Durango Attack Leaves 6 Dead/Ataque a Policía en Durango Deja 6 Muertos

Six people have been shot to death in Durango, Mexico after a confrontation with the state police. The mayor of the city of Durango is in hiding after being threatened. No official information on the attack will be issued until Monday. This report says that the dead are civilians and that the attack was waged on the police by a group of masked civilians… The attack occurred Sunday afternoon. Click for the full story posted in El Diario de Juárez here.

GOOGLE TRANSLATION

Seis personas han sido asesinadas a tiros en Durango, México, después de un enfrentamiento con la policía estatal. El alcalde de la ciudad de Durango se encuentra en la clandestinidad después de ser amenazado. No hay información oficial sobre el ataque se emitirá hasta el lunes. El informe dice que los muertos son civiles y que se libró del ataque a la policía por un grupo de civiles encapuchados … El ataque ocurrió la tarde del domingo. Haga clic para ver la noticia publicada en El Diario de Juárez aquí.

“Durango— Un enfrentamiento entre presuntos delincuentes y elementos de la Policía Estatal Acreditable, en el municipio norteño de Indé, ubicado a 345 kilómetros al noroeste de la capital, dejó un saldo de seis civiles muertos, según reportes policiacos.

El incidente ocurrió poco después de las 17:30 horas de este domingo: los civiles armados agredieron a los uniformados que realizaban un recorrido de vigilancia en los alrededores de la cabecera municipal, lo que provocó el intercambio de disparos…”

 

Sandra Rodríguez Nieto presenta su libro “La fábrica del crimen” en Los Ángeles/Sandra Rodriguez Nieto Presents her Book The Factory of Crime in Los Angeles

El Nuevo Sol periodista, Manuel Morfin escribe sobre la presentación de Sandra Rodríguez Nieto de su libro, “La Fábrica del Crimen”. Puede leer el artículo completo haciendo clic aquí.

“Sandra Rodríguez Nieto, periodista investigativa de Ciudad Juárez, presentó el jueves su libro La fábrica del crimen en la Universidad del Estado de California, Northridge (CSUN) en Los Ángeles, y habló sobre el proceso periodístico que realizó a lo largo de varios años y que culminó en la publicación de su obra, una historia que narra el trágico final de Vicente, un adolescente de Ciudad Juárez que mató a sus padres y hermana con la ayuda de dos de sus amigos y con la firme convicción de que nadie lo notaría…”

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GOOGLE TRANSLATION:

El Nuevo Sol reporter, Manuel Morfin writes about Sandra Rodriguez Nieto’s presentation from her book, “La Fabrica del Crimen.” You can read the full story (in Spanish) by clicking here.

“Sandra Rodriguez Nieto, investigative journalist in Ciudad Juarez, on Thursday introduced her book The Factory of Crime in the California State University, Northridge (CSUN) in Los Angeles, and talked about the journalistic process conducted over several years and culminated in the publication of her work, a story that chronicles the tragic end of Vincent, a teen in Ciudad Juarez that killed his parents and sister with the help of two of his friends and with the firm conviction that no one would notice … “

Mexican Soldiers Face Civilian Trials

An article found on the Washington Post website talks about Mexico straying away from corruption in the case of Mexican soldiers facing civilian trials.

OJINAGA, Mexico — This rough little border town in the middle of nowhere has seen its share of lawless men, the cocaine cowboys whose wild rides end out in the desert with a shovel of dirt tossed into their shallow graves.

Then the General came to town, and the place went to hell.

Brig. Gen. Manuel de Jesus Moreno Avina, commander of the Third Infantry Company, arrived in the spring of 2008 in Ojinaga, across the Rio Grande from tiny Presidio in Texas’s Big Bend country.

The General, as he is known by all here, quickly began what his own officers described in court testimony as a “reign of terror.”

Instead of confronting organized crime, the Mexican soldiers here quickly became outlaws themselves. Then people began to disappear, according to the charges filed against them.

Now, four years after Moreno’s 18-month tenure in Ojinaga, the landmark case against Moreno and his men may finally change the way Mexico prosecutes soldiers tied to the alleged abusesduring the country’s bloody drug war.

The Mexican Supreme Court recently ruled that Moreno, his officers and two dozen of his soldiers should be tried for human rights crimes in a civilian court — and not as the constitution currently mandates, before a secret military tribunal whose proceedings can take years to go nowhere.

If it happens, such a trial would mark an unprecedented shift of power that could end a century of impunity for Mexico’s armed forces, whose top generals have fought hard to protect themselves from scrutiny.

“What the people want to see after all these years is a real trial,” said Ariel Garcia, a physician in Ojinaga. “It is not right that someone who was sent to protect the people did the exact opposite.”

The doctor said he knows what is he talking about. While he was at the hospital performing surgery in 2008, his house, like many others here, was ransacked by troops in a fruitless search for weapons and drugs.

“When we saw these soldiers, we were not only afraid,” Garcia said. “We were ashamed at what they had become.”….

You can read the rest of the article on the Washington Post website here. 

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GOOGLE TRANSLATION:

Ojinaga, México – Esta ciudad fronteriza poco áspero en el medio de la nada ha tenido su parte de los inicuos, los vaqueros cocaína cuyo fin paseos salvaje en el desierto con una pala de tierra arrojó en sus tumbas poco profundas.

Entonces el general llegó a la ciudad, y el lugar se fue al infierno.

Brig. El general Manuel de Jesús Moreno Avina, comandante de la Tercera Compañía de Infantería, llegó en la primavera de 2008 en Ojinaga, al otro lado del Río Grande desde Presidio diminuto país en Big Bend de Texas.

El general, como es conocido por todos aquí, rápidamente comenzó lo que sus propios oficiales se describe en el testimonio de la corte como un “reino del terror”.

En lugar de enfrentar el crimen organizado, los soldados mexicanos aquí se convirtió rápidamente fuera de la ley a sí mismos. Entonces la gente empezó a desaparecer, según los cargos presentados en su contra.

Ahora, cuatro años después de 18 meses de Moreno en la tenencia de Ojinaga, el caso histórico contra Moreno y sus hombres finalmente pueden cambiar la forma en que México persigue a los soldados vinculados a la supuesta guerra sangrienta abusesduring droga del país.

La Suprema Corte de Justicia dictaminó recientemente que Moreno, sus oficiales y dos docenas de sus soldados deben ser juzgados por crímenes contra los derechos humanos en un tribunal civil – y no como la Constitución actualmente mandatos, ante un tribunal militar secreto cuyo proceso puede tomar años para ir a ninguna parte .

Si esto sucede, tal ensayo marcaría un cambio sin precedentes de poder que podría poner fin a un siglo de impunidad para las fuerzas armadas de México, cuyas principales generales han luchado duro para protegerse del escrutinio.

“Lo que la gente quiere ver después de tantos años es una prueba real”, dijo Ariel Garcia, médico en Ojinaga. “No es justo que alguien que fue enviado para proteger a la gente lo hizo exactamente lo contrario.”

El doctor dijo que él sabe lo que está hablando. Mientras estaba en el hospital realiza la cirugía en 2008, su casa, como muchos otros aquí, fue saqueada por las tropas en una búsqueda infructuosa de armas y drogas.

“Cuando vimos a los soldados, que eran no sólo miedo”, dijo García. “Estábamos avergonzados de lo que se había convertido.” ….

Puedes leer el resto del artículo en el sitio web del Washington Post aquí.

Border Patrol Under Scrutiny for Deadly Force–AP

The following article was published in the Associated Press. Brian Skoloff writes about an incident with Mexican drug smugglers crossing the border.

NOGALES, Ariz. (AP) — A pair of Mexican drug smugglers in camouflage pants, bundles of marijuana strapped to their backs, scaled a 25 foot-high fence in the middle of the night, slipped quietly into the United States and dashed into the darkness.

