Sep 29, 2014

Armed Border Militia Apprehends Bat-Counting Scientists

Note: Heavily armed militia in Arizona and Texas are threatening people. Here near Sonoita, Arizona scientific researchers were held at gunpoint. Local officials say they don't appreciate the presence of the armed groups. Then why don't they do something? Is this really legal or desirable behavior? You know that if these groups were Latino citizens they'd be behind bars. While it is legal to bear arms, it is not legal to hunt human beings and threaten them at gunpoint. - Laura Carlsen 

Huffington Post: An armed border militia group confronted three researchers in Arizona last month, mistaking them for undocumented immigrants or drug traffickers in an incident that drew criticism from local law enforcement officials.
Border militias, or "untrained, utterly anonymous gunmen with no accountability to anyone" who prowl the border on their own time and look for illegal activity, have become an increasing concern for law enforcement officials, according to the Southern Poverty Law Center. The recent incident with the researchers is the second time in the last few weeks the militias have caused an issue for U.S. border authorities.  Read more. 

22 police held following southern Mexico violence

AP: Authorities in Mexico say 22 local police have been arrested following the deaths of six people in Guerrero state.

Unidentified gunman and numerous officers were involved in several violent incidents that killed six people late Friday and early Saturday in Iguala, about 200 kilometers (125 miles) south of Mexico City. Read more. 

Sep 28, 2014

Mexican cartels steal billions from oil industry

AP: Mexico overcame 75 years of nationalist pride to reform its flagging, state-owned oil industry. But as it prepares to develop rich shale fields along the Gulf Coast, and attract foreign investors, another challenge awaits: taming the brutal drug cartels that rule the region and are stealing billions of dollars' worth of oil from pipelines.

Figures released by Petroleos Mexicanos last week show the gangs are becoming more prolific and sophisticated. So far this year, thieves across Mexico have drilled 2,481 illegal taps into state-owned pipelines, up more than one-third from the same period of 2013. Pemex estimates it's lost some 7.5 million barrels worth $1.15 billion. Read More. 

Army unit in Mexico killings has past controversy

AP: An army officer and seven soldiers who face disciplinary action for their participation in the killing of 22 people in rural southern Mexico belong to an army battalion with a history of incidents.

The Mexican Defense Department said the eight were involved in the June 30 incident in San Pedro Limon, an encounter that the military initially reported as a shootout but that a witness has described as a massacre. Read more, 

Mexico Inflation Above Target as Increases Exceed Forecasts

Bloomberg: Mexican consumer prices rose more than expected in the first half of September, keeping the annual inflation rate above the upper limit of the central bank’s target range.

Prices increased 0.32 percent from two weeks earlier, the national statistics institute said on its website today, compared with the 0.25 percent median forecast of 24 economists surveyed by Bloomberg. The annual inflation rate was 4.21 percent, above the 2 percent to 4 percent target range.  Read more. 

Sep 22, 2014

Laundering Mexico's Drug Money: Washing Up

The Economist:Drug traffickers, like everyone else, only want money because they want what money can buy. But turning dirty cash from drug sales into clean, usable currency has become harder for Mexican drug gangs as a result of tighter banking regulations at home and in the United States, their main market.

The criminals are responding by piggy-backing on cross-border trade to launder their gains. Read more. 

Sep 19, 2014

Witnesses Say Killings by the Army in Mexico State was a Mass Execution

Last June 30, 22 young people were shot and killed in Mexico State by an Army unit. No soldiers were killed. The Army reported that they were attacked but news stories in Spanish and the AP reported that the circumstances were suspicious, to say the least. Representatives of the UN High Commission reportedly investigated the scene. The National Human rights Commission has opened aninvestigation.

Now the story has surfaced again (really, the possibility of an Army massacre of this size should never have disappeared from the news without clearing up the basic facts). The Spanish-language magazine Esquire Mexico and the AP found witnesses to the killings who reports that the Army executed the youth. "Caso Tlatlaya" as Esquire calls it after the place where the killings took place, is becoming big news.

The basic facts are not disputed. Twenty-two mostly young people hiding in a warehouse were shot to death. The allegations are that they belonged to a gang that crossed over the border from Guerrero. The biggest point of contention is whether anyone from the group ever attacked the soldiers. The witnesses and much of the forensic evidence suggests they did not. 

The Mexico State government of Eruviel Avila has denied any wrong-doing. At the same time, they refused to release autopsy reports to AP, heightening suspicions. AP ,reports, again following the Esquire lead,
The state government refused to release autopsy reports the AP requested under Mexico's freedom of information law, declaring them state secrets to be guarded for nine years.

A Christian Science Monitor article picks up the news of the eye-witness accounts.  Now  international human rights groups are jumping on the case and calling for investigations. It is not clear where the investigation of the UN High Commission mentioned in the first article currently stands. Tha National Human Rights Commissons refused to comment as its investigation is still in course.  This version from Aristegui Noticias (in Spanish) reproduces part of the Esquire article and interviews the courageous reporter.

Recall that Mexico state is the power bastion of President Peña Nieto y Avila is his selected successor. Bad publicity in Mexico state could throw off succession plans for the 2018 presidency and cast aspersions on the president.

Also, such a serious human rights abuse by the Armed Forces in the drug war casts even more doubt on the already-unpopular strategy. It also undermines the claims we have been criticizing here since its inception: that you can effectively control human rights abuses under the drug war model. This repressive model will continue to produce human rights abuses. Call it social cleansing, extra-judicial executions or abuse of power, both the police and the armed forces have been accused of huge rise in human rights violations since the drug war began in December of 2006

The latest revelations are causing a stir, with excellent Mexican investigative journalists asking questions and even the US press echoing concerns.  We will also continue to follow the story in these pages. The hope is that this will not be swept under the rug like so many cases in the past.
Laura Carlsen