Q & A with Andrew Kennis Part 2

How do you feel about the decriminalization of marijuana and how do you think this will affect Mexico?

Decriminalization of just marijuana, according to drug policy experts, peace activists, victims of drug war violence and even most recently the Global Commission on Drug Policy – which is filled by an array of ex heads of state, many of whom hailing from Latin America where drug war violence and victimization has been at its most intense in the world – is simply not sufficient reform. Portugal has quietly been the drug policy reform example over the course of last decade and running, as leading scholarly research has duly shown. Drug consumption has not risen, and in some ways has actually fallen, since the all-out decriminalization policy was instituted. That’s not insignificant news and something from which many countries, the U.S. and Mexico being the most among them, could and should learn a lot.

Nevertheless, the sweeping nature which characterizes rampant marijuana drug policy reform in the U.S. is definitely a step in the right direction and one that has marijuana reform advocates quite content, as I reported before the mid-term election. At that time, already 26 states had adopted some reform measure or another, decriminalizing, outright legalizing or providing medical provisions for the permitted consumption and cultivation of cannabis. By now, 5 more states can be added to the growing list for a total of 31, with Florida almost becoming the 32nd state to adopt a marijuana reform measure.

It is pretty clear that prohibitionist drug laws are as vulnerable as they have ever been before. At the same time, it is unclear when other drug laws going beyond marijuana will be reformed. Much depends upon the extent that the issue can continue to attract grassroots activism and successful voter referendum initiatives, which overwhelmingly has been the lone means with which marijuana drug reform advocates have been able to realize success. In the meantime, the drug war will most certainly continue, with the most pervasive victimization still falling squarely on the backs of the Mexican people.

In one of our previous interviews one author mentioned that the arrest of a drug kingpin (like El Chapo) really doesn’t change anything since there is always a replacement available to keep the drug trade going. Do you agree? Why or why not?

Just last month, Vicente Carrillo Fuentes, the drug kingpin of the Juarez cartel was arrested. I was interviewed on a local El Paso newscast and wrote-up a report about the arrest. High-profile arrests like these have been going on for years with indeed, little to no impact being made on the drug trade.

In terms of replacements being available, that’s been a known practice for quite some time now.

Years ago, Mayo Zambada, the still at-large Sinloa cartel kingpin and Vicente’s father, gave a very well-known interview to Proceso’s founding editor, Julio Scherer. [Here is the original Spanish version.] Proceso is Mexico’s most investigative and hard-hitting magazine weekly. In the wake of El Chapo’s arrest, Proceso re-printed the Mayo Zambada interview earlier this year. It was clear as to why it did so: at the end of the interview, Mayo confidently proclaims that any and all cartels are always prepared to fill in any void left behind by their captured or killed kingpins and capos with ready-made replacements. The claim was a bit of an exaggeration, however, as it is well-known that capos being killed or detained sometimes results in power struggles and increased violence.

It is true though that most of the time a new capo steps in and business as usual continues to be conducted. After all, there is no larger drug consumer market in the world than that of the U.S., with 2010 having set all-time records for importation and consumption. Interestingly enough, 2010 was also the height of Calderon’s drug war offensive and also of the turf war for control over the most lucrative drug corridor in the world: that of the El Paso / Ciudad Juarez plaza.

Whether or not the high-profile arrests of drug kingpins as a security strategy has actually made a dent into the drug war on behalf of the officials purportedly fighting it is scarcely in doubt though. In fact, the policy was so criticized, that the Pena Nieto administration pledged to either get rid of it entirely or at the very least to move away from it. The only substantive change that has happened, however, was the decision not to parade around captured drug kingpins after they were arrested, as was the custom during the Calderon administration. It was said that such public displays and spectacles added to the allure and appeal of narco culture, providing a basis for many narco corridos and the like.