U.S. Border Patrol agents and local police gave chase on foot — from bushes to behind homes, then back to the fence.

The conflict escalated. Authorities say they were being pelted with rocks. One agent responded by aiming a gun into Mexico and firing multiple shots at the assailant, killing a 16-year-old boy whose family says was just in the wrong place at the wrong time.

The Oct. 10 shooting has prompted renewed outcry over the Border Patrol’s use-of-force policies and angered human rights activists and Mexican officials who believe the incident has become part of a disturbing trend along the border — gunning down rock-throwers rather than using non-lethal weapons.

The Department of Homeland Security Office of Inspector General has launched a probe of the agency’s policies, the first such broad look at the tactics of an organization with 18,500 agents deployed to the Southwest region alone. The Mexican government has pleaded with the U.S. to change its ways. And the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights has questioned the excessive use of force by Border Patrol.

At least 16 people have been killed by agents along the Mexico border since 2010, eight in cases where federal authorities said they were being attacked with rocks, said Vicki Gaubeca, director of the ACLU’s Regional Center for Border Rights in Las Cruces, N.M.

The Border Patrol says sometimes lethal force is necessary: Its agents were assaulted with rocks 249 times in the 2012 fiscal year, causing injuries ranging from minor abrasions to major head contusions.

It is a common occurrence along the border for rocks to be thrown from Mexico at agents in the U.S. by people trying to distract them from making arrests or merely to harass them — particularly in areas that are heavily trafficked by drug smugglers and illegal immigrants.

Still, Gaubeca balks at what she and others deem the unequal “use of force to use a bullet against a rock.”

“There has not been a single death of a Border Patrol agent caused by a rock,” she said. “Why aren’t they doing something to protect their agents, like giving them helmets and shields?”

The Border Patrol has declined to discuss its use of lethal force policy in detail, but notes agents may protect themselves and their colleagues when their lives are threatened, and rocks are considered deadly weapons.

Kent Lundgren, chairman of the National Association of Former Border Patrol Officers, recalled a time in the 1970s when he was hit in the head while patrolling the border near El Paso, Texas.

“It put me on my knees,” Lundgren said. “Had that rock caught me in the temple, it would have been lethal, I have no doubt.”

It is extremely rare for U.S. border authorities to face criminal charges for deaths or injuries to migrants. In April, federal prosecutors said there was insufficient evidence to pursue charges against a Border Patrol agent in the 2010 shooting death of a 15-year-old Mexican in Texas.

In 2008, a case was dismissed against a Border Patrol agent facing a murder charge after two mistrials. Witnesses testified the agent shot a man without provocation but defense attorneys contended the Mexican migrant tried to hit the agent with a rock.

Meanwhile, Mexican families have filed multiple wrongful death lawsuits, and the U.S. government, while admitting no wrongdoing, has paid out hundreds of thousands of dollars. Last year, the family of the illegal immigrant killed by the agent whose murder case was dismissed reached an $850,000 settlement. The agent remains employed by Border Patrol.

Even the Mexican government has asked for a change in policy, to no avail, though Border Patrol points out that Mexico has put up no barriers on its side of the border and does little, if anything, to stop the rock throwers from assaulting agents.

“We have insisted to the United States government by multiple channels and at all levels that it is indispensable they revise and adjust Border Patrol’s standard operating procedures,” Mexico’s Foreign Ministry said in a written statement.

Elsewhere around the world, lethal force is often a last resort in such cases. Israeli police, for instance, typically use rubber bullets, water cannons and tear gas to disperse rock-throwers. Israeli police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld said officers use live fire only as a last resort and first fire warning shots.

“There is no such crowd incident that will occur where the Israeli police will use live fire unless it’s a critical situation where warning shots have to be fired in the air,” Rosenfeld said.

Border Patrol agents since 2002 have been provided weapons that can launch pepper-spray projectiles up to 250 feet away. The agency did not provide statistics on how many times they have been used, but officials are quick to note agents along the U.S.-Mexico border operate in vastly different scenarios than authorities in other countries.

They often patrol wide swaths of desert alone — unlike protest situations elsewhere where authorities gather en masse clad in riot gear.

Experts say there’s little that can be done to stop the violence, given the delicacies of diplomatic relations between the two countries and the fact that no international law specifically covers such instances.

“Ultimately, the politics of the wider U.S.-Mexico relationship are going to play a much bigger role than the law,” said Kal Raustiala, professor of law and director of the Burkle Center for International Relations at UCLA. “The interests are just too high on both sides to let outrage from Mexico, which is totally understandable, determine the outcome here.”

During a visit to the Border Patrol’s training academy in Artesia, N.M., officials refused comment on all questions about rock-throwing and use of force.

At the sprawling 220-acre desert compound, prospective agents spend at least 59 days at the academy, learning everything from immigration law to off-road driving, defense tactics and marksmanship.

“We’re going to teach them … the mechanics of the weapon that they’re going to use, the weapons systems, make them good marksmen, put them in scenarios where they have to make that judgment, shoot or not shoot,” said the training academy’s Assistant Chief Patrol Agent James Cox.

In the latest scenario, the two smugglers were attempting to climb the fence back into Mexico, while Border Patrol agents and Nogales Police Department officers ordered them down.

“Don’t worry, they can’t hurt us up here!” one suspect yelled to the other. Then came the rocks.

The police officers took cover, but at least one Border Patrol agent went to the fence and opened fire on Jose Antonio Elena Rodriguez, who was shot seven times, according to Mexican authorities.

The Border Patrol has revealed little information about the case as probes unfold on both sides of the fence that separates Nogales, Ariz., from Nogales, Sonora, literally a stone’s throw from each other. The FBI is investigating, as is standard with all Border Patrol shootings, and the agency won’t comment “out of respect for the investigative process,” said U.S. Customs and Border Protection spokesman Michael Friel.

The teen’s mother claims her son had nothing to do with drugs or throwing rocks. She says he was just walking past the area a few blocks from home and got caught in the crossfire. None of the training, political maneuvering or diplomatic tip-toeing matters to her. She just wants her boy back. She just wants answers.

“Put yourself in my place,” Araceli Rodriguez told the Nogales International. “A child is what you most love in life. It’s what you get up in the morning for, what you work for. They took away a piece of my heart.”

Associated Press Writer Josef Federman contributed to this report from Israel.

 

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GOOGLE TRANSLATION:

