John Ackerman on Mexican Crisis

LINKS below to recent op-ed articles by John Ackerman in Mexico. -molly
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Links embedded in titles. Each article is a stand alone, separately crafted piece.

“A call for authentic democracy in Mexico”, Los Angeles Times, October 30th, 2014

“Massacred democracy in Mexico”, Huffington Post, October 7th, 2014

“Le soutien aveugle de la France au président mexicain”, Libération, October 16th, 2014

“Gefahrliche Komplizenschaft”, Suddeutsche Zeitung, October 23rd, 2014.

“Fin al narcogobierno”, La Jornada, October 13, 2014.

Recent Homicides In Juarez

Three people were killed today near San Isidro in the Valle de Juarez…the bodies, bound at the hands and feet and shot multiple times, were left on the side of the road in a pool of blood. In the past several days there have been at least one killing each day. On Sunday, the tally for October stood at 37, so with these new killings, there have been 40 victims so far this month. molly

Matan a tres y tiran sus cuerpos junto a la carretera en San Isidro

Ejecutan a uno en El Sauzal

Encuentran ejecutado en el fraccionamiento Era del Valle

Asesinan a dos hombres y hieren a una mujer en ejecución

Paddlefish 2014-2015 issue featuring Charles Bowden and Molly Molloy

The 2014-2015 issue of the Mount Marty College’s national literary journal, PADDLEFISH is now available. The current issue includes stories, letters, essays and poetry from award-winning authors such as Charles Bowden, Molly Molloy, Dante Di Stefano, Lori DeSanti and David Lee, amongst others.

PADDLEFISH is edited by Jim Reese and associate editor Dana DeWitt, along with selected Mount Marty College faculty and students. Students play a major role in the publication and gain hands-on editing and publishing experience through the process. Over 2,000 submissions were received for the 2014 issue.

This issue is dedicated to the late Charles “Chuck” Bowden who believed in our journal and mission.

To purchase a copy of the 2014 journal or to subscribe to PADDLEFISH send $14.00 to the following address:

Mount Marty College
c/o PADDLEFISH
1105 W 8th Street
Yankton, SD 57078

Please make checks payable to Mount Marty College.

Previous Issues of interest by Charles Bowden and Molly Molloy:  ($14.00 each)

1)      “That Time in Paris” by Charles Bowden, 2014 Issue

2)      “A Letter to Students from Molly Molloy and Charles Bowden” 2014 Issue

3)      Jericho by Charles Bowden (Illustrations by Alice Leora Briggs), 2013 Issue

4)      “Rhapsody/Dead Man’s Curve and the Wild Blue Yonder by Charles Bowden (Illustrations by Alice Leora Briggs), 2012 Issue

5)      “Give Us This Day Our Daily Massacre…” by Molly Molloy, 2010 Issue

For more information, click here

Jim Reese, Ph.D.
Associate Professor of English, Mount Marty College

1105 West Eight St.

Yankton, SD 57078
EditorPADDLEFISH
Director: Great Plains Writers’ Tour
National Endowment for the Arts Writer-in-Residence,
Yankton Federal Prison Camp
605-668-1362
jimreese.org

Q & A with Guillermo Jimenez

Guillermo Jimenez is the owner of Brush Fire Media and tracesofreality.com as well as host of Demanufacturing Consent, an exclusive weekly podcast on Boiling Frogs Post. In 2012 he served as a National Delegate for Ron Paul and is involved in grassroots activism. Follow him @tracesofreality

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Interview by Virginia Isaad

In your bio you state that TOR is an “educational tool to inform others of the dangers of the expanding national security state and threats to our civil liberties.” How do you frame your coverage of the violence in Mexico with this in mind?

Young people in the United States, and to some extent throughout the world, should keep in mind that before there was a “war on terror” there was a war on drugs. The expansion of the national security state, and the subsequent loss of liberty, can be directly attributed to government policies associated with the drug war.