However, the high-profile arrest strategy is apparently here to stay. Its origins date back to Calderon having drawn inspiration from U.S. military occupation policies in regard to the Hussein regime. Some readers may remember the use of playing cards to identify Iraqi leaders to U.S. soldiers for capture or kill hunts. That’s where this policy first started. During Pena Nieto’s administration, he has arrested not only El Chapo but other prominent cartel leaders too, such as El Viceroy. Curious to many of us drug war journos, however, was the release of Rafael Caro Quintero in August 2013 because of some legal technicality. The legal decision was reversed within a week of his release after some intense DEA pressure, but the kingpin continues to be at-large and may be filling a power vacuum of sorts in the wake of Chapo’s arrest. At the same time, the Sinaloa cartel has long been run by two capos, not just one, and Mayo Zambada continues to also be at-large. Finally, an anti-Sinaloa cartel alliance is also being organized too. That may result in some increased violence and challenges to plazas or it may simply result in different territorial control without increased violence. When cartels can avoid violence, they do, as it is very costly and dents into their profits.

More than anything else though, extreme drug war violence is generated from the instability of government intervention into the illegal drug trade, as was displayed prominently during the start of the Calderon administration, initialized with a huge offensive into Michoacan. Continued impunity also strongly fuels drug war-related violence, as the Iguala massacre has shown us in harrowing ways.

It is probably hard to imagine to most U.S. citizens that a Mayor and his wife would be so embroiled into narco politics and crime, that they would routinely undertake massacres against their political opponents. But this was apparently the case, as mass graves are showing up all around the town in which the student massacre was recently undertaken, for which the Mayor has been accused of masterminding. But that’s the extent to which impunity reigns in Mexico, with strong fuel being drawn from supportive and provocative U.S. policies, including vital arms supplies and training of the same military officials which are often knee-deep involved with narco politics and crime.

As seen by the widespread solidarity actions and political resistance organized and held last week, however, in Mexico and beyond, and even here on the border (in a very rare display of cross-border organizing and simultaneous protests being held on the same issue), there is most definitely a growing opposition and awareness to the impunity and corruption which characterizes the drug war. In Mexico, the issue has been long known and understood, which is why such an explosive increase of activism and resistance happened so quickly and so decisively over the presumed massacre of 43 students in Ayotzinapa. Other places are starting to catch on too, including even here in the States; hence, the global actions in solidarity with the Mexican struggle against the drug war and narco-state repression.

What is a misconception that you find people tend to have regarding the drug war?

I’d say on a few matters. One is about the very deep and extensive involvement which U.S. policy plays in fueling drug war violence in Mexico. In terms of policy, there is a significant lack of familiarity with decriminalization drug reform, such as that of Portugal.

Perhaps there will be a growing awareness of this, however, in light of the sea change that has happened with marijuana reform policies that we just spoke about.

Then again, it could work either way: marijuana reform could be seen as sufficient and thus stultify further efforts to decriminalize other drugs. “This far, but no further,” could be the damaging logic that comes as a result of marijuana reform. The leading marijuana reform organization steers way clear of taking a position on decriminalizing more drugs, or not, for example. Or, if luck will win it, marijuana reform could lead to further decriminalization policies.

While polls are running strong in terms of citizen support for marijuana reform policies, most activists and policy experts I spoke to didn’t credit a shift in the public consciousness as the leading factor for the policy shift. They credited the ongoing recession as one of the strongest motives to decriminalize marijuana and give states a much needed opportunity to balance their budgets, which have long been struggling against decreased tax revenues as a result of the recession. Will additional reform policies also be fueled by a desire for states to gain more public tax revenues? It’s possible. Only time will tell.

What do you propose as a possible solution for the violence in Mexico?

There is a famous saying that pretty much everyone knows in Mexico: “so close to the United States, but so far away from God.” Mexico needs to distance itself from the U.S. in political, economic and diplomatic terms. It needs to stop fighting the U.S.’s “war.” It needs to stop selling its most prized natural asset to multinationals. It needs to scrap the NAFTA agreement, which has had devastating effects on its agriculture sector, resulting in tons of out-of-work campesinos taking on low-paying jobs in the U.S. or dying in attempts to cross the scorching Arizona desert.

Surprising as it may seem, most Mexicans now eat tortillas with corn grown in the U.S. by subsidized agri-business, often sold at less than the cost of production.