NOGALES, Arizona (AP) – Un par de narcotraficantes mexicanos con pantalones de camuflaje, paquetes de marihuana atados a la espalda, en una escala de 25 metros de altura, cerca de la mitad de la noche, se deslizó silenciosamente en los Estados Unidos y se precipitó en el oscuridad.
EE.UU. agentes de la Patrulla Fronteriza y la policía local lo persiguió a pie – desde detrás de los arbustos para hogares, luego de vuelta a la cerca.
El conflicto se intensificó. Las autoridades dijeron que estaban siendo atacados con piedras. Un agente respondió que apunta un arma a México y disparar varias tomas con el agresor, matando a un joven de 16 años cuya familia dice que estaba en el lugar equivocado en el momento equivocado.
El 10 de octubre de disparo ha provocado protestas renovado por el uso de pólizas vigentes de la Patrulla Fronteriza y enojado activistas de derechos humanos y funcionarios mexicanos que creen que el incidente se ha convertido en parte de una tendencia inquietante a lo largo de la frontera – matar a tiros a lanzadores de piedras en lugar de utilizar armas no letales.
El Departamento de Seguridad Nacional de la Oficina del Inspector General ha puesto en marcha una investigación sobre las políticas de la agencia, la primera mirada tan amplia en la táctica de una organización con 18.500 agentes desplegados en la región suroeste sola. El gobierno mexicano ha pedido a los EE.UU. a cambiar sus maneras. Y el comisionado de la ONU para los Derechos Humanos ha cuestionado el uso excesivo de la fuerza por parte de la Patrulla Fronteriza.
Al menos 16 personas han muerto por los agentes a lo largo de la frontera con México desde el año 2010, ocho en los casos en que las autoridades federales dijeron que estaban siendo atacados con piedras, dijo Vicki Gaubeca, directora del Centro Regional de la ACLU de Derechos Fronteriza en Las Cruces, NM
La Patrulla Fronteriza dice que a veces la fuerza letal es necesario: Sus agentes han asaltado con piedras 249 veces en el año fiscal 2012, provocando lesiones que van desde abrasiones leves contusiones a la cabeza grandes.
Es un hecho común a lo largo de la frontera por las rocas para ser lanzado desde México a los agentes en los EE.UU. por gente que trata de distraer la atención de los arrestos o simplemente para hostigar – particularmente en áreas que son muy transitadas por contrabandistas de drogas e inmigrantes ilegales.
Aún así, Gaubeca resiste a lo que ella y otros consideran la desigualdad “uso de la fuerza para usar una bala contra una roca.”
“No ha habido una sola muerte de un agente de la Patrulla Fronteriza causada por una roca”, dijo. “¿Por qué no están haciendo algo para proteger a sus agentes, como darles cascos y escudos?”
La Patrulla Fronteriza se ha negado a discutir su uso de la política de la fuerza letal en detalle, pero los agentes notas pueden proteger a sí mismos ya sus colegas cuando sus vidas están en peligro, y las rocas se consideran armas mortales.
Kent Lundgren, presidente de la Asociación Nacional de Ex Funcionarios de la Patrulla Fronteriza, recordó la vez en la década de 1970 cuando fue golpeado en la cabeza mientras patrullaba la frontera cerca de El Paso, Texas.
“Se me puso de rodillas”, dijo Lundgren. “Tuvimos que el rock me pilló en el templo, que habría sido letal, no tengo ninguna duda”.
Es muy raro que las autoridades fronterizas de Estados Unidos para enfrentar cargos penales por muerte o lesiones a los migrantes. En abril, los fiscales federales dijeron que no había pruebas suficientes para presentar cargos contra un agente de la Patrulla Fronteriza en el asesinato de 2010 de un mexicano de 15 años que vive en Texas.
En 2008, un caso fue despedido contra un agente de la Patrulla Fronteriza enfrenta a una acusación de asesinato después de dos anulaciones de juicios. Los testigos declararon que el agente disparó a un hombre sin provocación pero los abogados de la defensa sostuvo que el migrante mexicano trató de golpear al agente con una roca.
Mientras tanto, las familias mexicanas han presentado varias demandas por muerte injusta, y el gobierno de los EE.UU., aunque admite ninguna fechoría, ha pagado cientos de miles de dólares. El año pasado, la familia del inmigrante ilegal asesinado por el agente cuyo asesinato causa fue sobreseída llegado a un acuerdo de $ 850.000. El agente sigue empleado por la Patrulla Fronteriza.
Incluso el gobierno mexicano ha pedido un cambio en la política, en vano, a pesar de los puntos de la Patrulla Fronteriza que México ha puesto ningún obstáculo en su lado de la frontera y hace poco o nada para detener a los lanzadores de piedras de agredir a los agentes.
“Hemos insistido al gobierno de Estados Unidos por múltiples canales y en todos los niveles que es indispensable que revisar y ajustar los procedimientos estándar de operación de la Patrulla Fronteriza”, dijo el Ministerio de Relaciones Exteriores de México en un comunicado.
En otras partes del mundo, la fuerza letal es a menudo el último recurso en estos casos. La policía israelí, por ejemplo, suelen utilizar balas de goma, cañones de agua y gases lacrimógenos para dispersar a lanzadores de piedras. Portavoz de la policía israelí Micky Rosenfeld dijo que los agentes utilizar fuego real sólo como último recurso y los primeros disparos de advertencia contra incendios.
“No hay un incidente tal multitud que se producirá cuando la policía israelí va a utilizar fuego real a menos que sea una situación crítica en tiros de advertencia tienen que ser despedido en el aire”, dijo Rosenfeld.
Los agentes de la Patrulla Fronteriza desde 2002 se han suministrado armas que pueden lanzar gas pimienta proyectiles de hasta 250 pies de distancia. La agencia no proporcionó estadísticas sobre el número de veces que se han utilizado, pero las autoridades se apresuran a señalar los agentes a lo largo de la frontera México-Estados Unidos operar en escenarios vastamente diferentes a las autoridades de otros países.
A menudo patrullan amplias franjas de desierto sola – a diferencia de las situaciones de protesta en otros lugares donde las autoridades se reúnen en masa vestido con uniforme antidisturbios.
Los expertos dicen que no hay mucho que se puede hacer para detener la violencia, dadas las delicias de las relaciones diplomáticas entre los dos países y el hecho de que el derecho internacional no se refiere específicamente a tales casos.
“En última instancia, la política de la más amplia relación México-Estados Unidos va a jugar un papel mucho más grande que la ley”, dijo Kal Raustiala, profesor de derecho y director del Centro Burkle para las Relaciones Internacionales de la UCLA. “Los intereses son demasiado altos en ambos lados para que la indignación de México, que es totalmente comprensible, determinar el resultado aquí”.
Durante una visita al centro de entrenamiento de la Patrulla Fronteriza en Artesia, NM, los funcionarios se negaron a comentar sobre todas las cuestiones sobre que arrojan piedras, y el uso de la fuerza.
En el complejo extenso desierto 220-acre, los agentes potenciales pasar al menos 59 días en la academia, el aprendizaje de todo, desde la ley de inmigración para la conducción off-road, tácticas de defensa y puntería.
“Vamos a enseñarles … la mecánica del arma que vamos a utilizar, los sistemas de armas, los convierten en buenos tiradores, ponerlos en situaciones en las que tienen que hacer ese juicio, lanzar o disparar, no “, dijo el asistente de la academia de entrenamiento del Jefe de la Patrulla agente James Cox.
En el último escenario, los dos contrabandistas intentaban escalar la valla de regreso a México, mientras que los agentes de la Patrulla Fronteriza de Nogales y funcionarios del Departamento de Policía les ordenó abajo.
“No te preocupes, no pueden hacernos daño aquí!” sospechar gritó a la otra. Luego vinieron las rocas.
Los agentes de policía se puso a cubierto, pero al menos un agente de la Patrulla Fronteriza fue a la valla y abrieron fuego contra José Antonio Elena Rodríguez, quien recibió siete disparos, según las autoridades mexicanas.
La Patrulla Fronteriza ha revelado poca información sobre el caso como sondas se desarrollan en ambos lados de la valla que separa a Nogales, Arizona, de Nogales, Sonora, literalmente a tiro de piedra de la otra. El FBI está investigando, como es habitual con todos los disparos de la Patrulla Fronteriza, y la agencia no hará comentarios “por respeto al proceso de investigación”, dijo EE.UU. Aduanas y Protección Fronteriza vocero Michael Friel.
La madre de la adolescente afirma que su hijo no tenía nada que ver con las drogas o las rocas que lanzan. Ella dice que él estaba caminando más allá de la zona a pocas cuadras de su casa y quedó atrapado en el fuego cruzado. Nadie en el entrenamiento, maniobras políticas o diplomáticas asuntos Toeing punta a ella. Ella sólo quiere a su hijo de vuelta. Ella sólo quiere respuestas.
“Ponte en mi lugar”, dijo Araceli Rodriguez Internacional de Nogales. “Un niño es lo que más amas en la vida. Es lo que te levantas por la mañana, qué usted trabaja. Me quitaron un pedazo de mi corazón.”
Associated Press Josef Federman contribuyó con este despacho desde Israel.

