Mar 30, 2012

Opinion: Mexico presidential campaign: Off to a good start

Christian Science Monitor. As Mexico starts the official campaign for a July 1 presidential election, a big political taboo has been broken – one of many signs that Mexicans are defying old stereotypes, from gender to economics.

The two presidential frontrunners, Enrique Peña Nieto and Josefina Vázquez Mota, have both endorsed major reform of Pemex, the state oil monopoly long held dear as an icon of national pride. It’s also Latin America’s largest corporation.

Pemex’s production has fallen by a quarter since 2004. Mismanaged as a cash cow for government coffers, it lacks the expertise to tap the huge reserves in the deep waters of the Gulf of Mexico. The two candidates want to open up the petroleum giant to private, perhaps even foreign, investment. Read more.

Mexico’s vanquished ruling party, once the ‘perfect dictatorship,’ poised for comeback

The Associated Press. PRI candidate Enrique Pena Nieto starts the 90-day campaign, set by electoral law, with more than a 10-point lead in most polls over Josefina Vazquez Mota of the now-governing National Action Party, or PAN. Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador of the leftist Democratic Revolution Party, known as the PRD, trails in third. Though the PRI lost the presidency in 2000 after ruling 71 years with an iron fist, it has maintained the political machinery of eight decades, not to mention two-thirds of Mexico’s 31 governors.

The hope for democratic change that swept the PRI’s opponents into the presidency has evaporated. People are weary of President Felipe Calderon’s bloody assault on organized crime after 47,000 deaths and many are nostalgic for a party that, for all its faults, brought Mexico into the modern era without the coups, revolutions and civil wars that plagued the rest of Latin America. Read more.

Valdés: unsafe areas are obstacle to the electoral process


La Jornada (translation Americas Program) Leonardo Valdés, president of the Federal Electoral Institute (IFE) warned the Attorney General’s Office (PGR) and the Special Prosecutor for the Investigation of Electoral Crimes (Fepade) that the existence of public insecurity, as well as legal loopholes, were the main obstacles to the electoral process. At a presentation of the 2012 Fepade work program, Valdés Zurita indicated that security is necessary for citizens who organize elections since, along with the development of the party system, elements which threaten the social compact have surged. He added that the existence of unsafe areas hurt social interaction and could eventually inhibit the development of democratic life.
“I therefore believe that the climate of insecurity and legal loopholes are the two main obstacles to the electoral process (...) We need the candidates to freely present their proposals all across the country; it is also necessary for leaders, candidates, officials, and supporters to avoid exploiting imperfections in the legal framework to interfere with voters’ choices.”
During his speech, the head of Fepade, Imelda Calvillo said the institution will pursue all leads where suspicions of illegal election processes take place, for which it has trained 29,000,069 people online, 33,000,395 in person in 25 states, and 349 Federal prosecutors.
He also noted the preliminary investigations will be exhaustively undertaken in a comprehensive manner and all lines of inquiry will be looked at with an integrated approach. Between January and today 627 investigations have been initiated, representing an increase of 58 percent over the same period last year.
Of these, he added, 339 have been resolved: 187 criminal prosecutions and 152 in other ways, representing a 23 percent increase compared to 275 recorded in 2011. Read Spanish Original

(Translation by Michael Kane, Americas Program) 

Week's Top Articles on Mexico: Mar. 23-30, 2012

In Human Rights and Rule of Law News, the big announcement is that the race is on. Today is the official opening day of the Mexican presidential campaigns. The three major candidates, Enrique Peña Nieto (PRI), Josefina Vázquez Mota and Andrés Manuel López Obrador are holding major rallies to launch their campaigns and seeking to reach supporters and the large block of voters who still poll "undecided". Mexican government officials are taking measures to protect the elections from organized crime, while analysts warn that local elections are most at risk.

The week also saw more reports and discussion on human rights violations, in this case against Mexicans on the border, journalists and anti-mining activists.

In Drug War News, as part of the elections, party leaders are already jostling to take credit for what's right and blame someone else for what's wrong. President Calderon said in a speech that drug war violence and chaos existed before and he just took the bull by the horns. An Army General echoed this line, throwing the blame on former President Vicente Fox, also of the National Action Party.

Statistics on drug war deaths are never precise, but this week there was some confusion when the Mexican daily La Jornada ran a front-page article reporting that U.S. Secretary of Defense Panetta used the staggering figure of 150,000. The Mexican Armed Forces later clarified that the figure applied to the entire Western Hemisphere, although the clarification left more questions than answers. The chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Martin Dempsey also weighed in on military strategy in the region this week.