All of these policies are nothing short of tragic. So yes, Mexico needs to focus on its own domestic problems in order to carve out a more effective and independent route toward development. Mexico, in spite of half of its territory being taken by force by the U.S., is still a large and resource-plush country. If it began to use and develop its resources for the needs of its own people, it could go far in terms of poverty reduction and could become a leading force in Latin America and beyond. After all, only Brazil has a larger population and a larger territory than Mexico in Latin America. There’s no reason why Mexico can’t be sporting the kind of tremendous growth rates and poverty reduction seen in Brazil during the course of the last decade. Or even the poverty reduction that has been seen in Venezuela.

However, there is something to be said about understanding the significant political and economic pressure which Mexico is subjected to by the U.S. There are consequences to carving out an independent, Latin American route. Cuba knows this all too well. So does Venezuela. So does even Ecuador and Bolivia, to a certain extent. Even Argentina was recently punished by U.S. courts for litigating independent economic policies which protect its own interests.

Because of all of this, under more ideal circumstances, U.S.-based activists and solidarity movements, such as maybe a revitalized Occupy movement, may succeed in pushing for and realizing more Mexico-friendly policies. Decriminalizing all drugs in the U.S. would go far to help Mexico end the drug war once and for all. Drug addiction could finally be treated as a public health issue, as opposed to a militaristic one, which is ironically the very stance that ex-Mexican Presidents Vicente Fox and Ernesto Zedillo now support and favor. More than just that is needed, however, and in general, more independence from the U.S. would likely in turn serve to lessen the imperialistic pressures to which Mexico has long been and continues to be subjected.

In respect to the drug war, the price has been quite high for agreeing to fight the U.S.’s war: up to 120,000 Mexican civilians were estimated to have been killed during the Calderon administration alone. And with the recent student massacre, it is now clearer than ever that the Pena Nieto administration too is as embroiled as Mexico has ever been with narco-state politics and corruption. Sad, but true, is that even a century later the revolutionary saying “so close to the United States, but so far away from God” remains relevant to contemporary U.S.-Mexico politics.

Mexico’s murderous alliance of state, the army and the drug cartels..Ed Vulliamy in the Observer…

When we tally the horrors of narco-state terror in Mexico, we must also count the 250+ victims of 25 massacres in Ciudad Juarez.  Since 2007, more than 12,000 people have been murdered in Juarez… A city with about one percent of the population of Mexico accounted for 9 percent of the murder victims between 2007-2012…

Reported here on the Frontera List and in El Diario in 2013 AND…. the several hundred people massacred in Allende Coahuila in 2011… This is the posting from Frontera List.
Below is another excellent report on the massacres in Allende, Coahuila…I posted the piece from Vice  by Diego Enrique Osorno.
The July 5 report by Michelle Garcia and Ignacio Alvarado at Al Jazeera America goes further in pointing out the actual involvement of Mexican government forces in the disappearance and killing of more than 300 people–activities that went on for months in 2011. Only after three years has a Coahuila state prosecutor begun to investigate and probably only now because of testimony provided by several people who left Mexico and are now protected witnesses in a Texas court proceeding.
A few excerpts:
Missing from the official statements was any explanation as to how the Zetas — whose name means Z — were able to carry out days, if not months, of killings unimpeded by law enforcement. There was no indication that the military, which was posted at a base in Piedras Negras and operated a checkpoint outside of Allende, intervened.
Questions about possible government complicity — directly or indirectly — generally dissipate when violence is branded as Zeta-related. Indeed, as violence in Mexico’s northern region continues unabated, in lieu of investigations and convictions, Zeta is the catchall explanation applied to criminality, one that has the effect of silencing further questions.
“Let’s suppose that there had existed a small, tenuous difference between the supposed legal and political system and the narco organizations, the cartels,” said Vera, who operates the Center for Human Rights Fray Juan de Larios, which defends migrants’ and prisoners’ rights. “That line is faded now because of the degree of corruption.”
The discovery of this latest atrocity can be added to years of similar events, some of which I tried to explain last summer here
These questions remain: Which criminal element is actually the driving force–the cartels, or the government? And where in the mainstream US press can we find any reference to Merida Initiative billions of US taxpayer dollars going directly to corrupt and murderous Mexican police and military?  And to what end?   I think we need only look at the exodus of children and families from Mexico, El Salvador, Honduras and Guatemala to get a glimpse of how such policies play out on the ground.