Mexico’s Rich and Powerful Find their Places in Vail, Colorado

An article found in the Wall Street Journal. Alyssa Abkowitz writes about Mexico’s rich and powerful in Colorado:

In the resort town of Vail, Colo., real-estate professionals are stepping up efforts to court an increasingly important group of luxury ski-home shoppers: wealthy buyers from Mexico.

PLANTING NEW ROOTS | Alejandro Marti, the CEO of a Mexican sporting-goods store, bought the bankrupt Vail Plaza hotel and remodeled it into the Sebastian, an upscale, hotel-condo development.

Slifer Smith & Frampton, a brokerage based in Avon, Colo., recently unveiled a Latin American division and now makes several trips to Mexico City to host dinners and cocktail parties for potential homeowners. On a jaunt in late October, the firm co-sponsored a dinner at the home of a well-known Mexican television executive for 60 guests, who ate ceviche and sipped Champagne. “Several of the attendees are already looking,” says Beatriz Martinez, the head of the new division. And this winter, the firm is printing its first buying guide in Spanish and working with local banks and title companies with personnel who speak Spanish.

The firm has also partnered with Glika International, a boutique real-estate firm in Mexico City, and Ski Madness, a real-estate and ski company, offering them 50% of the commission—much larger than a typical referral fee—for sending high-net-worth Mexicans interested in Vail to their agency. In turn, Glika and Ski Madness help sponsor various local events, such as a VIP dinner Ski Madness co-sponsored in late October. Currently, Slifer Smith & Frampton says it has 50% market share in Vail, a market where prices are still down 30% from their peak in 2008.

While Vail has long been popular among wealthy Mexican families, a recent real-estate spree has been fueled, in some cases, by a desire for security. “Safety is a huge issue for many of these families,” says Julie Bergsten, vice president of Slifer Smith & Frampton. “We’ve even seen some families move here full-time.”

Chasing the Snow: Three for Sale

Mexican buyers have been behind a number of big-ticket sales in Vail this year. At the Four Seasons Residences, a three-bedroom, three-bathroom home sold for $4.2 million over the summer to a business executive from Mexico City. In the spring, a Mexican buyer bought a $7.5 million home on Gore Creek Place, a desirable street overlooking Vail Mountain. And two out of the last three sales at the Solaris, one of the newest developments in Vail Village, sold to Mexican families this year with price tags around $6 million each.

FirstBank, a regional bank, has made loans to more than a dozen Mexican buyers in the past year, up from only “two or three a year” five years ago, says James Wilkins, senior vice president. “They’ve been a strength in the last couple of years, when there was a dearth of high-end buyers.”

Mexico’s economy has weathered the global financial turmoil, but well-financed drug cartels continue to place growing pressure on the country to deal with rising violence. Earlier this year, the Mexican government released data that showed crime-related deaths increased 11% in the first nine months of 2011 compared with the same period in 2010. That has spurred Mexican business people with families to spend more time outside of Mexico, real-estate agents say.

Alejandro Marti, the CEO of a Mexican sporting-goods store, moved his family to Vail permanently after a crime-related family tragedy. In 2009, Mr. Marti bought the bankrupt Vail Plaza hotel and remodeled it into the Sebastian, an upscale hotel-condo development aimed at providing a hub for Mexican culture and art. “Everything in Vail is European-oriented,” Mr. Marti says. The Sebastian opened at the end of 2011, and in the past year, three families from Mexico each purchased eight-week memberships, or fractionals, for $580,000 a pop; one family purchased multiple weeks at the Sebastian for a total of $1.1 million.

Alex Martinez, a lawyer from Mexico City, purchased a $390,000 fractional ownership at the Sebastian that allows him to use the property for four weeks a year. He bought earlier this year after hearing that Mr. Marti owned the development. “He’s a very well-known businessman, and whatever he does he puts his heart into it,” Mr. Martinez says. In all, about 40% of the Sebastian’s condo buyers are from Mexico.

At the Solaris, a trendy upscale residential complex in Vail Village, Latin Americans have bought 60% of the units that have sold for more than $12 million, with Mexicans making up the majority of those buyers.

“If a certain group selects a place, it’s likely others will follow,” says Johannes Faessler, a longtime Vail resident and proprietor of the Sonnenalp, a European-style hotel in town.

Part of the lure is Vail’s focus on family-oriented activities. For example, the Solaris has a 70,000-square-foot complex with a bowling alley, a movie theater, an ice-skating rink and a shopping center. During peak vacation weeks, retailers in Vail will set up extra playrooms for the barrage of children and nannies or add kid-friendly food to menus.

The biggest concern that can trip up real-estate deals for many Mexican buyers is security. Many of the buyers in Vail are so private that it has been difficult to process loans, since the buyers are reluctant to turn over tax returns or financial statements. Mr. Wilkins, the FirstBank executive, notes that acquiring private loans along family lines is still prevalent in Mexico.

“Sometimes it comes down to, ‘If you want this property, we need a complete financial picture,’ ” he says.

The Mexican real-estate rush has also started a new campaign to bring a direct flight from Mexico City to Eagle County airport, which is about 30 miles away from Vail compared with Denver’s 120-mile trek. Says Kent Myers, an airline consultant who’s leading the effort to woo Eagle County officials to expand its air service: “That could really move the dial.”

Denuncian falta de interés en caso de El Choco/Juarez journalists denounce ‘lack of interest’ in solving murder of Armando Rodriguez

Today is the 4th anniversary of the murder of Armando Rodriguez, the crime reporter for El Diario, shot in front of his house on Nov 13 2008.

His case is referred to in the article from NYRB by Alma Guillermoprieto.
Google Translation:Hoy es el 4 º aniversario del asesinato de Armando Rodríguez, reportero de El Diario, rodada en frente de su casa el 13 de noviembre de 2008.Su caso se hace referencia en el artículo de NYRB por Alma Guillermoprieto.

********************************************************************

Luz del Carmen Sosa
El Diario | 2012-11-13 | 07:40

La Red de Periodistas de Juárez denunció la falta de interés de las autoridades para esclarecer el asesinato del colega Armando Rodríguez Carreón.

A través de un comunicado de prensa la agrupación asegura que no hay ningún avance en las investigaciones en manos de las autoridades para saber quién y por qué lo mató.

“El presidente Felipe Calderón mintió abiertamente al señalar, en septiembre de 2010, que el caso estaba resuelto porque ya había un detenido. Dos años después de ese falso anuncio, el crimen no sólo sigue sin ser esclarecido –y el presunto sin recibir cargos por este hecho-, sino que la impunidad que lo rodea, tal como advertimos, fungió de corolario para la brutal ola de violencia que, como nunca, ha cobrado la vida de los periodistas mexicanos”, cita el comunicado.

“Para nosotros en Ciudad Juárez es claro: con la omisión a la hora de esclarecer el crimen de Armando Rodríguez y de todos los colegas que han sido asesinados, el Estado mexicano está enviando el criminal mensaje de que, en este país, cegar una vida y silenciar así la libertad de prensa y de expresión, no tiene absolutamente ninguna consecuencia”, sostiene.

“Los periodistas seguimos esperando la justicia. Pero no podemos aceptar ni la indiferencia ni el olvido”, refiere.

Finalmente, La Red de Periodistas de Juárez repudió la nula eficacia de las autoridades de procuración de justicia y reiteró su exigencia a los gobiernos, federal y estatal, y a sus fiscalías para que hagan justicia para el compañero Armando Rodríguez, reportero de El Diario de Juárez, asesinado el 13 de noviembre del 2008.

Google Translation:

Luz del Carmen Sosa
El Diario | 11.13.2012 | 7:40

The Juarez Journalists Network denounced the lack of interest of the authorities to investigate the murder of colleague Armando Rodriguez Carreon.

Through a press release the group said that there is no progress in the investigations into the hands of the authorities to find out who killed him and why.