Articles

Human Rights and Rule of Law News

Mexico opposition eyes return as campaign opens 
AFP: Mexico officially launched its general election campaign Friday, with the main opposition party favored to regain the power it lost in 2000 after 71 years of rule... With over 50,000 people killed and mounting violence, PAN candidate Josefina Vazquez Mota, 51, will have to overcome deep public skepticism that the brutal offensive has dented the influence and wealth of drug cartels. Read more.

Valdés: unsafe areas are obstacle to the electoral process
La Jornada: (translation Americas MexicoBlog) Leonardo Valdés, president of the Federal Electoral Institute (IFE) warned the Attorney General’s Office (PGR) and the Special Prosecutor for the Investigation of Electoral Crimes (Fepade) that the existence of public insecurity, as well as legal loopholes, were the main obstacles to the electoral process. Read more.

Mexico’s vanquished ruling party, once the ‘perfect dictatorship,’ poised for comeback
TheAssociated Press. PRI candidate Enrique Pena Nieto starts the 90-day campaign, set by electoral law, with more than a 10-point lead in most polls over Josefina Vazquez Mota of the now-governing National Action Party, or PAN. Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador of the leftist Democratic Revolution Party, known as the PRD, trails in third. Read more.

Analysis: Drug gang menace overshadows Mexican election
Reuters: Rather than handing on a safer Mexico to his successor, Calderon's offensive against the cartels has laid bare the limits of the state's power against organized crime. Read more.

Journalists Urge Mexico to Investigate Attacks on Media 
Fox News Latino: The Committee to Protect Journalists issued a statement Tuesday condemning recent attacks on a newspaper and television station in Mexico and demanding prosecution of the perpetrators. Both incidents took place in the northern border state of Tamaulipas, a battleground for warring drug cartels. Read more.

Human rights group accuses U.S. of abuses along Mexico border 
Reuters: U.S. policing along the Mexico border discriminates against Hispanics and Native Americans and contributes to the deaths of illegal immigrants, according to a study by the human rights group Amnesty International USA. Read more.

The "fifth power": Transnational mining
La Jornada: (translation: Americas MexicoBlog): "So far this year, the Ocotlán Valley United Peoples Coalition (CPUVO) has reported two crimes and accuses the mining company, in conjunction with the San José del Progreso local government, of using armed groups against opponents of the mine... beyond the investigations required to arrest and prosecute the masterminds and perpetrators of these crimes, it's urgent that we look into the devastating effects of the policy of granting mining concessions without regard to the territorial rights of the peoples. Read more.

Drug War News

General Lozano Espinosa: Fox bequeathed a country taken over by organized crime
La Jornada: (translation Americas MexicoBlog): Felipe Calderón Hinojosa inherited a country taken over by organized crime from Vicente Fox Quesada, in which a large number of the almost 2 million 500 towns "were imprisoned by crime and many mayors could not carry out their responsibilities... Therefore the Mexican Army had to step in to confront this phenomenon," said General Genaro Fausto Lozano Espinosa, commander of the 5th Military Regiment, based in Guadalajara... Read more.    

United States: Mexican police, heavily infiltrated by narcotraffickers
El Universal: (translation: Americas MexicoBlog): The state and local police in Mexico are heavily infiltrated by organized crime, said the U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for the Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs William Brownfield on Thursday. Read more.

Head of US Armed Forces Discusses Combating Transnational Organized Crime 
American Forces Press Service: Transnational organized crime is not specifically mentioned in the new defense strategy, but leaders understand the threat, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff said at U.S. Southern Command today. Read more.  

Panetta Declares 150,000 Deaths (give or take) in Mexico's Drug War 
Americas MexicoBlog: The Mexican daily La Jornada headlined "150,000 Deaths in Mexico for Narco-Violence: Panetta". The paper notes that the US Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta made the statement at the first meeting of defense chiefs from Canada, the United States and Mexico, held in Ottawa on Mar. 27. Where did this figure come from? Read more.  

The government distributes 200 million pesos belonging to El Chapo
El Universal: (Translation: Americas MexicoBlog): More than 15 million dollars belonging to the Sinaloa Cartel, led by Joaquí­n "El Chapo" Guzmán, as well as jewelry and property seized by the Army in November of last year, will be distributed among federal agencies after the Attorney General of the Republic (PGR) labelled them abandoned to the federal government when no one claimed it as their rightful property. Read more.

'Colombia Drug Lords Tried to Turn in Sinaloa Cartel Boss Chapo Guzman' 
Plaza Pública. Costa Rican Alejandro Jimenez Gonzalez, alias "El Palidejo", had 16 reasons to feel afraid. Jailed in Guatemala, accused of planning the killing of Argentine singer Facundo Cabral (July 9 2011), Jimenez could become involved in a drug trafficking and money laundering trial against 16 defendants in a Brooklyn, New York court. The accused belong to gang the Rastrojos, and their leaders, brothers Javier Antonio and Luis Enrique Calle Serna, are identified as the people who planned to protect Jimenez when he arrived in Colombia, according to the president of that country, Juan Manuel Santos. Palidejo was arrested nearly two weeks ago off the Colombian Pacific coast, where he'd arrived via boat from Panama. Days later, he was extradited to Guatemala for the Cabral case. (Translation of excerpts by Insight Crime).  Read more.  

