More than 4 years after the murder of his mother, Juan Manuel Frayre Escobedo, son of Juarez activist Marisela Escobedo, was granted political asylum by an immigration judge in San Antonio, Texas… Marisela was murdered in front of the governor’s palace in Chihuahua on Dec 16 2010. At the time of her death, she was protesting the release of the murderer of her daughter Rubi. That murder case is still unsolved. -Molly
Three young men were murdered and their bodies were dumped a few meters from the Juarez-Porvenir highway outside of the village of San Agustin in the Valle de Juarez this morning. It was reported that a “narco-mensaje” was left with the bodies.
A second story says that family members have identified the victims but the identities are not officially confirmed.
One is Élmer García Archuleta, a psychology student at the UACJ who worked for a USAID-funded project: Youth: Work México. The other victims were his brother Édgar Iván and cousin Gabriel Gándara Archuleta. Gabriel was the brother of Érika Gandara, a young woman who worked as a policewoman in Guadalupe before she was kidnapped and murdered in late 2010. Her body was eventually found some weeks later in a sewerage canal near the town. [An article about the disappearance of Erika Gandara from the El Paso Times in early January 2011 is posted below from my archive.] The news this morning means that three more members of the same extended family in the Valle de Juarez have been murdered. For a long piece on what was in 2010-2011 the most violent place in Mexico, see: http://www.texasobserver.org/the-deadliest-place-in-mexico/
It is good to keep reminding ourselves and the international news media that before Ayotzinapa, there was Juarez and the Valle de Juarez… molly
The articles highlighted below by John Ackerman have recently been published in English… Some may have been posted before on the list, but here’s another chance to read great commentary from this scholar. See John’s website for updates: http://www.johnackerman.blogspot.com/
“Why America is to Blame for Mexico’s Carnage and Corruption” (Foreign Policy, November 26th, 2014)
“The End of Mexican Democracy” (Al Jazeera America, November 25th, 2014)
(Translation to French: http://www.tlaxcala-int.org/article.asp?reference=14008)
Television debate on France 24 (in English) with a representative of the Peña Nieto administration: http://www.france24.com/en/20141211-the-debate-outrage-in-mexico-part-one/
Adam Goodman is a Miller Center National Fellow and PhD candidate in the Department of History at the University of Pennsylvania. Find more of his writing at http://adamsigoodman.com, and follow him on Twitter at @adamsigoodman.
Ya Me Cansé
Last Friday Mexican Attorney General Jesús Murillo Karam announced at a press conference that officials believe they have found the remains of the 43 normalistas from Ayotzinapa.
The basic story the government has put forth is that police turned the students over to Guerreros Unidos, a local drug gang with ties to the former mayor of Iguala and his wife (who officials recently apprehended). Members of Guerreros Unidos killed the students, chopped up their bodies, added branches and trash to the pile, and then doused it in gasoline and set it aflame. They kept the fire burning for more than twelve hours, until all that remained was ash, some teeth that “turned to powder” when touched, and some bone fragments. Three of the men who supposedly carried out this heinous, unthinkable crime provided information that helped authorities recover black plastic garbage bags filled with human remains.
It is not yet clear whether or not the remains in those bags are those of the 43 normalistas. The students’ families do not believe the government–with good reason, based on history and how the investigation has gone thus far–and demand proof. (A special lab in Austria is supposed to test the remains in hopes of providing a conclusive answer.)
At Friday’s press conference journalists peppered Murillo Karam with questions about the government’s latest story about what happened to the 43 normalistas. A weary Murillo Karam, hunched over the podium, answered some questions, but was dismissive of many others, and finally, in an attempt to cut the press conference short, said, “Ya me cansé.” (Enough, I’m tired.)
Mexican citizens and others responded immediately, with outrage, on social media and in the streets. People on Twitter used the #YaMeCansé hashtag to share what they are tired of: corrupt government, impunity, indifference, inept politicians, complicit media outlets, violence, poverty, inequality, the failed Mexican state … the list goes on, and on, and on. And last night, outside the Procuraduría General de la República (Murillo Karam’s office), someone painted “#YaMeCanse Del Miedo.” (I’m tired of being afraid.)
Murillo Karam may be tired, but many questions remain, and it is his job as Attorney General to answer them. He, along with Mexican and US officials–including President Peña Nieto and President Obama, need to be held accountable. The families of the 43 normalistas demand and deserve answers. The Mexican people demand and deserve answers. Concerned people around the world demand and deserve answers.