“President Felipe Calderon openly lied stating, in September 2010, the case was solved because there was already stopped. Two years after that false advertising, not only crime is still not clarified, and the charges alleged without receiving this fact, but the impunity that surrounds it, as warned, served a corollary to brutal wave of violence that, as ever, has claimed the lives of Mexican journalists, “the statement quoted.

“For us in Juarez is clear: with the failure to solve the crime when Armando Rodriguez and all the colleagues who have been killed, the Mexican government is sending the message that criminal in this country, a life blind and silence and freedom of the press and expression, has absolutely no consequence, “he says.

“Journalists are still waiting for justice. But we can not accept nor indifference nor forgotten,” refers.

Finally, The Network of Journalists condemned the null Juárez effectiveness of law enforcement authorities and reiterated its call on governments, federal and state, and their prosecutors to do justice to the partner Armando Rodriguez, a reporter for El Diario de Juarez , killed on November 13, 2008.

El Pasoans Take Risks to Keep International Bonds

An article found on the KFox14 website brings to light the necessity for El Pasoans to cross the Juarez border:

EL PASO, Texas — The U.S. Department of State is keeping Ciudad Juarez listed as a specific concern for those who need to cross the border, but many El Pasoans need to keep going.

They go for family and businesses, so they make adjustments and take their chances. For some, the price is high.

The familiar border aroma of onion, cilantro and jalapeno rise in Rosemary’s kitchen in El Paso – the same way they once did in her home in Juarez.

“I still imagine myself cooking, cleaning,” she said.

For 17 years, the El Paso-born American rose at 4 a.m. to make the trek back and forth across the international bridge, and she did it all for a man.

“It just gives me a great sadness because I sacrificed so many things. I sacrificed a lot of things being in Juarez,” Rosemary said. I sacrificed family; I sacrificed friends because I wanted to be with the man that I loved.”

Together, the couple built a house from one room and a thriving little enterprise.

“He built his business starting with nothing but a shovel and a little truck,” she said.

While Rosemary commuted to El Paso for her job, her husband worked seven days a week building their future.

Then, in 2009, cartel violence consumed the city.

“A lot of my husband’s friends who had the same types of businesses had all been killed already,” she said.

Rosemary’s extortion nightmare began and everything about the couple’s future was threatened.

“That put our life, his life, the life of our family in danger,” Rosemary said.

The couple starting handing over $200 a week from his business.

“I begged him and I pleaded with him to move here to El Paso and he refused. He said he was not going to give in to anybody and that he came to this life with nothing, and he was going to leave with nothing,” Rosemary said.

The nightmare went on for a year, and then, the extortionists wanted more.

“The day that he was shot, I was at my job here in El Paso and they told me that they had shot someone inside the business of my husband. It was all over the news,” she said.

In an instant, Rosemary’s husband’s life was over. Her life was over and she knew it. In a matter of hours, with the help of family in El Paso, Rosemary packed up everything she could and moved back home.

American business owners by the dozens would follow suit.

“It was us, it was our neighbors, our neighbor got shut down for a year, and then, our neighbor next to him – they assaulted him twice,” said Luis Gallegos, who owns a staffing company.

In 2009, an extortion threat arrived at the door step of Arias and Associates, Gallegos’ company.

“I got a call in the afternoon, we were right here and they called us that all our employees are locked in,” Gallegos said. “They wouldn’t let them out because the federal police had just gotten executed a just 10 feet from our door.”

Soon after, the Gallegos family would be trapped in a gun battle while stuck in Juarez traffic. Their teenage son witnessed a man shot to death by automatic gun fire.

“We were panicked,” Gallegos said. “We were shocked, but our employees were like, ‘Well, it happened to me when I worked over there at the liquor store.’”

But they were not so cavalier about cartel crime. Their thriving staffing business provided a workforce to some of the 150 “maquiladoras” (factories) in Juarez, and it immediately went into stealth mode.

“The business, everything, is all being handled over the phone,” said Hossana Gallegos, Luis’ wife and business partner.

Luis said that they would not conduct business at night and would avoid staying late in the afternoon.

“If we go, we don’t even call our employees,” Hossana Gallegos said. “We don’t tell them that we are going to be there.”

Hossana and Luis, who are Americans, operate their business in Juarez as though they are phantoms. They are doing as many Americans commuting to Juarez now must do. They drive modest cars and constantly change their routines.

Although security measures are not openly discussed, these business owners say it’s an adjustment being made by all, including maquiladoras.

“You see a lot of increase to the security,” Luis Gallegos said. “They’re shutting streets down. The access to the plants is more difficult.

The Mexican chamber of commerce reports more than 10,000 businesses have shut down since 2009.

It’s unclear how many of those businesses were American-owned, but Mexican business owners by the hundreds have sought refuge relocating to the U.S. side of the border. Most of them move their businesses revenue to the states.

They represent a growing social and professional network that meets at a restaurant on a regular basis.

Statistics from the state department show that there may be no going back to a prosperous pre-cartel Juarez anytime soon.

The state department warnings remain in place in Juarez calling it a specific concern.

The number of non-immigrant visas to the United States has increased steadily since 2009 and continues to rise. State department numbers show Juarez has one of the highest murder rates in Mexico.

Immigration and human rights attorneys representing those seeking asylum in the United States agree that safety remains a rapidly deteriorating concept in Mexico despite what its politicians push to the public.

Meanwhile, Americans trying to run their business with one foot in each country wistfully wish for days past before commuting got crazy.

“I would still commute every day, but it was not the same as before. I would always have to look behind my back. My husband would always be waiting for me as soon as I left for home and would lock the gates as soon as possible,” Rosemary said.

There seems to be no predictability factor as to whether Juarez can ever return to the days before blood began running in the streets.

“I was happy living in Juarez; I had everything I needed around me,” Rosemary said. “I had a Sams, Walmart, and all the stores.”

Those in El Paso creating a booming bi-national community on the border say they are adjusting.

“As soon as you crossed the border, you would see the soldier and then there was one after the other, patrols, the trucks,” Luis Gallegos said. “They would pull you over, and you don’t see that so much anymore. And oddly, you feel safer now.”

As far as the economic impact in El Paso is concerned, given the businesses and business people and families who have moved here from Juarez, every indicator from numbers gathered by the El Paso Regional Economic Development Corporation show that all the stability and growth of the city’s economy is coming from our military base, and not from beyond the border.

Risking Life for Truth

Published in The New York Review of BooksAlma Guillermoprieto, writes about the real heroes of Mexico who seek the truth:

Let us say that you are a Mexican reporter working for peanuts at a local television station somewhere in the provinces—the state of Durango, for example—and that one day you get a friendly invitation from a powerful drug-trafficking group. Imagine that it is the Zetas, and that thanks to their efforts in your city several dozen people have recently perished in various unspeakable ways, while justice turned a blind eye. Among the dead is one of your colleagues. Now consider the invitation, which is to a press conference to be held punctually on the following Friday, at a not particularly out of the way spot just outside of town. You were, perhaps, considering going instead to a movie? Keep in mind, the invitation notes, that attendance will be taken by the Zetas.

Imagine now that you arrive on the appointed day at the stated location, and that you are greeted by several expensively dressed, highly amiable men. Once the greetings are over, they have something to say, and the tone changes. We would like you, they say, to be considerate of us in your coverage. We have seen or heard certain articles or news reports that are unfair and, dare we say, displeasing to us. Displeasing. We have our eye on you. We would like you to consider the consequences of offending us further. We know you would not look forward to the result. We give warning, but we give no quarter. You are dismissed.

1.

I heard the story of one such press conference a couple of years ago, shortly after it took place, and had it confirmed recently by a supervisor of one of the reporters who was present. It gives some notion of the real difficulty of practicing journalism in provincial Mexico, where dozens of reporters have been killed since the start of the century, some after prolonged torture. Different totals are given for the number of victims.