Look for scores more articles on the blog. Enjoy the weekend!  Posted by the NEW  Americas Program's Mexicoblog blog team: Laura Carlsen, Mikael Rojas, Michael Kane and Brenda Salas.



Mexico opposition eyes return as campaign opens

The race is on! Today is the official opening day of the Mexican presidential campaigns. The three major candidates, Enrique Peña Nieto (PRI), Josefina Vázquez Mota and Andrés Manuel López Obrador will hold major rallies to launch their campaigns and seek to reach supporters and the large block of voters who still poll "undecided".

AFP  Mexico officially launched its general election campaign Friday, with the main opposition party favored to regain the power it lost in 2000 after 71 years of rule.

President Felipe Calderon, of the conservative National Action Party (PAN), is not eligible for a second term but his war on drug traffickers launched after he took office in December 2006 will be at the center of the debate.

With over 50,000 people killed and mounting violence, PAN candidate Josefina Vazquez Mota, 51, will have to overcome deep public skepticism that the brutal offensive has dented the influence and wealth of drug cartels.  Read more

Mar 29, 2012

The government distributes 200 million pesos belonging to El Chapo

El Universal. More than 15 million dollars belonging to the Sinaloa Cartel, led by Joaquín “El Chapo” Guzmán, as well as jewelry and property seized by the Army in November of last year, will be distributed among federal agencies after the Attorney General of the Republic (PGR) labelled them abandoned to the federal government when no one claimed it as their rightful property.

The office issued the edict yesterday in the Official Journal of the Federation, which reports that the money - with the exchange rate now standing at 209,335,625 pesos - will be shared between the PGR, the Judicial Branch of the Federation, and the Ministry of Health.

The seizure of cash and property took place on November 18, 2011 in Tijuana, Baja California as part of Operation Zorro, in which a Grand Cherokee transporting the huge sum to a safe house of the Sinaloa Cartel was intercepted. The house was used as a center of financial operations for the criminal organization, reported the Ministry of National Defense (Sedena).

Although no one was arrested, the military seized 15 million 350 thousand U.S. dollars that were in three suitcases, along with jewelry, which will now become part of public funds for activities related to the administration of justice, fight against organized crime, and prevention and treatment programs for addicts.

According to the edict, the money and property was decreed abandoned after the 90 days required by law during which time someone can claim ownership of the resources and assets by establishing legal ownership. As this did not take place, in accordance with law, the cash and jewelry now belong to the federal government coffers, a measure taken because of preliminary investigation UEIORPIFAM/AP/308/2011.

Among the goods detailed in the document were 11 watches of various brands such as Cartier, one of which “encrusted diamonds on the face and bracelet” as well as one of the same brand made entirely of 18-carat gold.

In addition, there is a Rolex with gems, as well as pieces from Nautica, Burberry, and even a limited edition Frederique Constant Geneve watch, whose serial number is 1764, which, according to collectors, is assembled by hand, for which they are worth in the two thousand euro range.
Also abandoned to the government were eight rings made of different materials and of different designs, one of which had a horseshoe-shaped inlay, although the edict does not specify the type of gem used. Read more.

(Translation by Michael Kane, Americas Program)

General Lozano Espinosa: Fox bequeathed a country taken over by organized crime

The blame game is on. As Mexico readies for campaign season in the run-up to the July 1 presidential elections, we expect to see a lot of this—public displays of government achievements and throwing blame for the many disasters of the past six years, but especially for the drug war. Here, an Army general speaks ‘as an individual, based on personal experience’ to point the finger at former president Vicente Fox and justify the role of the armed forces in the drug war.

La Jornada (translation Americas Program) Felipe Calderón Hinojosa inherited a country taken over by organized crime from Vicente Fox Quesada, in which a large number of the almost 2 million 500 towns “were imprisoned by crime and many mayors could not carry out their respobsibiliites...Therefore the Mexican Army had to step in to confront this phenomenon,” said General Genaro Fausto Lozano Espinosa, commander of the 5th Military Regiment, based in Guadalajara that includes the states of Aguascalientes, Jalisco, Colimba, Nayarit, and Zacatecas-,this Wednesday at the Law School of the Autonomous University of Zacatecas (AUZ).

In fact, the commander said, the Army must stay in the fight against organized crime because the situation is likely to endanger the very existence of the Mexican state, given its complexity and scope...