I demand answers to the following questions:
- What happened to the 43 normalistas is obviously not an isolated incident, nor a lone act committed by a few “monstrous” individuals. There are the 72 migrants killed in the San Fernando Massacre of 2010, the unsolved murders of dozens of journalists, and all of the bodies that have turned up in mass graves while searching for the normalistas–just to name a few examples. On Friday Murrillo Karam denied this was a state crime, but the state — we must not forget the 71 years of continuous PRI rule in the 20th century and the party’s return to power in 2012 — has played an important role in creating the political culture where something like this can happen; in creating a Mexico in which corruption runs deep through all levels of government and impunity reigns. It’s hard to imagine a Mexico free of corruption and impunity, but maybe things can improve. What concrete actions does the Mexican government need to take to make things better to the point where it would make a difference, and to ensure nothing like Ayotzinapa ever happens again?
- The drug war implemented under former Mexican President Felipe Calderón–with the support of the United States through the Merida Initiative–has unquestionably failed, with disastrous consequences for the Mexican people. More than 100,000 have been killed and, in addition to the 43 normalistas, an estimated 22,000 or more have been disappeared. Up until Ayotzinapa, the current Peña Nieto administration has ignored the drug war and focused on promoting Mexico as an economic success story instead. This, of course, has done nothing to reduce or eliminate the ongoing violence and killings. But ignoring a problem does not make it disappear; even though the drug war failed, pretending it does not still exist is no solution. So what’s the way forward? Given the US’s involvement in creating the situation in the first place — by providing a market for drugs north of the border, sending guns south of the border, and funding the drug war through the Merida Initiative — what role should it and the rest of the international community play, and what responsibility does it have, in forging the way ahead?
I hope you’ll add your questions, in Spanish or English, in the comments section below. We demand answers. We deserve answers.
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
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.
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
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 firstname.lastname@example.org 575-680-6463
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.
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?
It looks as if the USCIS (US Immigration and Citizenship Services) wants asylum officers who hear initial claims of credible fear to allow people to stay in the US only if they have a significant possibility of winning when they do eventually have a hearing before an immigration judge. It looks as if this could the kind of change that immigration lawyers warned of when the large groups of people organized by the National Immigrant Youth Alliance began to cross the border en masse and ask for asylum. But the effect will most likely be to make it even more difficult for genuine asylum seekers fleeing violence and persecution in Mexico and Central America to even have a hearing before a judge. The articles mention 36,000 credible fear claims in 2013, but I do not think the articles mention how few are actually granted in court already. Fewer than 5 percent for people from Mexico and Central America. In many jurisdictions, the asylum caseloads are so heavy that hearings may be scheduled years ahead. This rule change is a way to cut the caseload, thus denying the asylum seekers their chance to have a full hearing on their cases. The LATimes story is below.
Click here for the AP story: Homeland Security Reissues Immigrant Asylum Rules
Click here for the LA Times article: Immigration Officials Raise The Bar On Asylum Interview Process
(El Diario De JUÁREZ)
Acapulco, Guerrero ─ En la zona conurbada del puerto de Acapulco se reportó la ubicación de al menos tres fosas clandestinas con cinco cuerpos, tres de los cuales ya han sido exhumados por personal de la Procuraduría General de Justicia, Protección Civil y de los Servicios Periciales.
“Hemos encontrado tres cuerpos, dos hombres y una mujer, que presentan un avanzado estado de descomposición; y nos encontramos en la colonia Jacarandas parte alta, muy cerca de un arroyo, en la zona conurbada del puerto de Acapulco.
“Las tres fosas se encuentran a una distancia de entre tres y 15 metros cada una, a una profundidad de un metro o metro y medio”, confirmó personal del Ministerio Público de la colonia Emiliano Zapata.
Según los primeros informes los restos humanos tienen aproximadamente diez días y los cuerpos presentan un avanzado estado de descomposición y hasta el momento no se aprecian disparos.
El reporte del hallazgo de las tres fosas clandestinas, ocurrió por la mañana al filo de las nueve horas y se envió a través del Servicio de Emergencia del 066, aunque fue hasta pasado el mediodía en que autoridades de los tres niveles de gobierno localizaron las tumbas.