For example, Article 19, the British organization to protect freedom of expression, gives a figure of seventy-two reporters and photographers killed in Mexico since the year 2000, and of these, forty-five killed since the start of the administritation of Felipe Calderón, in 2006. Other organizations give a total of more than eighty. The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), among others, lists only twenty-seven killed since 1992. It does, however, keep a separate, open list of journalists’ deaths in which the motive for each assassination remains unexplained by authorities. When these two sets of victims are added up the total is sixty-five. “Mexico has the highest number of unconfirmed cases in the world…and the real reason so many cases we examine are unconfirmed is that there’s no real official investigation [of these crimes] at all,” the CPJ’s director, Joel Simon, told me. “So we don’t know why they were killed.”

Whichever way one counts the total, those responsible for only three crimes against journalists have been tried, convicted, and sentenced since 1997, and in two of those cases there is widespread doubt that the convicted men were the minds behind the crime, or even that they pulled the trigger.

In recent years, all the murders of journalists and all but a few of the threats against them, as well as disappearances and kidnappings, have taken place in the provinces. While covering the trial of Raúl Salinas de Gortari, older brother of disgraced former president Carlos Salinas, back in 1997, I learned that reporting for one of the hundreds of small media outlets that exist outside Mexico City is hard and often humiliating work. Raúl Salinas was a powerful and unpleasant character. He could and probably should have been tried for many things in connection with the hundred or so million dollars he had languishing in various Swiss bank accounts, but he ultimately served ten years’ hard time on a murder charge for which the evidence was laughable. (The alleged skeleton of one of Salinas’s supposed victims was unearthed on his property with the assistance of a self-described seer. Eventually it turned out that, at the request of the main prosecutor in the case, the skeleton had been planted by the seer’s ex-son-in-law, who in turn had dug up his long dead father for the purpose.)

Farce or not, the judging of a former president’s brother, in a country where the powerful enjoy almost total impunity, was unquestionably the trial of the century. Under Mexico’s legal system, there was no jury, and the trial took place within a high-security prison a couple of hours’ drive from Mexico City. I went out there every day for a week, to wait for hours at a time under a harsh sun for the one day when the authorities would, more or less arbitrarily, allow public access to the proceedings.

My colleagues from the country’s principal news media turned out to be local reporters from the nearby city of Toluca, most of them stringers. I soon found out that they took turns among themselves covering the trial (or rather, waiting outside the prison for the occasional opportunity to cover the trial) so that each might have time to pursue the outside activities that allowed them to patch together a living. The reporter for one of the two principal television stations sold real estate in the mornings; another worked afternoons as a radio announcer. All were expected to recruit advertisers. (If memory serves, a commission on these ads was part of their income.)

Some arrived at the prison by bus. Several did not own computers. One had to borrow a tape recorder. They were not idealistic, but the job was exciting. They had clawed their way up the Mexican class system to find a career, and they were proud of themselves. It wasn’t clear how many of them had graduated from journalism school or even college. For better or worse, many provincial reporters still have not. They worked fantastically hard, longed for career training and respect, and knew a great deal more than they published or broadcast.

Given the circumstances, it would hardly be surprising if local reporters like the ones I knew back then were to be grateful for the envelope proffered by a drug trafficker as a sweetener to a death threat. Bribes, known as chayotes, are a long-established supplement to the income of journalists in Mexico.1

Such payments were promoted and made primarily by the government itself since the early days of the Partido Revolucionario Institucional (PRI), and offered with greater or lesser subtlety according to the rank of the person to be paid. An editor from the provinces told me that the practice was more common in Mexico City, but an editor in Mexico City said it was the other way around. “Remarkably, [the chayote] has been impermeable to all the winds of modernity,” said Luis Miguel González, the news editor of a business daily, El Financiero, and a literate and dispassionate observer of the world he works in. “It’s hard for foreigners to understand the lightheartedness with which the practice of the chayote is viewed in the general media,” he went on. “Chayobribes, chayotours, chayomeals are all part of the joke.”

Sometimes money is given to a reporter, a publisher, or an editor, specifically for the purpose of slandering a political enemy. Sometimes it is given in thanks by the subject of a particularly favorable story. Mostly though, the money is handed out, like a regular salary, to beat reporters by their sources. In exchange, the writers are expected to publish government press releases as if they were news stories and to keep their own reporting within bounds delineated by the chayote giver. High-level reporters who pride themselves on their independence would be offended by such bribery. Instead, as González put it, they might be offered the chance to be lied to by a high-level government source.

It is hard to determine how immoral the chayote might seem to Mexican reporters, given that the practice was institutionalized by their own government. Not to accept a bribe or emolument from an official can be seen as a hostile act—a threat, almost. Few editors or publishers can be counted on to stand behind a reporter who refuses to play by the rules. Even fewer pay a living wage. (In the state of Tabasco, where the Zetas are powerful, the enterprising Salvadoran journalist Oscar Martínez found out that reporters are paid 60 pesos—about $5—per story.)

There has been a great burst of reformism and housecleaning in the Mexican media starting in the mid-1980s—there are now any number of superb, and fantastically brave, reporters who struggle to report and publish stories on all aspects of Mexico’s difficult situation2—but the practice of chayotearing beat reporters has gradually crept back to pre-reform levels. As a working editor, El Financiero’s González has to deal with these issues in often painful ways. “They will offer a free official trip somewhere. Then they’ll tell you that on the trip there will be a good news story. Turn down the trip and you lose the story.” My own very general impression over the years has been that the great majority of Mexican beat reporters see themselves as seekers of the truth who operate within extremely narrow confines. Or as González sums up their view: “Accept the bribe but don’t get corrupted.”

Which is to say that Mexican beat reporters’ dealings with the menacing drug traffickers in their neighborhood are not so different from their historical relationship to government officials. The distinction between dead reporters suspected by international watchdog organizations of being on the take from the drug trade and dead reporters suspected by those in political power of not being on the take from anyone is perhaps less useful in this light.

Let us say that a Zeta press conference makes a deep impression on reporter A, particularly after reporter B is murdered for collaborating instead with the police. Reporter A decides to tailor her stories to what she imagines would be the liking of those who are watching her, and even accepts specific instructions, guidelines, and requests. Let us say that one day she is murdered by enemies of the Zetas, who have spotted her as an enemy collaborator. In the unlikely circumstance that an outside observer could actually learn why and how it was that reporter A died, the question would remain: Was she involved with the drug trade or a victim of deadly blackmail? In either case, the likelihood is that both reporters A and B were merely trying to stay alive.

2.

I went recently to the charming city of Xalapa, capital of the state of Veracruz, to talk with officials there about a recent wave of killings of journalists—eight dead in just two years, two of them dismembered, their heads left near the door of another newspaper. Xalapa has a lovely climate, an ambitious university, one of the best museums in the country, and, in the last two years, a raging war between powerful rival drug groups.

The state also has a notable spokesperson, Gina Domínguez, so famous that she was featured on the cover of a local society magazine that month. An enormous bouquet of roses decorates her spacious office. Her staff, friendly and highly qualified, speaks of her effusively. Thanks to a change in state law, she now oversees public relations for all branches of state government and not just for the governor. It is common to hear that she is the real power in Veracruz. More poisonous online rumors point to her tour of duty as press secretary to Mario Villanueva—former governor of the state of Quintana Roo, now extradited to the United States on federal drug charges—and accuse her of bribing the editors of local and even national newspapers.

On the day I arrived, all the Veracruz newspapers carried a front-page story—lifted more or less whole from the press release issued by Domínguez’s office—about the arrest of four men and one woman. The headlines announced that with these arrests (which actually took place a week before the press conference), the killing of four of the eight reporters murdered in Veracruz since 2011 had just been solved. The detainees had confessed, saying that they had acted as hit men for the Pacific Coast drug group Cartel del Milenio.