The military command acknowledged that at present, Mexico’s Pacific mountains are full of drugs and there are hundreds of thousands of people who dedicate themselves to its production. It’s a cultural issue, a way of life, he said, but currently, the country’s main problem “is the drug dealing, the growing consumption of drugs which is creeping into our homes without our knowledge.”

Lozano Espinosa defended President Felipe Calderón Hinojosa’s decision to send the army into the streets to fight organized crime, saying since the beginning of his administration there has been a serious problem of law and order in the country and the Army and Air Force cannot remain idle or negligent in their responsibilities. At the start of this administration, the state of governance, freedom, rule of law, and democracy was truly dramatic.

“Why do I say this? Because five years ago the country was literally taken over by organized crime. At the local level, many were co-opted by crime or threatened by the authorities.”

The major general, with four decades experience in the armed forces, said that many mayors were extorted, even with the budgetary resources that the national government provides for them to exercise their mandates... In this situation, an individual who was elected to lead a municipality could not possibly carry out duties and without that function there is no governance. And if people vote for someone who can’t carry out his or her duties, where’s the democracy in that? It’s not right! Because we have a de facto power that is ursurping the popular will, national sovereignty...

“Clearly the rule of law and freedom are affected. There were lots of rural roads and highways where criminals set up roadblocks and if you didn’t pay a quota, you couldn’t pass.”

With these examples, he said, we understand that security in the country is impaired, and the president has to exercise his constitutional powers to reverse a situation that poses a serious risk to national institutions and could escalate to endanger the very existence of the Mexican state. That is the reason why he ordered the armed forces to intervene against organized crime.

Corruption and incompetence in the police, especially local authorities, and the justice system is another reason to keep soldiers in the streets, said Lozano Espinosa. Read Spanish Original

United States: Mexican police, heavily infiltrated by narcotraffickers


El Universal. Translation: Americas MexicoBlog. The state and local police in Mexico are heavily infiltrated by organized crime, said the U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for the Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs William Brownfield on Thursday.

In an awards committee hearing of the Lower House, William Brownfield said the state and local police seem to be part of the problem not the solution, but said that "the federal forces have overcome that".

Brownfield attributed the progress to the emphasis that U.S. cooperation through the Merida Initiative has placed in training and clearing the federal forces in the past three years, as well as the start in 2011 of training more state and local agents.

"As a federation, as in the United States, 90% of prosecutors and courts in Mexico are state and local entities. Infiltration is a very serious problem, but in federal institutions it’s actually less so than in state and local ones, "he said.

In response to a question from Democratic Representative Adam B. Schiff on the murder of five policemen in Ciudad Juarez on Wendesday night, only a day after leaving the hotel where they had stayed for a month for protection, Brownfield said that intimidation is “obviously a large part of the problem.”

“Mexico will eventually have to decide how it’s going to solve the problem. With the Colombian model, they’ll spend a lot of money on bodyguards,” Brownfield said after stating that the Colombian National Police spent about 10 thousand agents, between 8 and 9% of its total budget.

“Will they build separate communities for police, prosecutors, and judges so that they can provide them with protection? Will they (with state and local agents) do what they’re currently doing with federal agents, rotating every three to six months so they can’t be identified or attacked?” asked the official.

However, the diplomat expressed his optimism regarding long-term security in Mexico because “we need not create a paradise to say we were successful. All we have to do is make business (of illicit drugs) more expensive by 5 to 10%. When we get there, economic laws will come into play and force the drug traffickers to go elsewhere.”

Authorities in Ciudad Juarez ordered 2 million 500 police officers to stay in hotels in February after gunmen ambushed and killed five policemen. The next day came new messages posted across the city signed by the Juarez cartel that they intended to assassinate an officer per day if the police chief did not resign. Read more.

(Translation by Michael Kane, Americas Program) 

Analysis: Drug gang menace overshadows Mexican election

ReutersBy Dave Graham and Lisbeth Diaz. A month after taking office, President Felipe Calderon stood in military fatigues before a group of soldiers in western Mexico and pledged to put a stop to drug-related violence.

Turf wars between drug cartels were spreading deep into Mexico, beyond the smuggling hotspots on the U.S. border; extortion was a growing menace, and hitmen had resorted to new levels of brutality, dumping severed heads in public.

So Calderon said enough was enough.

"We are determined to reestablish the security, not just of Michoacan or Baja California, but of all Mexico, which is being threatened by organized crime," he told the soldiers in Apatzingan, in his home state of Michoacan.

But since then, the drugs war has taken a much heavier toll, claiming more than 50,000 lives and blighting many more.

Read more.