My approach to most issues, including the drug war violence in Mexico, usually begins with two questions in mind: how is my (the US) government involved, and how is this a threat to civil liberties?

US involvement in Mexico’s drug war, both directly and indirectly, is well documented, though perhaps not well understood. TOR Contributing Editor Danny Benavides coined the term “narconoia” — the fear of “narco-terrorism,” or more broadly speaking, the fear of the illicit drug market and those who trade within it. We believe this to be the pretense through which civil liberties have been attacked in the United States for generations.

In one article, you mention the capture of El Chapo as a PR stunt. How much of what is written about the Mexican drug war in U.S. media is, in your opinion, accurately representing what’s happening in Mexico?

It’s important to note that we at TOR were not the only ones to describe El Chapo’s capture as a publicity stunt by the Peña Nieto administration. Former DEA agents Hector Berrellez, Phil Jordan, and Cele Castillo have all expressed similar doubts about the Mexican government’s account of Chapo’s arrest. Berrellez, in fact, told Narco News that the whole thing was “arranged,” according to his sources.

As for the US media’s coverage of the Mexican drug war, I think it varies. Most traditional US media outlets make the mistake of framing the issue in terms of “good guys” and “bad guys.” They do their readers a disservice by not explaining how these “bad guys” came to power, and how a corrupt government and financial system enables them.

 

What do you think is the root of the problems in Mexico? Why? What, if any, are some solutions?

The drug war violence in Mexico results from a combination of state-imposed prohibitions on drugs and migration, government corruption, and US intervention.

Drug prohibition creates the black market. Without it, we would not be having this discussion right now. Wherever there is a black market, there are, of course, huge profits to be made. This is also a breeding ground for violence and corruption. Once the violence reaches a tipping point, as it has in Mexico, limits on migration make it difficult for people to flee and seek refuge elsewhere, namely the United States.

US intervention has also played a role in Mexico’s problems, as it has in so many other places around the world. Whether it’s “above board” cooperation through the Merida Initiative, or a history of covert action by the CIA, FBI, DEA, ICE, etc., the United States has in many ways exacerbated —  and even directly caused — Mexico’s drug war related problems.

In other words, the problems are systemic. It does not matter how many drug lords the authorities catch, or how many drug shipments are taken off the street, the problems will continue for as long as the system remains intact.

While long-lasting solutions will be as complex as the problems themselves, part of that solution must be a shift in drug policy. In short, end the drug war, and end prohibition. Of course, this alone does not fix everything that is wrong in either Mexico or the United States, but it is undeniable  that an end to the war on drugs would have a significant, beneficial effect in the daily lives of millions of people living on either side of the Rio Grande.

What would you like the public to know about the drug war in Mexico that is not often talked about, if at all?

As mentioned previously, the public deserves to know about the relationship between drug cartels, big business, the banking system, and high levels of government. It cannot be reduced to simply “bad guys” trying to control turf to make money.

The public deserves to know how the CIA, for example, had a working relationship with the leaders of the Guadalajara Cartel, including the recently freed Rafael Caro Quintero, during the 1980s. The public needs to know that, according to our own DEA and CIA contractor Tosh Plumlee, the agency used Quintero’s ranch land in Veracruz not only to train Guatemalan guerrilla fighters, but as a point of contact to fly plane loads of Colombian cocaine back into the United States.

They should know that when DEA agent Enrique “Kiki” Camarena came close to exposing this scheme, CIA-connected narcos captured, tortured, and killed him. The fallout from Camarena’s murder led to the collapse of the Guadalajara Cartel, which then splintered and gave rise to the modern-day Sinaloa, Juarez, and Gulf cartels.

It was this same US government intervention in the 1980s, training Guatemalan death squads to fight its dirty wars in Latin America, that later led to the rise of Los Zetas. Many of the founding members of Los Zetas have their roots in the US-trained Guatemalan “special forces” unit, the Kaibiles.