Further, the press release and the media stories said, the accused had identified the killer of a fifth journalist, who, they said, had worked for the enemy camp, the Zetas. The suspects said that they had also killed “some” other reporters, which in turn had, according to the communiqué, “caused the deaths of still other reporters assassinated…by the Zetas.” Better yet, the group of killers had freely confessed, or so it was said, to an additional thirty-one homicides. Thirty-six killings solved at a single blow!

In her office, Press Secretary Domínguez spoke in such perfectly even tones, with an expression so utterly unshifting, that I have no memory of her personality. She blinked once, and changed the subject, when I suggested that reporters used to the official bribe system were now being asked to choose between the frying pan and the fire, but otherwise she surfed smoothly over every question.

Could I interview the detainees? She listed the intricate legal impediments to that. Why was it that the wave of crimes against reporters had increased so sharply when the governor she now worked for was elected? In Veracruz, as in the rest of Mexico, she noted, drug group warfare was always shifting from state to state, and the murder of journalists was one of the accompanying phenomena. The government’s record of successful struggle against violent crime was outstanding, she said coolly, and it had gone further than that of any other state in promoting more professional journalism. Had she in fact worked for the disgraced former governor of Quintana Roo, Mario Villanueva? Indeed she had, she said, for two months, and she had left that state long before his arrest.

Throughout the interview—she gave generously of her time—she stayed on message. “We have always maintained that the murder of these journalists had nothing to do with freedom of expression.” The five detainees’ confessions, she insisted, made it clear that the murder victims were only partially employed as reporters, and that the actions of reporters on the police beat were furthering the interest of los grupos criminales. In every case but one, she stressed, all the victims were linked to the police beat.

The following day, both Article 19 and the Committee to Protect Journalists mentioned the dearth of evidence provided by the Veracruz state attorney general. A few days ago, when I asked Dario Ramírez, head of Article 19’s Mexico regional office, if he knew how the case against the suspects was moving along, he explained why he didn’t. The logic of the government officials, he said, “is to let the cases ‘cool,’ without producing an effective result. There is no access to the investigation, so we don’t know what stage it’s in.”

3.

On November 13, 2008, the reporter Armando Rodríguez, who worked for the Juárez newspaper El Diario, waited in his car with his oldest daughter, then eight years old, while his wife got the youngest ready for preschool. She heard shots, and for a moment thought that it was just part of the general Juárez soundtrack. When she looked out the window seconds later it was too late. Riddled with bullet wounds, Rodríguez was slumped over his daughter’s body, whom he died protecting.

Armando Rodríguez—known everywhere as El Choco (for “chocolate”) because of his skin color—started out in journalism as the cameraman for Blanca Martínez, who was then a TV reporter. They married, and while Blanca became the editor of the local Catholic church weekly, Rodríguez persuaded a Juárez newspaper to hire him, and he transferred to El Diario as a reporter.

He worked the police beat hard, particularly at the time of a series of unspeakable feminicidios, or serial killings, of young Juárez women, and then again when the wave of drug violence started in 2008. An elder statesman on the police beat, Choco was respected by his editors and by his colleagues for his aggressive reporting.

“They said he was temperamental,” his widow told me over the phone, “but it was just because he was so passionate about his work.” The first time he got death threats the paper persuaded him to take a break because he needed an operation. Many other threats followed. In the weeks leading up to his murder, Choco Rodríguez had published articles linking relatives of the Chihuahua state attorney general, Patricia González Rodríguez (no relation), to the dr ug trade. On November 12 he wrote a story about the gangland execution of two police officers who, according to Choco, worked directly for the attorney general, pointing implicitly to the possibility that the attorney general herself had connections to the drug trade. The story ran in the issue of November 13, which hit the street around 1:30 AM. A few hours later, Choco was dead.3

I asked Blanca Martínez how the investigation into her husband’s murder was going and her voice got small. “That December they came to question me,” she said. “I can’t remember if they were federal or state police. They asked me about his work, they asked me if he carried a weapon. [He didn’t.] One of them told me that they had precise instructions [from the federal government] to investigate the case. That was the first and only time the government ever sought me out.” There were no arrests, she said. There were no new leads. The investigation was inactive. Years had passed before she was allowed to see the court files on her husband’s murder, and then only briefly. There was, additionally, the fact that the main federal investigator had been gunned down a year after the murder. His replacement was killed shortly afterward.

Few murders in Mexico have been the focus of as much media indignation or pressure as Choco’s. It has become a cause for Juárez reporters and editors and several media associations in Mexico City. The crime has also become a flagship case of sorts for the Committee to Protect Journalists, which is based in New York and is the most influential organization of its kind. In the fall of 2010, after many requests, the CPJ was able to meet with President Felipe Calderón, whose term in office is likely to be associated forever with the ill-fated decision to declare a military war on drugs, and with the atrocious violence that ensued.

During his conversation with the CPJ delegation, the president emphasized that he was just as concerned with the fate of journalists in Mexico as his visitors, and as determined to see justice done in the case of every crime against them. In fact, he said, the murder of Choco Rodríguez had just been solved; the culprit was a confessed hit man who had been under arrest for several months and had not previously mentioned murdering Rodríguez, but who had recovered his memory of this crime.

Weeks before the CPJ meeting with Calderón, a reporter at El Diario was contacted by someone who claimed to have a brother, a convicted murderer, doing time in the Juárez penitentiary. This brother was the leader of a gang of killers, and had confessed to several murders. But the source was concerned because the convict was being removed from prison every weekend and taken to a military base. There, he was being tortured mercilessly, and told to confess to the murder of Choco Rodríguez. But he continued to insist that he had not committed that murder.

The day after the CPJ delegation’s meeting with Calderón, the editors and reporters at El Diario were able to put the pieces of the puzzle together: the tortured hit man was called Juan Soto Arias, and it was he who had been identified by President Calderón as the confessed killer of Rodríguez. “Whatever limited confidence we had in the investigation disintegrated at that point,” Joel Simon told me. “Someone was acting in an incredibly cynical manner. We don’t know how high up that went. Regardless, the president told us information that was incorrect and easily confirmable as incorrect.” The investigation has been dead since that incident, “like all investigations into the killing of journalists,” as Simon pointed out. (Soto Arias reportedly remains in prison, serving a 240-year sentence for the murders he initially confessed to. He was never charged with the killing of Armando Rodríguez.)

One day recently I had a long phone conversation with Rocío Gallegos, who was Choco Rodríguez’s editor at the time of his death. Since that first murder, reporters have received many threats, and a young intern was assassinated.

El Diario is unusual in that it is relatively prosperous and concerned for the welfare of its news staff, Gallegos said. Staff reporters are given fellowships to attend journalism school and seminars. They have health and life insurance, and most are on a salary. While journalism in Tamaulipas, homeland of the Zetas, has all but vanished, news continued to flow out of Juárez, and El Diario, even when it became the most violent city in the world. (Thanks largely to a deal that appears to have been struck between the Pacific Coast drug mafias and the local drug runners, similar to a reported deal in Tijuana, violence in Juárez has greatly diminished in the last year or so.) Even before Choco’s death, the traffickers’ hostility to the media was made clear: a week before that murder, Gallegos recalled, someone placed a man’s severed head at the foot of a public statue honoring the city’s paper delivery boys.

I asked Gallegos, who is currently the news editor at El Diario, how life had changed at the paper in the long years of bloodshed. “We understood that we had to give up on exclusives,” she said. “Whether we got a scoop or not became irrelevant. [There were places] where you simply couldn’t send a reporter out alone.

“We were so unprepared for this situation!” she said.