Q & A with Andrew Kennis

Andrew Kennis is an international journalist, researcher, and professor at University of Texas, El Paso. Dr. Kennis is currently the border correspondent for teleSUR’s English division and has written for a variety of publications including Al Jazeera English, The Christian Science Monitor, Proceso (Mexico), Time Out, and emeequis (Mexico). Learn more about his work by visiting his profile and follow him @andrew_kennis


Interviewed by Virginia Isaad

You’ve said that a lot of what you cover isn’t included in mainstream media. What would you say is an important story (or stories) that you feel the general public needs to know about regarding the violence in Mexico?

This is not an easy question, as there are so many stories in Mexico that the U.S. public deserves to know about, with accessible reporting and investigations. Yet, given the close relationship that the U.S. has with Mexico, and its importance as a client state, there is little that most U.S. citizens know about what is actually going on south of the border.

There is a principle about powerful nations which U.S. journalism should especially abide by: one can learn a lot about themselves by taking a close look at how one’s neighbors are treated. Mexico is one of the U.S.’s most important allies and U.S. policy is clearly fueling a lot of the violence in Mexico. A frightening, tremendous amount. Yet, we read little to nothing about these connections … or even just about the violence itself. When and if there is reporting, it depicts the situation as chaotic, anarchic, out-of-control and with little to no responsibility by high-ranking officials.

The most recent and striking example is what is being called the worst student massacre since 1968, which occurred in the drug war-torn and poverty-stricken state of Guerrero. If ever there was a more powerful display of the “narco estado” bearing itself full on, it was this one. UPDATE: Therein, the mayor and chief of police are already fugitives of the law for having fled soon after it was announced that they were leading suspects for masterminding this gruesome tragedy. It is understood that local officials facilitated a leading street gang to do the dirty work of the kidnapping, torture and eventually burning to death of at least 43 student activists and demonstrators.

Mexico is one of the leading recipients of U.S. weapons, training and crucial diplomatic support. The White House has barely breathed a word about this massacre and the rest of the U.S. news media is largely following in step. The outcry in Mexico is tremendous and the official admittances to crimes is also significant, which has resulted in a few op-eds and reports. But the White House reaction has been mum and thus, this has limited what should be far more extensive coverage and leading story investigations, and priorities. It simply has not been. Were it not for the strong reaction in Mexico, coverage would probably be even less significant and probing.

The U.S. itself is even cast off as a victim of Mexican spill-over violence or immigration or whatever nuisance can be conjured up, of course with the sole fault lying with Mexico itself. There’s little to nothing about U.S. culpability for the drug war being fueled by U.S. leading policies, or for too much of the violence that Mexico has to weather and endure.

I don’t want to mislead, Mexican officials indeed have plenty of culpability themselves, but the overwhelming amount of attention (if any) goes to just that … Mexican culpability, as opposed to the U.S. role. Instead, a wayward Mexican state is depicted, a “failed state,” as some U.S. officials have put it. If coverage was more accurate, the term “failed state” wouldn’t be the description … more apt would be, “a failed client state of the U.S.”

You recently wrote an article on the CBP where you mention “Over 8,000 new agents were brought into the ranks of the CBP over a three-year period, from 2006 to 2009. What were the standards they “relaxed” in order to hire so many new agents?

“Relaxed” is actually a conservative description. According to whistle-blowers such as the recently demoted and former Internal Affairs CBP chief, James Tomsheck, screening was all but completely gutted. Previously, a lie-detector test was a standard screening procedure for hiring practices and as many as 50% of applicants were filtered out. The rush to recruitment, to be sure, has been significant.

 Is there any through line with the civilian victims? Are they mainly youths like Jose Antonio?

The only consistency between the victims is that they were mostly accused of rock-throwing. But even U.S. officials have denounced their own allies for the use of fatal force against rock throwers, as was the case with Hillary Clinton in respect to Israel using fatal force against rock-throwing youth in Palestine. In plenty of the cases where video evidence was unearthed, however, it was found that there was no evidence whatsoever of rock-throwing having been involved.

Several other CBP testimonies have also been proven false, including one famous case which involved an unarmed man that was beaten to death and subsequent Congressional action. That case actually wound up being of significant importance, as it led to a snowballing chain of events that finally resulted in some reforms being implemented.