Arrest of Would-Be 'Zetas' Shows Risk of US Military Infiltration

InsightCrimeBy Geoffrey Ramsey. United States drug enforcement agents have broken up a ring involving former and current US military personnel attempting to work for Mexico’s brutal Zetas drug cartel, illustrating the group's alarming potential to penetrate the US military. On March 24, First Lt. Kevin Corley (pictured, at left) and arrived with a three-man team at a warehouse in the border city of Laredo, Texas, armed with two semiautomatic rifles, a combat knife and a .300-caliber bolt-action rifle equipped with a scope. The men believed they had been hired by the Zetas to carry out a contracted killing and raid of a rival drug trafficking group’s storehouse, and had been called to receive the final details of the assignment.  What they didn’t know, however, was that they were targets of an elaborate sting operation organized by the US Drug Enforcement Administration. Read more

Mar 28, 2012

'Colombia Drug Lords Tried to Turn in Sinaloa Cartel Boss Chapo Guzman'

Plaza Pública. Translation of excerpt Insight Crime. By Julie López. Costa Rican Alejandro Jimenez Gonzalez, alias “El Palidejo” (pictured above), had 16 reasons to feel afraid. Jailed in Guatemala, accused of planning the killing of Argentine singer Facundo Cabral (July 9 2011), Jimenez could become involved in a drug trafficking and money laundering trial against 16 defendants in a Brooklyn, New York court. The accused belong to gang the Rastrojos, and their leaders, brothers Javier Antonio and Luis Enrique Calle Serna, are identified as the people who planned to protect Jimenez when he arrived in Colombia, according to the president of that country, Juan Manuel Santos. Palidejo was arrested nearly two weeks ago off the Colombian Pacific coast, where he’d arrived via boat from Panama. Days later, he was extradited to Guatemala for the Cabral case.

It was no coincidence that Jimenez arrived to the Colombian Pacific coast. The zone is the stronghold for Javier Antonio and Luis Enrique Calle Serna, alias the “Combatants” or “Comba,” due to [Javier Antonio's] previous service in the Popular Liberation Army (EPL) in the southern Putumayo department. Some media sources identify them as former paramilitaries (AUC), as are many of the Rastrojos. Read more: Full article in Spanish, English excerpt

Laura's Blog: Panetta Declares 150,000 Deaths (give or take) in Mexico's Drug War

The Mexican daily La Jornada ran a somewhat confusing front-page article today, headlined "150,000 Deaths in Mexico for Narco-Violence: Panetta". The paper notes that the US Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta made the statement at the first meeting of defense chiefs from Canada, the United States and Mexico, held in Ottawa on Mar. 27.

It goes on to quote Mexican Minister of Defense Guillermo Galvan using different figures:
Galván said the war on drugs "has cost the lives of 50,000 Mexicans" and warned that the cartels that operate in the country have links in both Canada and the United States. Likewise, he pointed out that the most recent official statistics released in January of this year in Mexico, indicate that since 2006 47,500 people have died as a result of violence stemming from drug trafficking.
Since the official number is closer to 50,000, the Americas Program decided to track down the 150,000 statement.

It seems that the Canadian press confirms that the figure 150,000 was used, with some attributing it to Panetta and CBC to Mexico's Defense Secretary Guillermo Galvan. The general consensus among press present at the Ottawa trilateral defense meeting is that Sec. Panetta said it, while citing the Mexican government as the source. The DoD has not clarified to date, although CNN is tweeting that Panetta says that's the figure the Mexican officials gave him--with no time frame attached. Mexican officials jumped in, issuing a communique saying the figure refers to all of North America, according to the La Jornada article. 

Amid the who-said-what confusion, what's interesting about this apparent lapse is:

1) It doesn't seem to make much difference to the Sec. of Defense Panetta whether the number is 50,000 or 150,000. The sloppiness about the difference of 100,000 human beings could contribute to the way in which Mexican lives seem pawns to U.S. security strategy--a perception that is widespread here and of particular concern to many Mexicans, especially on the border;

2) The emphasis on the "bloody drug war" is being used to intensify the threat perception and support the need to regional-ize the response, under U.S. direction. 

The important issue underlying the attention-grabbing headline is how the newly strengthened alliance between the three countries will relate to respond to Mexico's undeniable crisis. Mexico has historically been reticent, to say the least. about U.S. involvement in its national security. The Pentagon is aware of this political fact, prompting curious disclaimers like this one.

The Calderón administration significantly changed that situation by opening the door to a far greater degree of U.S. government and private security sector involvement in Mexico. 

The other question is whether this tripartite military alliance will attempt to consolidate  the failing  current drug war model--focused on interdiction and enforcement and heavily promoted by the U.S. government and the outgoing Calderón administration. If so, it will be working against the will of a growing number of Mexicans (and some U.S. citizen groups) who want to see some major changes to stop the bloodshed.  