This is all largely forgotten history, but necessary to understand the modern-day drug war in Mexico in its proper context. The UN believes the drug trade generates roughly US$400 billion on the international market, which in my opinion is a conservative estimate. With so much money involved, it goes well beyond which cartel controls what part of Mexico. Any significant interruption to this market threatens global economies, and the banks that finance those economies. It would be incredibly naive to think there aren’t powerful forces involved who have a  vested interest in maintaining this status quo.

What do you think has been a pivotal turning point in the drug war in Mexico and how does your opinion of this event differ from the mainstream narrative?

Undoubtedly, the Felipe Calderon administration’s escalation and militarization of the Mexican drug war in 2007 was a crucial turning point in recent history. However, at this point, you’ll be hard pressed to find anyone who does not recognize this for the absolute disaster that it was.

More recently, the rise of the autodefensa movement in Mexico’s southern states has been a remarkable development. The mainstream narrative is, of course, to depict the autodefensas as “vigilantes,” “rebels,” and potentially dangerous — perhaps even as dangerous as the cartels themselves.

However, if it were not for the Mexican government’s ineptness and complicity in its drug war madness, there would have been no reason for small groups of ordinary citizens to band together in an effort to rid their communities of their criminal element. The autodefensas are not without their problems, no doubt, and recent developments show how the Mexican government has tried (and in many ways succeeded) to infiltrate, co-opt, and delegitimize the movement.

But if nothing else, the autodefensas are a powerful symbol of Mexico’s failed institutions, and the failure of US-Mexico drug policy in general.

Looking forward, there are potentially major shifts on the horizon, especially with regard to marijuana legalization and changes in societal/cultural norms with regard to drugs. When the United States eventually legalizes marijuana nationwide — and all signs indicate that it eventually will — it will be interesting to see how this affects Mexico’s drug policy. The legalization of recreational marijuana in Colorado and Washington has already caused tension with the Mexican government. As more US states follow suit, Mexico’s prohibition on marijuana and its  military campaign against those who traffic in it, will become politically untenable.

My concern is that this momentum likely stops with just marijuana legalization, and this would be a mistake.  As I mentioned earlier, this doesn’t end until we put a stop to prohibition entirely. For as long as we allow the black market to exist, criminals will continue to thrive and the body count will keep rising. An end to prohibition is the only way forward.

Mexico security officials likely conspired in massacre: state government…Reuters

Many articles now in the international press on the killings / disappearances of more than 40 students near Iguala in the state of Guerrero.
This Reuters piece seems to be the clearest statement yet (at least in English) of the obvious involvement of the Mexican state (both Guerrero state and national) officials’ involvement in the killings and in the cover-up. Not a very good cover-up.
Still, I continue to be amazed at the tortuous attempts by international reporters to deal with the fact that Mexican officials constantly lie about who is doing the killing and why. Why does anyone believe the government when they claim “narcos” did this? It seems much more likely (Occam’s razor?) that government created paramilitaries did the killings.
If we ever have accurate homicide data for Mexico (unlikely) we will find that the actual numbers of dead are probably at least twice what the government says. Even the official statistics now are approaching 200,000 since 2007, not the 100,000 mentioned in this article. Though, this is an advance over the more frequently cited “more than 80,000…” or variations on that number… molly

Mexico security officials likely conspired in massacre: state government (Reuters)

Violent Outbreaks In Juarez And Chihuahua State

The El Paso Times reports that several people were killed and dismembered in Juarez over the past weekend.  In addition, below, El Diario reports another gun battle yesterday in Guachochi in southern Chihuahua with 8 more people killed.

2 mutilated bodies found in Juárez, 11 killed in mountain gunfight (El Paso Times)

Otro enfrentamiento en Guachochi: 8 muertos (El Diario)

 

At Least 22 Killed In Gunfight Southwest Of Mexico City

I am not certain, but I believe this new story from the AP is a rare follow-up to this initial report of a shootout that took place on June 30.  The original story says it happened in Michoacan while the new story is in a small town in Estado de Mexico.  There are corresponding details–the “gang” consisted of 21 men and one woman–that lead me to believe this is the same incident.