According to the lawyer of many of the families of many Mexican nationals killed by the CBP, whom I actually recently interviewed, significant precedents will be set by what is likely to be a Supreme Court case which will decide whether Mexican nationals have the right to sue the U.S. government when killed in Mexican territory.

Is the corruption directly correlated to the hiring of untrained agents or are there other key factors involved?

It is not just untrained agents, if not, discarded, suspended and literally fired and former policemen. But yes, between the discarded policemen hired and also the lesser trained agents, civil rights advocates, families of the victims and their lawyers all argue that this is very much the root of the problem … relating of course to the more general and long-running trend of the militarization of the border during the post 9-11 era.

What can you tell us about the cameras CBP has promised to start using?

I can’t tell you much at all about them, since a year after the first promises of their implementation by the CBP, they are still not in use. I was recently pulled over by federales in Mexico and was asked for an international travel auto permit when I drove a bit outside of Juarez. Interestingly enough, I noticed that there was a camera affixed to their car. Everything was being recorded. The cops were more nice, courteous, understanding and reasonable than any other Mexican law enforcement authorities with whom I have spoken.

The CBP has claimed that implementation of what would still be a pilot program has been “complicated” and “expensive.” That sounds like mere excuses to me. In any case, even with cameras, given the CBP’s proclivity to redact and/or simply not release important information to the public, the cameras may only be of limited, internal use. Again, the lawyer I spoke to today said that the clearest video showing that Sergio Adrián Hernández did indeed not throw any rocks, contrary to CBP testimony, is still under wraps and unreleased by the Department of Justice. We only know what the video’s footage reveals from the DOJ telling the family, verbally, that this was the case, when it met with them to deliver the sordid news that it would not prosecute the CBP agent that killed their unarmed son on Mexican soil.

What cameras should be utilized for is for publicly accessible and transparent access by at least the human rights community, if not the public at-large. As of now, it does not seem that there are any indications that this will be the case and as incredible as it may seem, even cameras may not be enough to eliminate a long-running problem of CBP impunity.

Considering that it seems no CBP agent has been punished for civilian deaths, what reforms needs to be made in order to rectify this?

For a while, we had to write “it seems” in respect to no CBP agent being punished for civilian deaths. But just last month, Tomsheck’s replacement to head up the Internal Affairs department confirmed beyond a shadow of a doubt that no prosecutions or even punitive measures of any type have been undertaken toward any agent. As anonymous sources both inside the CBP and the State Department confirmed to me … there is most certainly an air of impunity within CBP … an embattled agency these days given increased attention and criticism of its often trigger-happy agents.

First things first then, impunity must be stopped. But eventually, the militarization of the border, as well as the public health problem of drug addiction, both need to end. No solutions for border-based issues, immigration and the illicit drug issues will ever be realized through militarization. Drugs need to be treated as a public health problem, not as an issue of war. Immigration needs to brought out of the shadows and guest-worker / path-to-citizenship programs must be established. Finally, and as important as anything else, NAFTA must be ended so that Mexico can develop its own economy and not be at the behest of multinational capital and investment which continues to flee toward China, anyhow. As Chuck Bowden would often say, Juarez is a laboratory of the future and the future is now. The results are in: NAFTA doesn’t work, as Laura Carlsen elegantly explained in a rare granted entry into the New York Times.

You’ve covered the trial of Vicente Zambada which isn’t covered extensively in mainstream media. What do people need to know about Zambada and how has his trial affected the drug trade?

Most U.S. people don’t even know who Vicente Zambada is, much less his more well-known father, Mayo Zambada (while the opposite is nearly the case with Mexico-based citizenry). Some people recognize the name El Chapo, but on the tip of everyone’s tongues should also be Vicente Zambada too. Given the paltry amount of news coverage on the trial, however, I am not surprised that this is not the case.

That notwithstanding, the Zambada trial was still dubbed as the drug trial of the century by leading U.S. officials, the most important mafioso trial in Chicago since Al Capone himself was tried. Why was this the case?