Watch for more fallout from this trilateral defense meeting in the weeks between now and the North American Leaders Summit on April 2. The vague announcement of a mechanism for closer alliance probably refers to the U.S. Northern Command, but it's unclear. NorthCom posted the joint statement from the March 27 trilateral defense meeting. Here are the conclusions:

Our meeting today has established the framework necessary to build North America's resilience by pursuing a practical agenda built on sustained trilateral cooperation on issues related to defence. We intend to:

- Develop a joint trilateral defence threat assessment for North America to deepen our common understanding of the threats and challenges we face.

- Explore ways to improve our support to the efforts of civilian public security agencies in countering illicit activities in our respective countries and the hemisphere, such as narcotics trafficking.

- Explore how we can collaborate to increase the speed and efficiency with which our armed forces support civilian-led responses to disasters.

- Continue to work together to strengthen hemispheric defence forums.


The last point is especially vague. In the interests of informing the public in all three countries about issues that closely affect their taxpayer dollars, their sovereignty and their safety, we'd like to know more about the mechanisms and proposed forums for regional security cooperation--if anyone out there has additional information, please send to info@cipamericas.org or post here.

Journalists Urge Mexico to Investigate Attacks on Media

Fox News Latino  The Committee to Protect Journalists issued a statement Tuesday condemning recent attacks on a newspaper and television station in Mexico and demanding prosecution of the perpetrators.  Both incidents took place in the northern border state of Tamaulipas, a battleground for warring drug cartels.

The first attack took place March 19, when a car bomb exploded outside the offices of Expreso newspaper in Ciudad Victoria, leaving five passersby injured.

Two days ago, an unidentified assailant hurled a grenade at the Televisa television studios in Matamoros, just across the border from Brownsville, Texas. Read more

Head of US Armed Forces Discusses Combatting Transnational Organized Crime

This brief article from the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Martin Dempsey gives several indications as to why the war on drugs drags on despite its failure. In his assessment of the threat posed by "transnational organized crime", Dempsey lumps in a series of threats that have no known basis in fact, including the transportation of terrorists and weapons of mass destruction through organized crime networks. There is no mention of the social roots of crime, and the model presented 'a la Colombiana' --"The military can clear an area, but if the government cannot hold it -- and bring jobs, education and health care benefits -- it will lose that area" continues to conceive of the fight on crime as a domestic military occupation.

American Forces Press Service  By Jim GaramonTransnational organized crime is not specifically mentioned in the new defense strategy, but leaders understand the threat, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff said at U.S. Southern Command today.

One of the command's main missions is to deal with the threat posed by drug cartels, human traffickers and gunrunners -- what the command calls transnational organized crime. The command works with regional allies and with U.S. interagency partners to combat this transnational threat.

Army Gen. Martin E. Dempsey spoke during a Southcom town hall meeting before leaving for a visit to regional allies. Before the town hall, he met with Air Force Gen. Douglas Fraser, Southcom’s commander, and received briefings on the range and breadth of threats and opportunities in the region.

“I want to assure you that we recognize the threat that transnational organized crime presents, not just because of what they transport to our shores, but what they could also transport -- terrorists and weapons and weapons of mass destruction,” the general said.  Read more

Human rights group accuses U.S. of abuses along Mexico border

Reuters U.S. policing along the Mexico border discriminates against Hispanics and Native Americans and contributes to the deaths of illegal immigrants, according to a study by the human rights group Amnesty International USA.
 
The report, titled "In Hostile Terrain: Human Rights Violations in Immigration Enforcement in the U.S. Southwest," identifies what it says are systemic failures of federal, state and local authorities to enforce immigration laws without discrimination.

"Communities living along the U.S.-Mexico border, particularly Latinos, individuals perceived to be of Latino origin and indigenous communities, are disproportionately affected by a range of immigration-control measures, resulting in a pattern of human rights violations," the study said.

The U.S. government has tightened security along the nearly 2,000-mile border with Mexico in recent years, adding additional fencing, surveillance technologies and Border Patrol agents. The federal government also has partnered with some state and local police forces to give officers immigration-enforcement powers.  Read more

Full Report from Amnesty International here:

IN HOSTILE TERRAIN: HUMAN RIGHTS ... - Amnesty International 
www.amnesty.org/en/library/asset/.../en/.../amr510182012en.pdf

Mar 27, 2012

The "fifth power": Transnational mining


In this opinion piece in the Mexican daily La Jornada, Magdalena Gómez, a lawyer and expert on indigenous rights, takes a critical look at the power of transnational mining companies in Mexico, in the wake of the murders of two anti-mine community leaders in Oaxaca.

La Jornada  In our country we have a formal system based on the division of three powers that coexists with, supports and/or is complicit with powers outside the constitution like the power duopoly of the mass media--identified as the “fourth power”--and an extremely powerful “fifth power”: transnational capital, found mainly in mining companies that have in recent years been granted concessions covering nearly a quarter of national territory.