In all of my efforts (and those of many others) to track the death toll in Mexico during the past 7 years, it is very rare that any information is released on the numbers of military deaths.  Years ago, there was one odd report of a death toll of about 200 soldiers–this in contrast to a civilian death toll at the time of nearly 100,000. I could be wrong, but I do not think there is ever any official reporting on deaths in the Mexican military. And as this AP story notes, there are many incidents reported in which the army encounters what are reported to be “gangs of criminals” and kills them all–no witnesses and few or no military casualties noted…

The shootout was the most dramatic in a string of battles in which the army says criminals fired first at soldiers who then killed them all, while suffering few or no losses. There have been so many such incidents that human rights groups and analysts have begun to doubt the military’s version.

From the details described below and the fact that the United Nations’ High Commission on Human Rights was on the scene shortly after this massacre, it appears that the people killed inside the building were shot at close range. It is gratifying to see the AP reporting on this… Thanks to Margie Lilly for sending me the article. I would have missed it… -molly

In Mexico, lopsided death tolls draw suspicion (Miami Herald)

Mexico’s Government Doesn’t Want to Talk About a Shootout That Left 22 Dead (VICE)

Mexico Army Kills 22 in Campaign Against Warring Splinter Groups (InSight Crime)

An eyewitness testifies to the killing of 22 people by the Mexican Army in Tlatlaya…  The earlier stories are here for background.  The new revelations are reported by ESQUIRE MEXICO.  Also below, a shorter version in English reported by AFP.

Exclusiva: Testigo revela ejecuciones en el Estado de México (Esquire Latinoamerica)

Mexican troops executed 21 drug suspects in June, purported witness tells Esquire (The Japan Times)

At least 22 killed in gunfight southwest of Mexico City (Toronto Sun)

Down by the River…Rhapsody for Charles Bowden, September 28 in Las Cruces

The Bowden family & Molly Molloy invite you to a memorial celebration…

Down by the River…Rhapsody for Charles Bowden

Sunday afternoon, September 28,
at the Mesilla Valley Bosque State Park
5000 Calle del Norte, Mesilla, NM 88046 575-523-4398

Park website — Google map

The park will be open for the event from noon until five. Come early to walk park trails along the Rio Grande.

Service to start at two o’clock.

Words, music & memories for our dear friend Chuck. Wine, lemonade & light refreshments.

If you wish, bring a photo or memento to place on an altar for Chuck. Dress casual, wear comfortable shoes. Bring binoculars for birdwatching. If you have a light-weight camp chair, bring it along. Plastic water bottles recommended. No glass bottles permitted in the park.

For more information, contact Molly Molloy mollymolloy@gmail.com 575-680-6463

Remembering Charles Bowden

 To recognize Chuck’s contributions to the literary world one simply has to takeaway all his works and realize the void that remains. He shared his vast knowledge of and passion for the Southwest specifically the violence in Mexico through his works notably Down by the River: Drugs, Money, Murder, and Family, Murder City, and El Sicario, edited with our own, Molly Molloy. He once said*, ““I’m a reporter. I go out and report. I don’t keep a [expletive] journal” and report he did. Much has been written about him as a reporter, friend and all-around unique and sometimes eccentric figure, in the following weeks we will feature pieces commemorating Chuck from Listeros and, of course, Molly.  In the meantime, Molly wanted to share information regarding his memorial along with a private photo of Chuck.
“My great pleasure is to go into the wilderness, get myself lost under the big sky out there, and I’ve written books full of words trying to capture that feeling and describe that landscape.” **

If you are interested in contributing a post about Chuck, please email us at fronteralist@gmail.com

DOWN BY THE RIVER…Rhapsody for Chuck Bowden

Sunday afternoon, September 28, 1-5 at the Mesilla Valley Bosque State Park, near Mesilla, NM
Chuck out in nature, his favorite place to be. Photo courtesy of Molly Molloy

Chuck out in nature, his favorite place to be. Photo courtesy of Molly Molloy

* Quote from the LA Times

**Quote from The Guardian

Q & A With Courthouse News Service Editor, Robert Kahn

Robert Kahn’s book, “Other People’s Blood: U.S. Immigration Prisons in the Reagan Decade” (Westview Press/HarperCollins) 1996, was the first attempt at a history of U.S. immigration prisons. He is news editor for Courthouse News Service, a national legal news service.