One measure which shows the importance of the trial to the government is the simple fact that the trial never actually happened. The government’s worst fear was that this case would actually go to trial. For years, the trial was stuck in “pre-trial” phase and went through endless motions to stay the actual trial, the prosecution and defense finally came to a plea agreement which is still in effect to this day. After having attended several of these pre-trial hearings myself, I was struck by how much the court room was controlled by the prosecution and how Judge Castillo, a Clinton appointee and recently promoted, seemed to follow their lead more than anything else. This was a DEA-controlled legal case, it clearly seemed to me.

The plea agreement conditions Zambada’s eventual release on how useful he is as a DEA-informant. This is ironic because Zambada’s whole pre-trial defense rested on being a protected informant. Curiously enough, shortly after the plea agreement was finally announced, which was in actuality a year after the agreement had actually been brokered, El Chapo himself was arrested. Was there a connection between the two? Most of us narco-journos presume that there was.

More than just presume, however, there is some compelling evidence behind Zambada’s claims. One of the most interesting claims is that one of the benefits of his agreement and service to the DEA as an informant was to receive “Fast and Furious” weapons in exchange for his intel on rival cartels. There is sworn testimony under oath, which supports these claims. An investigation I’m in the midst of finalizing will be published next month with some more details about this. Finally, during pre-trial discovery, the prosecution admitted that the Sinaloa cartel’s leading lawyer was a DEA-informant for no less than ten years (from 2001 to 2011). Interestingly enough, this lawyer was present with Vicente Zambada the night both of them met with DEA agents. Later that same night, Zambada was arrested in an apparent DEA double-cross.

Provided Vicente continues to prove useful as a behind-bars DEA-informant, he will be out of prison within a handful of years and will be a free man again. Perhaps at that point, he will be a high-ranking deputy again in the Sinaloa cartel, running it along with his father. It will be interesting to see what happens there.

6 years since the murder of Armando Rodriguez, reporter for El Diario de Juarez

Photo via El Diario

Photo via El Diario

Six years have passed today since the murder of El Diario reporter, Armando Rodriguez. The Chihuahua state authorities continue to say that his death was not related to his work as a journalist. The Special Prosecutor for crimes against journalists in Mexico (a federal authority) says that there is evidence that he was indeed targeted for his reporting.  “El Diego” a lieutenant for La Linea (Juarez cartel) was arrested in 2011 and extradited to the US where he is serving 10 life sentences for various crimes. There is information (not officially confirmed by the state authorities) that El Diego said that he ordered the murder of Rodriguez for writing stories that damaged his organization…

Ya Me Cansé – By: Adam Goodman

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.


Photo Courtesy: adamsigoodman.com

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.

The arrest of ex-Alcalde Abarca and his wife was staged for political reasons: Fr. Solalinde

Thanks to Jim for sending these links and analysis. – Molly

Comments from Jim:

Padre Alejandro Solalinde is proving to be a one-man wrecking crew undermining the Peña Nieto government attempt to push the Ayotzinapa massacre into the background.

He was the first one to report that the students had been executed and burned with diesel fuel (three weeks? before the Murillo Karam press conference).

And yesterday he addressed a group of students in Guadalajara and reported that the arrest of ex-Alcalde Abarca was a staged event for political reasons and an attempt to control the agenda.
> El gobierno “ha estado administrando esta información para aprovechar tiempos políticos. No es cierto que le interese la tragedia; lo que le interesa es sacar provecho electoral
> Se trata de un control de daños políticos, un control de daños partidistas. Han estado manipulando toda la información para beneficio del PRI-gobierno.–

According to Padre Solalinde, Abarca and his wife were captured in Vera Cruz. If you remember, I had previously sent out an email indicating that Abarca was arrested in Vera Cruz and I had based my information on an internet item that was briefly reported by ejecentral.com and at least one other daily. But those reports did not lead to any national coverage or follow-up of this report.

According to Padre Solalinde, the arrest of Abarca and his wife was staged in Itztapalapa in D.F. in hopes of gaining a political advantage. Basically, the argument is that the PRD was targeted by the PRI (…in spite of PRD cooperation in most for the Enrique Peña Nieto political agenda in the first 18 months). Itztapalapa is a PRD stronghold (based on demographics – it’s poor, and it has voted PRD consistently). Arresting Abarca in this “urban zone” would make it look like he had PRD help in hiding. He and his wife were supposedly hiding in a house owned by a family that has benefitted from PRD contracts (towing contracts). The circumstances of the arrest are strange – there was pre-arranged press-coverage, and Abarca emerged wearing a perfectly pressed suit from a hovel.

