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. 

Response to: On Drug War Violence Along Texas Border…. via Huffington Post

I wish that the people who write these stories would consider the statement from many years ago from Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan:

“Everyone is entitled to his own opinion, but not to his own facts.”

It is also interesting that the clamor for MORE SPENDING on border security, regardless of the facts that show constant increases in border security spending since 2004 and a steady decrease in violent incidents on the US side of the border, come from the same right-wing citizens and politicians who berate the democratic administration for government spending…

And, even the “facts” provided on the violence in Juarez seem disconnected from reality:

“Juarez has seen well over 2,000 people killed each year in the drug war, he said. In 2009, that figure peaked at 2,754 murders, according to El Diario, the city’s major newspaper. The number of murders in Juarez fell to 2,086 last year, a 24 percent drop.”

Apparently the 3,622 people killed in Juarez in 2010 (by far the most violent year ever in the border city since the Mexican Revolution) don’t count. And the story repeats the old “50,000″ number for those killed in Mexican violence. And not a shred of evidence is provided on any people killed on the US side of the border. But, if you would really like to escape reality (without taking drugs), take a look at the readers’ comments on this story… molly

Mexico, before and after Calderon’s drug war…LATimes

Still no mention of the INEGI numbers released last week and other releases of numbers from the PGR and other Mexican agencies and reported in the Mexican press and on the Frontera List recently.  And in Le Monde.  From following the Mexico news for many years (Frontera List existed back into the 1990s) I archived stories of the violence spiking in 2004-2005… Actually, the real hotspots at that time were in Nuevo Laredo and other cities in the eastern border region…as well as in Chihuahua and Michoacan as reported here.  The full report mentioned in the LATimes article is available here.

 

 

Mexican government admits it doesn’t know how many homicides are related to drug war…

Yesterday, REFORMA reported that a spokesman for the federal government in Mexico stated that this administration will not release a new number of “homicides related to organized crime” before the end of Calderon’s sexenio.  The main focus of the article is that this will not be done because the government cannot accurately determine the causes of the homicides. This is exactly what I have been saying consistently on this list and elsewhere for several years.

 The government will release the complete tally of homicidios dolosos or intentional homicides as tallied by SNSP.  The numbers I’ve report most often use INEGI data for the earlier years of the sexenio and SNSP for 2011 forward.  I think that these numbers are somewhat higher because INEGI data does not separate the homicidios dolosos from other homicides that are what would be classified as negligent or accidental in the US… The differences are not huge. The REFORMA article gives a total of 94,357 through June 2012; INSIGHT CRIME says the SNSP figure for Jan-June 2012 is 10,617. If the average homicides per month (1,770) is extrapolated through the end of November 2012 (when Calderon’s term ends) the total will be 19,464. Added to the previous SNSP number, we would have a total of about 103,204.  I think the eventual number will be higher than that and considering the government’s political motives, I’m comfortable with my current estimate of 110,000. As some of the national figures (including Javier Sicilia) quoted in the article say, these numbers do not include the numbers of missing and disappeared people, nor the bodies that are still being found buried in clandestine graves in many places in the country.
The content of the government spokesman’s statement is almost exactly what I have been saying for years–that the criteria used to determine what is or is not an “organized crime related homicide” is bogus:
__________
He further explained: “They set the criteria and said, ‘well, let’s see…if they used weapons of heavy caliber, if they moved the body, if the body is bound, if there are signs of torture…if two or more of these (characteristics) are present then the homicide could be attributed to organized crime ‘. They had some methodological support for what was published but it was only an approximation, as if they are just saying, ‘yes, this could be organized crime,’ ” he said.

__________

I will look around for more statistics to see if a better estimate is possible. It is interesting that this admission by the government is first published by REFORMA. REFORMA’s oft-cited “Ejecumetro” has for years used the same or similar criteria to determine which killings are related to organized crime and these much lower numbers have been frequently reported in the Mexican national media. The REFORMA data are also used by the Transborder Institute (TBI) in their monthly publications on the drug war. It will be interesting to see how this policy change–admission–backtracking (what else could we call it?) by the Calderon administration will be treated in the international media–if it is noticed at all.
Borderland Beat has a better translation of the Reforma article. Also take a look at the comments.
Here is one of them:
Does anyone know why all that is going in Mexico hardly makes it on the evening news here in the US?
It’s like the domestic dispute next door that everyone is aware of but we all want to pretend its not happening. It really is strange.
More Mexican government officials report that the new database for compiling homicide and missing persons data nationally is extremely behind and indefinitely delayed. A Google translation is below:
GOOGLE TRANSLATION

New national database for homicides delayed

Prado Henia

Agency Reform | 08.17.2012 | 22:24

Federal District-The new database that will store the numbers of intentional homicide and missing persons, which was negotiated by state attorneys and the Attorney General, has not been able to start walking.

The reasons for the delay of this new registration agreement over a year ago is that there is partial information, wrong or delay in delivering it.

An early start date for this database, set for May 12 was postponed and finally determined that as of June 15 would begin to flow data to concentrate on this record.