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Interviewed By: Belen Chacon

Your book, Other People’s Blood: U.S. Immigration Prisons in the Reagan Decade, covers the abusive treatment of Central American refugees in U.S. detention centers in the 1980s. We seem to be back here again, especially with the Artesia detention center in New Mexico. Why is this happening again?

It’s not happening again, it’s been happening all the time. It’s happening because very few people in the U.S. Congress, or the people who buy them their offices, or you or I, ever give a thought or give a good goddamn about the people who clean our bathrooms and cook and serve our food and harvest the food we eat. Why should we? Immigrants can’t give us money. They can’t even vote.

Last week the ACLU in Los Angeles announced a big settlement with the Border Patrol, which now calls itself ICE, and involves both the Department of Justice and the Department of Homeland Security. The Border Patrol agreed not to trick people into agreeing to be “repatriated,” by handing them a list of “rights” with the right “voluntary repatriation” already checked off. Well, we settled that lawsuit 30 years ago, in Laredo, thanks to Patrick Hughes, an attorney who saw that women and children would need legal representation, so he moved there and set up a law office with nothing, except a little help from the Catholic Church. I went to work for him as a paralegal and we documented a nightmare of abuses inflicted by the Corrections Corporation of America (CCA), the first private U.S. prison company to be paid for locking up immigrant women and children. CCA strip-searched mothers and babies at Laredo for asking to see a lawyer. They strip-searched them each time before and after they saw a lawyer, but they didn’t strip-search them unless they asked to see a lawyer. Well, all that stuff was “enjoined” 30 years ago by a federal judge, right? But it was never enforced. How can you enforce it, when you’re “privatizing” the immigration detention system in the United States to God knows who — to whoever says, “Sure, I’ll put those women and kids up in my house.”

In the case of the abuse of Central American refugees in immigration prisons in the 1980s, attorneys and other advocates were not able to stop the abuse until 10 years later. Do you see justice taking that long for current Central American refugees in abusive detention centers?

 

Refugees will never get justice in the United States; only their children will, because our policies and wars have driven them here, and the Congress will never admit that, nor will the people who vote, or the people who want to replace whoever’s in Congress now. It’s not until the refugees’ kids can vote, and do, that anything can change. The North American Free Trade Agreement destroyed small business and peasant farming in Mexico, and blessed the Mexican government’s war against independent unions. We’ve sent billions of dollars to the Mexican army and police forces, which slaughter their own people, in part because the cartels pay more than the government, because what cartels have to offer is more valuable, and the cartel leaders probably don’t steal as much as the government does. But we won’t admit Mexicans as refugees — even Mexican reporters, though dozens of them have been murdered by government police forces and the cartels — because Uncle Sam won’t admit our role in the slaughter. And even if, let’s assume, the United States government has absolutely no role in it, still, we don’t want to admit it — that the Mexican army and police forces are just as dirty as the cartels. So if your own government’s soldiers want to kill you, to steal what little you have, because the government is stealing so fast with both hands that it can’t match the cartels’ offers, well, what do you expect? People will flee a situation like that.

For those that haven’t read your book, Other People’s Blood: U.S. Immigration Prisons in the Reagan Decade, what do you feel is the biggest takeaway? Why should Americans play close attention to the treatment of individuals in immigration prisons?

