Mar 30, 2012

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.


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.

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