All this is cloaked in the logic of the free market, which apparently embodies the free exercise of liberties and in which potentially, and very abstractly, we all have rights. Luigi Ferrajoli has shown in his most recent book, Poderes salvajes (Savage Powers), how these real powers have dominated the model of democratic constitutionalism that formally governs in our countries.

Today it is clear that the neoliberal model has strengthened these powers and has seriously distorted so-called nation states that, rather than protecting and guaranteeing fundamental freedoms, have become subsidiaries of big capital. But we’re not talking about mere speculative tendencies; throughout the country we see the negative impact of extreme extractivism, to the detriment of the territory of indigenous peoples, who from long ago have historically resisted the plunder but who now face the greatest threat to their continued existence.

One of the most recent examples is the Zapotec community of San José del Progreso, Ocotlán. The community lives in an environment of tension and divisiveness caused by the activities of the  Minera Cuzcatlan beginning in 2008. Minera Cuzcatlan is a subsidiary of Fortuna Silver Mines (part of a group of Canadian mining companies known as The Gold Group). So far this year, the Ocotlán Valley United Peoples Coalition (CPUVO) has reported two crimes and accuses the mining company, in conjunction with the San José del Progreso local government, of using armed groups against opponents of the mine.

Bernardo Mendez Vasquez was killed and Abigail Sanchez Vasquez was seriously injured in an ambush on Jan. 18, 2012. Last March 15, Bernardo Vasquez Sanchez, leader of the CPUVO, an organization that has challenged the granting of mining concessions without consultation in indigenous territories in the Ocotlán Valley, was shot dead. Rosalinda Dionisio Sanchez and Andres Vasquez Sanchez were seriously injured in that attack. So far there has been no justice for these crimes: in the first case, the arrest of one of the perpetrators was announced just five days after the second crime took place. We have already heard the usual arguments that attribute the attacks to rifts in the community—and they do exist--but no one stops to analyze that these divisions are promoted by the alliances forged by the mining companies.

The truth is that, beyond the investigations required to arrest and prosecute the masterminds and perpetrators of these crimes, it’s urgent that we look into the devastating effects of the policy of granting mining concessions without regard to the territorial rights of the peoples.

The outlook is very grave and peaceful, rights-based principles are being attacked over and over again. Until the fallacy that transnational corporations are simply private actors is rejected and what has been called “the architecture of impunity” is deconstructed, peoples’ rights will be impossible to guarantee in the face of the reality of governments subjugated to transnational capital.

The United Nations has spent more than two decades debating, holding meetings, and issuing governing principles to examine the relationship between indigenous peoples and extractive industries from a human rights perspective, focusing on three main issues: a) processes for consultation between all parties; b) the ways in which the benefits from economic activities are shared with indigenous peoples; and c) the means to resolve disputes. This approach fails to focus on binding rules that encourage the application of international human rights standards. Instead, they follow the logic of so-called “soft law” or non-rights. In the most recent report of the ad hoc rapporteur John Ruggie, this spirit is reflected in the quote by Amartya Sen that “we shouldn’t hold on to illusions and it is better to deal with the injustices that can be remedied.” The idea that global markets can be made compatible with human rights continues to prevail. That’s how the fifth power works. Yet its very existence is never discussed at election time.

Would that be too much to ask? Read more

(Translation by Michael Kane, Americas Program)

US Agents Kill Man in Phony Murder-for-Hire Plot

One of the more bizarre events of the 'tangled web' of U.S. involvement in the drug war... The DEA shot and killed a US citizen in a bust that included two US Army soldiers (one current, one former) for supposedly offering their services as hit men for the Zetas. The entire tragic incident was staged as a sting by the DEA.


(Reuters) A U.S. federal agent shot dead one of four men facing arrest in South Texas for being part of a murder-for-hire squad enlisted by undercover agents posing as Mexican drug cartel members, according to court documents released on Monday.

A Drug Enforcement Administration agent shot Jerome Corley on Saturday in Laredo, Texas, where federal authorities busted three men, including an Army sergeant and a recently discharged officer, who thought they would be hired as assassins for Mexico's brutal Zetas drug cartel...

Among the arrested was Corley's cousin Kevin Corley, 29, of Colorado Springs, Colo., who served in Afghanistan and was discharged from the Army on March 13, according to an Army spokeswoman; Samuel Walker, 28, of Colorado Springs, an active-duty sergeant, according to a spokeswoman at Fort Carson; and Shavar Davis, 29, of Denver.  Read more

Mar 26, 2012

US no longer dominates drug war agenda in Central America

The Guatemala Times: It is very clear that the Presidents of Central America and many Latin American countries are tired of the empty promises and empty US rhetoric on the war on drugs. They have also learned the lesson from Mexico, where President Calderon has been doing as the US asks, turning the country into a bloodbath. Last week Gen. Charles Jacoby, commander of U.S. Northern Command, said during testimony to the Senate Armed Services Committee: Mexico’s “decapitation” strategy of capturing or killing high-value drug cartel leaders with the help of U.S. has a problem, it isn´t working.