It overwhelmed us. We’d come in from a scene where the victims’ mothers were crying, the families were crying, and then we had to sit down and write. Or it would be three in the morning and I’d find myself comforting a reporter who was weeping because she’d just received a death threat on her cell phone. You have to think: how have we been affected by all this? I think a great deal about those colleagues who have had to go out and photograph twenty corpses. How have they been affected?

I asked her what she would have wanted to see in these years of terror. “Justice,” she replied. “Less aggression. Greater safety. But above all, I would have wanted justice, because the murder of our colleagues has received no justice. I would like to know who killed them and why.”

  1. 1Why the chayote, a prickly vegetable known as mirliton in New Orleans, should signify illegitimate money willingly taken is a mystery, but it is a word known by Mexicans in all walks of life, and a principal reason why the media are so little respected. Another common term for press bribes is embute, or “stuffing.” 
  2. 2Interviews with a small sampling of these colleagues can be seen online (with English subtitles) in a half-hour documentary produced by Article 19, at vimeo.com/38841450. 
  3. 3In 2010, in one of the drug war’s more grotesque episodes, the Zetas distributed a video recording of the torture of the state attorney general’s brother. Before they killed him, the brother stated on camera that he and his sister had both worked for a rival drug group, and that she had ordered the murder of Armando Rodríguez. The reliability of statements made under such conditions is, of course, nil. 

For Days and Days

An email from Jose (a former gang-banger) found on the Frontera List Google Groups site:

Molly I wrote to mr houseworth this. We won, yayyyhhhh!. Can you post this? Jose.

From my phone.

—-Forwarded Message—-
From: joeriv…@yahoo.com
To: ghi…@icgpartners.com
Sent: Sat, Nov 10, 2012 10:14 AM CST
Subject: for days and days.

guten morgen, Gordon.
being from that culture i know exactly the mind set of the active participants in this war. (have you noticed that in this theater of war there are no claims to post traumatic stress disorder).and i can also empathize with the unwilling participants. whether they be connected to crime because their relative is a gang-member or as they see themselves “warrior”. armies were invented not for protection but to improve ones own economy. off course the stronger armies have always ruled the world. but here it is something else entirely. these men and women are just more enthusiastic about getting rich. no one does is for the fun, (except the psychos, the really scary ones. i get in their head sometimes and i see the horrors perpetrated on their victims, it is very scary.  the majority do it because of the money and a false sense of pride that what they are doing is for the good of the community. i grew up in those places where if your are a bad kid you are
noticed and a lot of people start to respect you, but is that respect that is out of fear, not for good deeds, although some are considered saints. i was considered a wise guy by everyone and that because i was always the smartest guy in the room. there were smarter wise guys than me but i never let them they were. it was still a mutual respect though we were all tough guys. and we took care of each other. that’s how we grew strong and conquered the texas prison system and then the city of el paso, texas. then juarez and ports unknown. under my direction. not in business but in mentally training an army. not the one you see today. no one killed to get in and no should die to get out. those were my rules. i let soldiers go because they were trying to improve themselves. a couple of them had moms that had the temerity to seek me out and beg that her son be let out. the son was more scared of disappointing me than anything. one of the moms was hot and she
liked me. but i would give the talk. “you cant come back cause you cant be in and out. i going to make sure people help you if you need our help but just to help you along a better way. we all want to find that path but we are on this one. it’s the right path for now. and most of them became better citizens and dads. i am glad and grateful that could help people like this. my people knew that i genuinely cared about them and i and had proved it in the joint and out here, they knew by word of mouth that i was in the business of taking care of business. or as we say “beesnes”.  no one had ever done this. the underworld had a deep respect for me, juarez and el paso and pretty much everywhere i traveled. we respect our criminals if they are daring, a mexican buccaneer if you will. i know how they think. especially the bad guys. i’m grateful i became one of the good guys. i didn’t need followers. i didn’t acolytes, nor servants, soldiers or addicts. most of
these men could’ve been been special forces soldiers. they would all kill for me but i never availed myself of that service. i liked to take care of my brush fires myself. i was good with my hands and feet. i have a street taught black belt. i like to call it street-fu. when i turned fifty i trained for a cage fight in iowa, i fought one whole round with one arm. i dislocated my shoulder with the first punch. it was an anomaly in and otherwise sterling street fighter reputation. i would cross the border into juarez to beat people up. now juarez is very bad mojo for me. after the reporter incident. i didnt go there to hurt him. i went there for these two strippers who were going home with me and my buddy. the guy disrespect the girls and i stabbed him with my buck. anyway, i got beat up but i didn’t tap out. they stopped it. i learned to be humble after that and lose the rest of my arrogance. this runs in the narco’s veins. the good lord deemed fit to
give me a body that i could turn into a weapon. that how i rose to the top of my game in the underworld. deep down inside somewhere in my nether regions, was the me i am today. i needed leaders.all those positive roll models that i looked up to in my formative years who helped me put the jigsaw together that was to be me today. the are all part of the dream that i now live. it was never a nightmare. it’s all just part of the dream that carries us across an untold number of thresh holds till we get it right. they were part of my healing. i am a violent man living in a pacifist’s body. i have dismembered and fantasized about commiting terrible acts on my enemy’s and it’s almost always as an aztec warrior. i just never saw the need. it’s a different story now. when i left, el chapo ruled juarez and we were all the better for it. no one was dying. if you lost a load. too bad. there was more where that came from. carrillo fuentes was in charge in juarez and
all was well. they were recruiting aztecas. they knew who i was and i let my guys work for them. i just wanted my free heroin and cocaine. and if saw someone on the street selling i would shake them down and tell them it’s for tax purposes. the narco’s didn’t’ mind. i was cheap. i never got greedy. thats why i am still alive. i did this one job, (if i tell you, i have to kill-you type of deal). my friend wanted more loot. i told him we had enough, but he went back and never saw him again. alive i mean. i booked it and no one except God and me the wiser. you know something? i am now in better physical shape than i was ever in my gang banging years.

auf weidershein….
jose

El Paso Attorney Linked to Mexico’s Drug Cartels

This story found in the Latin American Herald Tribune just goes to show that enablers are required on both sides:

EL PASO, Texas – A local attorney remains in federal custody following his Friday arrest by special agents with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) regarding allegations of money laundering for a Mexican drug cartel.

Marco Antonio Delgado, 46, was arrested last Friday at an El Paso restaurant. He is charged with conspiracy to commit money laundering.

An El Paso-area attorney, Delgado is named in a federal indictment charging that between July 2007 through December 2008, in the Western District of Texas, he conspired with other individuals to launder money believed to be drug trafficking proceeds.

According to the investigation, Delgado is linked to a drug cartel based in Guadalajara, Mexico, and accused of conspiring to launder more than $600 million.

Dennis A. Ulrich, special agent in charge of HSI El Paso, said: “Drug cartels operate solely on the basis of greed. However, when they can also corrupt trusted authorities, the integrity and stability of both countries’ financial infrastructure may be at risk.”

Delgado had his initial appearance in federal court Nov. 5. His preliminary and detention hearing is set for Nov. 8. If convicted, Delgado faces a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison.

This HSI investigation was coordinated by HSI El Paso’s financial group and the HSI-led Southwest Border Financial Operations and Currency United Strike Force (FOCUS).

FOCUS was created to detect and target a wide variety of financial crimes in west Texas and the state of New Mexico. This multi-agency financial strike force includes the following agencies: HSI, Internal Revenue Service, Drug Enforcement Administration, and the Texas Alcohol and Beverage Commission. FOCUS works closely with the U.S. attorney’s office, ICE’s Office of the Principal Legal Advisor, and the U.S. Secret Service.

Each participating agency uses its unique law enforcement authorities to enhance the capabilities of the strike force. FOCUS investigates the following financial crimes: money laundering, mortgage and bank fraud, structuring, unlicensed money transmitting businesses/couriers, and bulk cash smuggling.