 

The tortures and abuses in U.S. immigration prisons have continued for more than 30 years, despite federal court orders, and U.S. Supreme Court orders, because very few of us give a damn about these people. Congress certainly does not. Nor, so far as I can tell, has any president of the United States, since Jimmy Carter. As a paralegal working for nothing in U.S. immigration prisons, I’ve represented people whose U.S. prison guards walked over them with high heels while other guards held them down. I’ve seen a U.S. immigration judge tell a Guatemalan refugee whose back was covered with scars, driven into him with whips and salt water: “I don’t think you were ever in the Guatemalan army at all,” though the judge held in his hand photos of the man, in uniform, holding an automatic weapon, in front of his army barracks in Guatemala. The U.S. government would have deported him to be tortured and killed had Canada not accepted him as a political refugee.

In the 1980s, what details did the mainstream media fail to cover when it came to the treatment of Central American refugees? What is mainstream media failing to cover now when it comes to this issue?

 

I won’t say anything about “the mainstream media.” That’s a lash that can be used to whip anyone. I spent my life’s savings to work for nothing for 3 years as a paralegal in U.S. immigration prisons. I got a lot of information doing that. You can’t expect anyone, including “mainstream media,” to do that. So far as I can tell, the situation is the same today as it was 30 years ago. There’s no money to be made from representing refugees. Everything you hear in the media is about an immigration “crisis.” There is no crisis. Undocumented immigration has been on the decline for decades. Border Patrol figures show that. All that’s changed recently is the shape of the amoeba. Now we’re seeing more mothers and children fleeing from Honduras, whose government is as brutal and corrupt, and always has been, as the governments of Guatemala and El Salvador. But what do you or your neighbor know about Honduras? Nothing. Why should you? Now that the Republicans are making a big deal out of it, Obama is doing the same thing Reagan did: Set up a deportation factory as far away as possible from legal help, to deport refugees as fast as we can. Today they call it the Artesia Family Residential Center in New Mexico. Back then, in 1986, it was the new prison in Oakdale, La., run by the Bureau of Prisons. They tortured people there. The Marielitos tore the place down the next year, and I can see why. These people are not burdens to the United States. They are sources of information.

The immigration reform debate has had high and low moments, but for the most part has remained stagnant. What can/shouldAmericans do to help push the debate?

 

Immigration reform has never had a high moment. The late, great Charles Bowden told me: “Americans are willing to do anything about immigration except read about it.” I’m a half-critic half-fan of Sigmund Freud, who warned us about stirring up our primal impulses. I don’t know if we want to push the immigration debate — whatever that is — right now. Right now it’s all based on hate, fear and ignorance. When kids get educated, and grow up and vote, things will change, but it will take a generation. That’s why Republicans are pressing so hard to keep young people from registering to vote. When it happens, it’ll look like a sudden change, like the nation’s acceptance of gay people. But that struggle took a generation of open conflict, and gay people had money, and could vote. Not that I want to compare gay people and immigrants, but I think that pretty soon we’re going to see an acceptance of immigrants. It’ll look like it happens fast, but it’s already happening. It will be the result of a generation of struggle.

The debate over illegal immigration is being carried on with little awareness of the government policies that contributed to this country’s immigration problems. How can more Americans educate themselves? Where can they start?

 

Well, like Chuck Bowden said, nobody wants to read about immigration. The best summary of U.S. immigration policy was written by Kitty Calavita, decades ago. She’s a criminology professor at the University of California at Irvine.

Calavita wrote, correctly, that the United States has no immigration policy — that we change our policy according to the mood of the times, and that our policy is always out of synch with the times.

Calavita’s three basic conclusions will be true forever:

- The United States invites poor Mexicans when we need labor, then deports them when the next recession hits;

- Because of this, U.S. immigration policy will always be “out of phase” — because it takes years to pass legislation in Congress, when an immigration law does pass, it will be a response to what happened years before, at a different point in the economic cycle;

- And that “securing the border” and respecting the Constitution, both, may not be possible; in fact, it’s probably not — but no one wants to talk about this because, well, isn’t that why these people are fleeing here, to be protected by our Constitution?