“The National Conference reaffirms its commitment to fulfill the mandate of the CNSP to establish databases nationally, for registration of intentional homicide and missing persons.

“For this, the law enforcement agencies are committed to providing complete records of these databases later than June 15 this year, expand, update and validate the respective information permanently,” said May 24 the entitled the PGR, Marisela Morales.

Federal District connection, Jaime Lopez-Aranda, head of the National Information Center of the Executive Secretariat of the National Public Security System (SESNSP), said that while the collection of information is substantial homicide, shall be at least one other months to complete the count. “The database of voluntary manslaughter is compiling the PGR will allow us to have more accurate data of victimology, for example, and not only the preliminary investigation, it secretes the victim’s age, sex of victim, location.

“We are really behind. Promised for June 15, I hope it comes out in September and October, because many entities provided information as we had to be delivered, then you should return it, “he said.

This new database and updated monthly to the SESNSP on its website will be the only references that citizens have about the violent murders occurred in the country.

Neither breaks down the number of executed by organized crime. (Agency Reform)

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

Molly Molloy

New Yorker–Finnegan–THE KINGPINS The fight for Guadalajara.

This is an interesting new story in the New Yorker. I’m impressed by the
reporting and the analysis. My one critique: I think he correctly questions
the interpretation of “narcomantas”

Most *narcomantas* (which appear virtually every day somewhere in Mexico)
are disinformation, their assertions dubious, their true authorship
unknowable.

But later in the article, he seems to take the Zetas’ version at face
value… But, that said, the article is worth the time…

Here also are some comments from Jim Creechan:
Finnegan writes about the difficulty of getting to the truth in any story,
but he does an excellent job here.

Highly recommended. By the way, none of these issues have been discussed
during the presidential campaign and no one has any idea what will happen
with the drug war and drug policy when there is a new president.
Unfortunately, the president may not even have any power or control over
the issue — the corruption and mismanagement of the war is no only the
fault of the central government. The narcos and cartels decentralized at
the same time as the PRI collapsed in the late 1990′s.

The governments at the State level will have just as much if not more
influence in determining the outcome of the election AND in determining the
direction of future drug policy. At the moment, 20 states are PRI — mostly
in the north.

2 new CRS reports on Mexico

See links below to two new Congressional Research Service Reports (CRS) on
Mexico.  These are generally a good baseline for publicly available,
published information…and the research is fairly objective as noted by
Gordon, who sent me these links.
Word on Frontera List—I’m going to be traveling for the next week to a
conference outside of the US. I may not be able to post things or keep up
on the news. Feel free to post to the list and when I’m able to be online,
I can send your postings.  If you send an article, please also include the
LINK so that readers can go to the source. molly

Mexico’s Drug Trafficking Organizations:
Source and Scope of the Rising Violence

Mexican Migration to the United States:
Policy and Trends

 

The Pentagon Seeks to Regain the Initiative in South America–Raul Zibechi

This is worth reading. Note the Plan Colombia $$ being used to train
Mexican and Central American police… Also, this quote from Noam Chomsky
at the end. I don’t always agree with Chomsky, but what he says here seems
to reflect clearly what we see in Mexico and Central America…I would only
add that the “war on drugs” is being used to carry out social cleansing in
Latin America also, not just domestically.
“The war on drugs,” Chomsky says, “is an attempt to control the
democratization of social forces,” because “it is a thin cover for
counterinsurgency abroad” and “at home it functions as … ‘social
cleansing’,” resulting in the mass imprisonment of black youth. Therefore,
he concludes, the “failure” of the war on drugs is “intentional,” since
what it seeks is the destruction of the social fabric by violence, and “to
destroy autonomous economic efforts of diverse communities in the region,
to the benefit of powerful interests.”

Failure of anti-narco fight is intentional, says Chomsky (google translation)-El Diario

Visit NACLA

Original article from El Diario

*New York-cons* so-called war on drugs is failing, but unintended
consequences are both within the United States and the hemisphere, said
Noam Chomsky, who also emphasized that the most notable change in the
Americas is their increasing independence from Washington .

“To say that the war on drugs has failed is not understanding something.
It is true that for 40 years the war on drugs has failed in its stated
objectives. Everyone knows that prevention and treatment is the most
efficient way to address drugs, and foreign operations is the most
inefficient. One has to wonder what is in the minds of planners face of
such evidence that does not work what they say they are trying to
accomplish. What are the likely intentions? The predictable consequences
are good indicators of effect, “he said.

Since the poisoning of crops in places like Colombia over drug fumigation
benefits the large agricultural interests and destroys the lives of the
peasants, that violence has displaced or destroyed the social fabric of
communities in several Latin American countries and because to drug
policies applied within the United States has imprisoned a large segment of
the poor, on the whole African-American and Latino, have to wonder if these
are predictable consequences, that is intentional, counter-narcotics
policy.

In comments-no-paper here to celebrate the 45th anniversary of the
publication NACLA, linguist and philosopher offered his views on the
changes in the hemisphere, and elaborated on what is behind the drug policy
of the U.S. government and political and economic elites in the region that
support it.