“The decapitation strategy — they’ve been successful at that. Twenty-two out of the top 37 trafficking figures that the Mexican government has gone after have been taken off the board. But it has not had an appreciable effect — an appreciable, positive effect.” read more

The Brutal Logic of a Drug Warrior: Put 'Em All in Cages

The Atlantic: "In the Asia Times, David P. Goldman has published a column that is at once jarringly horrific and possessed of a certain integrity, for it frankly acknowledges what happens when a country wages a war on drugs. His impetus for writing about the subject is Mexico, where tens of thousands have been slaughtered as a result of violence between drug cartels, their rivals, and police. He rightly points out that lawlessness is rampant in that country.

His solution?

Mexico should incarcerate a much higher percentage of its citizens." read more

Panetta set to announce more support for drug war

CNN: "U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta arrives in the Canadian capital Monday, where he is expected to announce new measures to support the fight against narcotics in the United States, Canada and Mexico.

He is attending a two-day meeting in Ottawa with Canadian and Mexican defense leaders. "The objective is to see how we can coordinate and support on security in ways that assist the ongoing counter-narcotics strategies in our countries," said Jay Paxton, communications director for Canadian Defence Minister Peter MacKay." read more

10 dead in shootout among gunmen in north Mexico

Associated Press: "Mexican authorities say 10 people have been killed during a shootout among gunmen in the country's north.

Prosecutors in the border state of Chihuahua say the gunbattle happened early Monday in the town of Temosachi. They aren't saying if any of the victims found are members of organized crime gangs." read more

Study: 80 percent of murders unpunished in Mexico

Associated Press: "Four out of five homicides go unpunished in Mexico, in part because prosecutors and police focus on less serious cases that are easier to solve, a Mexican think tank's report said Monday.

That leads to extreme situations like the northern border state of Chihuahua, where researchers found 96.4 percent of killings go unpunished, based on comparisons of the annual rates for murders and convictions in 2010. That compares to what the study calls an unenviably high nationwide average of around 80 percent." read more

Mexico has the world’s third largest police force


El Milenio: With more than 544 thousand federal, state, and local agents, Mexico has the world’s third largest police force, behind India and the United States. However, the incidence of high social impact crimes (homicide, armed robbery, and kidnappings) has not only continued, but even increased in recent years.

These statistics come from the Superior Audit Office of the Federation in its earnings statement on review of the 2010, which also reports a steady increase in the budget in the last five years for public safety and crime prevention.

Nonetheless, crime rates rose and thus the three branches of government saw the need for a new government system of police professionalization.

According to figures from the high oversight authority, high social impact crime continued to rise, with premeditated homicides rising from 15 to 18 per 100 thousands citizens.

In turn, robberies increased from 32 to 39 per 100 thousand people and kidnappings stood at a rate of one per 100 thousand.

All this despite the fact that Mexico has the third largest police force (544,025 in the three levels of government), surpassed only by India, with a little more than a million, and the United States, which has 951,000.

“This shows the failures of organizations operating within the country, including the Federal Police, which receives monetary resources every year,” said Arturo Zamora, deputy coordinator of PRI’s Legal Affairs in the Chamber of Deputies.

Growing expenditures

Based on the Supreme Audit Office of the Federation’s report, the Jalisco legislature said that in the period of 2006-2010, the Federal Police budget increased at a rate of 34.7 percent on average annually, from 5 billion 749 million pesos in 2006 to 18 billion 929 million pesos in 2010.

It also noted the armed forces role in stemming the wave of violence in the country. “As long as [the crime rate] fails to fall, as long as there is no range of security to ensure the full freedom of Mexicans, the army and navy should continue working towards the goal of guaranting security.”

Zamora reaffirmed in this regard that the PRI representatives are willing to create more legal tools for the Mexican state to combat organized criminal gangs, for which they will wait until the new president of the Commission of Government convenes a meeting to restart the analysis of the National Security Act.

Javier Corral, former president of that body and member of the PAN, was given permission to leave his seat last week, but first held the PRI responsible for the impasse on the law.

“As soon as someone as the new president of the Commission on Governance is named, they won’t call on the same members. There isn’t even a place to begin the analysis of the National Security Act, since the legislative process sent that bill at the first turn Commission of Government.”

“As the one who was appointed president of the Commission of Government did not convene the members, there is not even a place to begin analysis of the National Security Act, because the legislative process forwarded the bill at the first opportunity to the Commission of Government.”

The PRI deputy director also said that his party will work to avoid being blamed for the failure of the PAN’s anti-crime strategy, which has resulted in thousands of deaths during the current administration.

Translation: Michael Kane, Center for International Policy