Unfortunately for the PRI, Padre Solalinde keeps bringing forward accusations that are backed up by evidence. And even more unfortunately, Enrique Peña Nieto has his own Marie Antoinette (La Gaviota) living in his own personal Versaille and doing much more than eating cake. -James (Jim) Creechan

Abarca fue capturado en Veracruz y sembrado en el DF, acusa Solalinde (La Jornada)

A Abarca “lo encontraron en Veracruz y lo fueron a sembrar” en el DF: Solalinde (Aristegui Noticias)

Selection of articles on murders of the normalistas…

Below are Jim’s comments on the pieces attached. Also below is Alma Guillermoprieto’s article in the NYRB, published before the latest announcement from the Mexican AG on the confessions as to the murders and the burning of the bodies of the students.  I would also like to point out that in early October, just a few days after the students disappeared, Borderland Beat reported on OCTOBER 5 in a translation of an article from La Jornada that the normalistas had been killed and their bodies burned with diesel fuel. I posted this piece to Frontera List on October 7. This is essentially what the AG reported to the world yesterday. News that has been known for more than a month…   molly


I’ve attached a large PDF file containing 17 different items from late Thursday (the 6th) until early this morning.(the 8th).

I will not analysis the content, but will offer a brief overview and description of why I chose these particular references.
  • First, there are several pieces covering a news conference headed by Jesus Murillo Karam where the PGR presented a statement that the missing students were taken to an area between Iguana and Cocula and executed and incinerated for up to 15 hours before remains were thrown into a river. Murillo reports that the capture of 3 narcos (Guerrero Unidos) led to confessions pointing to this spot, and in the absence of forensic evidence the PGR has accepted this testimony as sufficient proof. The evidence presented (video confessions, pictures) supports this version (narrative) of the days beginning September 26 through the 28th. It points a finger squarely at “narcos” and lays most of the blame there.
  • Murillo Karan also uttered a phrase “Soy cansado” which has been appropriated by protestors and used as the latest hashtag to point out how the government is doing its best to avoid responsibility for any of the events in Guerrero – #YaSoyCansado and #YaEstamosCansado have become the latest protest phrase pointing to disgust with the government.
  • International groups, especially Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch have quickly pointed out that “the government of Peña Nieto” has not admitted that it played an active role- and continues to look for a line of explanation that points to narcos.
  • The parents of the Normalistas have flatly rejected the evidence presented by Murillo Karam. A couple of reports describe their reaction (and I also included the Alma Guillermoprieto essay from NY Review of Books). These parents will not allow the PGR and the government to walk away from this mess untouched. Their persistence is amazing, and it is the “glue” holding together the diverse protest movements together. One of the strongest arguments that the parents have made is that Enrique Peña Nieto has put together a hasty narrative so that he can hop in his new presidential airplane and go off to a trade mission in China and Australia.
  • I did not include a specific article from Padre Solalinde, but he has also called out the Catholic Hierarchy and said that they need to do more than pray.
  • One of the articles I included is a column from Raymundo Riva Palacio pointing out that the criminal charges brought against ex-mayor Abarca and his wife are likely to fail. He makes an interesting point that the PGR is following the same strategy (and making the same mistakes) as they did in the Ruiz Massieu – Raul Salinas case from 2 decades ago.
  • Some of the reports in this attachment include “online comments” and observations. The social media world has literally exploded with comments and observations – most of them angry. The anger is literally white-hot. I encourage everyone to go online and pay attention to this anger. It’s also clear that there is an organized attempt to “reconstruct” the narrative in cyberspace: there are comments (repetitive) and signed with strangely patriotic names arguing that the State cannot be blamed and that these killings and disappearances are simply the acts of evil men and narcos. Those “apologias” are always dismissed and shouted down (…especially on Twitter).

Proceso has been one of the leading sources and most detailed in its coverage, and its journalists are regular tweeters. Carmen Aristegui has also been a good source of information.

La Jornada
Translation by Borderland Beat