He recalled that in the United States these policies are doing what was
achieved after the end of slavery in the 1870s, when African Americans
enjoyed their freedom of form in this period, but “was achieved through
criminalize resclavizarlos” .  This was key because the labor force subject
to these conditions resclavizada engine served as the Industrial Revolution
in America: the state was the supplier of imprisoned workers, which
companies do not have to worry about unions or contracts of any kind.

This lasted until the Second World War, which was followed by two decades
of accelerated and sustained economic growth, but that was halted in the
mid-70′s with the supremacy of the financial sector in the economy and with
the relocation of production abroad .  There, under the pretext of the war
on drugs, began the mass incarceration of African Americans and Latino men.

In Latin America there is enormous money flows that benefit the elite,
and a large business is somehow involved with drug trafficking.  On the
other hand, Chomsky provided examples in Colombia and other countries under
the pretext of the war, have been able to control and override autonomous
economic efforts of various communities in the region for the benefit of
powerful interests.  All the while does not meet the stated objectives to
curb the drug and its consequences.

“I do not think the war on drugs is a failure, has a purpose different
from that announced,” he said Chomsky.  “The drug problem in Latin America
is here in America. We supply the demand, weapons, and they (Latin
American) experience.”

But just on this subject, by the growing questioning of U.S. drug policy,
such as relations with Cuba, expressed a growing autonomy of Latin America
from Washington, said Chomsky.

“United States no longer decreed in Latin America” since the region is
increasingly shaping their own future, as expressed at the last Summit of
the Americas.  That said, we could not adopt a final declaration by lack of
unanimity.  Faced with overwhelming support for Cuba’s inclusion in future
summits, Washington and Ottawa just opposed, equal to a growing consensus
on the decriminalization of drugs, there were only two objections, the same
Washington and Ottawa.

“You have to recognize that something remarkable has happened in Latin
America: the days when the U.S. imposed its will on the hemisphere and are
very much in the past.”  He said this has not yet recorded at the American
media, and still do not understand “that things have changed.”

In addition, there is a change in popular consciousness in the region,
marked by the election of Lula Inacio da Silva, Ollanta Humala, Evo Morales
and others, where the majority are being installed as leaders to “people
like them,” and not educated elites abroad and from the ruling class.  At
the same time, regional integration processes and the increasing exclusion
of the United States these are another sign of a new relationship.

In celebration of 45 anniversary of the founding of NACLA prizes were
awarded to Chomsky, Javier Sicilia and Eduardo del Río (Rius)-the latter
was unable to attend and his award was accepted by his friend, the Mexican
cartoonist Feggo.  Chomsky said that when NACLA was founded, was the
beginning of a wave of repression and dictatorship backed by Washington,
and worth celebrating the changes that have happened, at least to the
extent that the order decreed from the U.S. no longer dominates America
America compared to half a century ago.

After decades of U.S. policies designed to “kill hope” in Latin America,
said Chomsky, we are now at a time when that region is now “inspire hope”
for all.

Honduras-the highest murder rate in the world-BBC News

I heard this piece several nights ago on the BBC…  I think it is worth the time.  On my first listen, I was only half awake and I heard bits and pieces only…I thought, “Where is this? It sounds like Juarez…”  I heard it again in full.

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

“Honduras has the highest murder rate in the world. The People’s Funeral Service deals daily with the fall-out from these extreme levels of violence in the capital city, Tegucigalpa. Set up by the Mayor of the city, it distributes coffins, maintains two funeral homes, and even offers a mobile service where employees take everything necessary for a wake – including bread and coffee – to someone’s house or local church. All of these services are totally free for poor people in the city.”

Click here to read more Click to listen now

Then read today’s NYTimes story about US advisers to Honduran military and police in “fight against cartels…”
Neither story makes me very optimistic that any of these tactics that the  US proposes and/or advises or assists with reduces the violence.  All evidence seems to point to the contrary.  And in my most cynical depressed moments (like now) I believe that the US does not care as long as the people dying are poor Mexicans and Hondurans.  Seems it is all part of the
plan.  Who will be next?  molly

UPDATE:

Wow. Thanks to Dawn Paley for her excellent and rational critique of this
NYTimes article on the “new” US war in Honduras…I admit that when I read
it, I felt a kind of dread that interfered with clear thinking…the
article seemed to DREDGE up so much of that slime that accumulates at the
dirty bottoms of things. Dawn’s commentary is essential to clear away the
muck in order to get a good look at what this is really about.
I will note that this line from the end of the article:
“There are ‘insidious’ parallels between regional criminal organizations
and terror networks.”  … this really got my attention also.  In Central
America all though the 1980s (and beginning even earlier) all it took was
to call it COMMUNIST and then it could be attacked, disappeared, killed…
And IT could be a student, an indigenous person, a human rights worker, a
religious worker, a labor organizer or anyone else who might be seen as a
leftist or progressive or some other challenge to entrenched oligarchic
power allied with the US in those years. Now, the codeword is terrorist or
drug criminal. Or narco or zeta… This is the “new” National Security
Doctrine. And no, it isn’t new. But the result is the same: DEATH. I highly
recommend Dawn Paley’s post… molly