's groups in Ciudad Juárez, on the U.S. border, told IPS.

The National Citizens' Observatory for Femicide (OCNF), which groups 43 human rights and women's organisations, documented around 7,000 cases of rape in 10 of Mexico's 32 states in 2010. However, the real total is assumed to be much higher as rape is considered one of the most underreported crimes." read more

Drug War: Pentagon’s War on Drugs Goes Mercenary

Wired.com: "An obscure Pentagon office designed to curb the flow of illegal drugs has quietly evolved into a one-stop shop for private security contractors around the world, soliciting deals worth over $3 billion.

The sprawling contract, ostensibly designed to stop drug-funded terrorism, seeks security firms for missions like “train[ing] Azerbaijan Naval Commandos.” Other tasks include providing Black Hawk and Kiowa helicopter training “for crew members of the Mexican Secretariat of Public Security.” Still others involve building “anti-terrorism/force protection enhancements” for the Pakistani border force in the tribal areas abutting Afghanistan.

The Defense Department’s Counter Narco-Terrorism Program Office has packed all these tasks and more inside a mega-contract for security firms. The office, known as CNTPO, is all but unknown, even to professional Pentagon watchers. It interprets its counternarcotics mandate very, very broadly, leaning heavily on its implied counterterrorism portfolio. And it’s responsible for one of the largest chunks of money provided to mercenaries in the entire federal government." read more

Mexico Politics: Enrique Peña Nieto’s Campaign Book

Shannon K. O'Neil: "After a recent tour through Washington, DC, and New York, former governor and likely PRI presidential candidate Enrique Peña Nieto just released Mexico, the Great Hope. An efficient state for democracy with results.

Arguing that the successive PAN administrations have left the country worse for the wear, Peña Nieto lays out his vision for a government based on guaranteeing citizens’ basic rights (such as security), getting the economy growing at its full potential, and reaffirming Mexico’s leadership as an emerging power on the world stage." read more

Immigration Politics: Debate puts Newt Gingrich on defensive over immigration

latimes.com: "... another GOP frontrunner is on the defensive after another debate. This time it's Newt Gingrich under the microscope after he seemed to advocate what critics call a form of amnesty for illegal immigrants. The former House speaker weighed in during an exchange on illegal immigration and border security during last night's national security focused debate, broadcast on CNN.

"I do not believe that the people of the United States are going to take people who’ve been here for a quarter of a century ... [and] separate them from their families and expel them," Gingrich said. "I do believe we should control the border. I do believe we should have very severe penalties." He continued, "I don't believe that the party that says it's the party of the family is going to say it’s going to destroy families that have been here for more than a quarter of a century. ... Let's be humane in enforcing the law."" read more

Drug War: Third tunnel in a week found under U.S.-Mexico border

Those moles just keep digging.

Reuters: "Border police in Nogales, Arizona, uncovered a drug smuggling tunnel from Mexico, the latest in a spate of illicit passageways found under the border in recent days." read more

Drug War - the Money: Mexico seizes $15 million said to belong to cartel

$15 million is another drop in the multi-billion dollar bucket of the drug cartels.

latimes.com: "More than $15 million has been seized in an upper-class neighborhood of Tijuana, one of the largest cash seizures by Mexican forces in the nation's nearly 6-year-old drug war, authorities said." read more

Drug War and Mexico Politics: Mexico to probe report of drug campaign financing

Associated Press: "Mexican federal prosecutors said Tuesday they are opening an investigation into a taped telephone conversation in which a reputed drug cartel leader purportedly threatens residents of a town in western Mexico to vote in favor of one candidate." read more

Immigration Crackdown: Justice Department sues Utah over state’s illegal immigration enforcement law - The Washington Post

Utah is added to the list of states-Arizona, Alabama, South Carolina--whose immigration laws are being challenged by the Justice Department 

Washington Post: "The U.S. Justice Department filed a lawsuit Tuesday challenging Utah’s immigration enforcement law, arguing that it usurps federal authority and could potentially lead to the harassment and detention of American citizens and authorized visitors." read more

Movement for Peace with Justice at a Crossroads

Following is Americas MexicoBlog's summary of an interview with Javier Sicilia of the Movement for Peace with Justice and Dignity, published this week in Proceso, a Mexican weekly magazine. The MexicoBlog translation of the full interview is available here. The original Spanish article is available here.
Javier Sicilia, the Mexican poet and social critic who founded the Movement for Peace with Justice following the murder of his son on March 28 of this year, has announced that he is stepping down from his leadership role. In an interview with the weekly magazine, Proceso, Sicilia said that he will stop being the leading image in order for the organization to become better orgniazed and more militant. "I will continue as a moral figure, the weight is too great for me to continue as the main figure," he said.

The Movement is currently involved in an intense process of internal self-examination to rethink goals, actions, structure, leadership and funding sources. It spent it first seven months carrying out major public symbolic actions. These included marches and two bus caravans through twenty-six states to awaken public consciousness and give a voice to victims of the drug war. "Dialogue" meetings were also held with President Calderón and other government leaders to demand assistance to victims, changes in the proposed Security Law and other reforms in the government strategy against the drug cartels.

Sicilia and other Movement leaders now agree it is time to create a more defined organization with broad leadership and a regional structure across the nation. "We are in a crisis of growth," said Sicilia. The Movement has no office ... nor money. When in Mexico City, Sicilia works in an office that is loaned to him by the National Center for Social Communication. All its workers are volunteers.

Pietro Ameglio, one of those in charge of creating a national network of organizations of relatives of victims, said that the poet's leadership is not in doubt but that it is necessary to build a broad structure for making decisions. "It is very clear that the main leadership is that of Javier Sicilia, there is a general acceptance of it. But there is also an increasing need to build the national network, where the victims also participate in and benefit from the decisions," Ameglio said.

Asked what the Movement's next steps will be, Sicilia replied, "'To pursue justice, to ensure that all the cases of victims are attended to by putting pressure on the newly created federal Office of Victim Services, to build the memorial, to make the National Security Act be appropriate to citizens' security and to work on the Victims' Law. As the name of the movement implies, to achieve peace with justice and dignity. ... the center of all this are the people who were abused. Beginning from there we proceed. We go forward because Mexico will continue for a long time in a state of national emergency."

More specifically, Ameglio said the movement is considering moving from symbolic actions, such as the caravans, to acts of peaceful civil resistance. Following the non-violent principles of Ghandi, this would begin with acts of "non-cooperation," such as sitting in at government offices where victims have filed complaints, waiting there "until either the agreement or what is asked for is completed."