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La Jornada > Cobertura de "La otra campaña"

Nodos Comunes

.. Caosmosis ..

Rage One (blog)

domingo, abril 22, 2007

Mexico Week In Review: 04.16-04.22


Published since 1994, 'Mexico Week In Review' is a service of the
Committee of Indigenous Solidarity (CIS). CIS is a Washington, D.C.
based activist group committed to the ongoing struggles of Indigenous
peoples in the Americas. CIS is actively supporting the struggles
of the Indigenous peoples of Mexico while simultaneously combating
related structures of oppression within our own communities.

To view newsletter archives, visit:

"Para Todos, Todo; Para Nosotros Nada"


The Other Campaign of Jovel - local chapter of the Zapatista civil initiative in the Chiapas highland city of San Cristobal de Las Casas - has turned over to the agrarian authorities in the state capital, Tuxtla Gutiérrez, a critical analysis of land conflicts in the restive southern Mexican state. The analysis accuses the federal Agrarian Reform Secretariat and the local Agrarian Tribunals of favoritism in approving land claims by those seeking to expel Zapatista communities. A statement in support of the analysis is signed by over 200 grassroots and non-governmental organizations, and more than a thousand individuals.

The analysis notes that lands seized by the Zapatistas in their 1994 rebellion were taken under the principle that "the land belongs to those who work it," and that the Zapatista rebels were often peons (resident farmhands) on the very ranchlands occupied in the uprising. Ranchers and landlords at the time petitioned for a return of their lands, but this was rejected as a precondition for the government's peace dialogue with the Zapatistas (stalled for several years now). Instead, the landowners were monetarily compensated for their lands by the Mexican federal government's Fondo 95 and Pro Chiapas programs. Nonetheless, anti-Zapatista groups such as the Organization for the Defense of Indigenous and Campesino Rights (OPDDIC) are now petitioning agrarian authorities for rights to these lands.

An "annex" to the analysis is a statement by several indigenous groups asserting that they are the "inheritors of the original inhabitants of these lands, from which they were evicted by the Spanish crown," and therefore have "legitimate right to recover these lands." The analysis especially looks at the cases of Ejido Mukulum Bachajón, in the "official" municipality of Chilón (and Zapatista "autonomous municipality" Olga Isabel), and El Nantze, in "official" municipality Altamirano ("autonomous municipality" Vicente Guerrero), where OPDIC adherents have been granted rights to lands occupied by Zapatista communities since 1994.

Source: 04/20


Mexico's defense minister will face lawmakers next week who suspect the army covered up a reported rape and killing by soldiers of an elderly peasant woman. Opposition legislator Pedro Montalvo said Mexico's top human rights official would also appear in Congress to answer questions about the death in February of 73-year-old indigenous grandmother Ernestina Ascencio a few hundred feet from an army camp in the state of Veracruz. "This affair has polarized every government institution," said Montalvo, who sits on the house defense committee and is represents the poor mountain region where Ascencio lived. Her death became a national scandal after the army, headed by Defense Minister Gen. Guillermo Galvan, made contradictory statements about what had happened.

The confusion was compounded when President Felipe Calderon said the attack had never happened, and that Ascencio had died of chronic gastritis. Family members say before her death Ascencio told them she had been raped by a group of soldiers. That version of events was supported by post-mortem examinations by Veracruz attorney general's office, which said Ascencio had died from injuries sustained during the attack. Jose Luis Soberanes, the rights ombudsman, said the initial post-mortem examinations were full of errors and that a subsequent autopsy showed Ascencio had died of natural causes.

The army first claimed she had been killed by criminals dressed as soldiers, then said it was testing semen taken from Ascencio's body to see if it matched the DNA of soldiers stationed near the village where she died. The defense ministry now says it never received the semen sample from Veracruz investigators. Montalvo said people in Ascencio's village of Soledad Atzompa wanted the case cleared up. "They don't want to see more contradictions in the army and they don't want this to keep happening," he said.

Mexican soldiers are regularly accused of rape in remote regions of the country, where the army is deployed to fight drug smugglers. Calderon has sent thousands of troops to crime hot spots and rural areas of the country to clamp down on powerful drug gangs. Lawmakers will also question the defense minister about other themes, including the fight against drug smugglers.

Source: Reuters: 04/19


Mexican central bank governor Guillermo Ortiz urged the government and food companies to renew price caps for tortillas that have acted as a buffer against inflation. Tortillas, thin corn patties, are a staple of the Mexican diet. After a price rise began fueling inflation toward the end of 2006, the government pressured food producers and retailers to limit prices for corn flour and tortillas. "For consumers, the price containment so far has been a success, and from my point of view it is important that this containment continues," Ortiz told reporters, according to a central bank transcript.

The so-called tortilla accord has helped cool inflation somewhat, but it is set to expire on April 30. While the government cannot directly fix corn or tortilla prices, Mexico's President Felipe Calderon told Reuters in March he would likely strike a new deal with corn flour producers to cap prices. Combined with increases for other basic foods, the rise in tortilla prices has kept inflation near or above the upper end of the central bank's tolerance range of 4 percent for months.

The United States' fast expanding ethanol industry has pushed corn prices higher this year than in 2006, and leading tortilla and corn flour maker Gruma (GRUMAB.MX) said in February it expects to raise its prices toward the end of 2007. However, Ortiz said a recent fall in corn prices "should be a factor that mitigates pressure on prices." But some economists are already betting the price caps will not be renewed, which might hit Mexican local currency bonds. "This could result in correction in the long end of the Mexican curve," Spanish bank BBVA said in a report.

Source: Reuters: 04/18


European Union foreign policy chief Javier Solana criticized U.S. plans to extend barriers along its border with Mexico, saying immigrants should not be treated like criminals. "A wall that separates one country from another is not something that I like or that the European Union members like," Solana said at a news conference in Mexico City. "We don't think walls are reasonable instruments to stop people from crossing into a country." The EU believes immigrants should be treated "like people, not like criminals," he said.

In October, President Bush signed a bill calling for 680 miles of new fencing to be built along the border, despite objections from the Mexican government. Mexico has lobbied for comprehensive immigration reform that would let more migrants enter the United States legally. More than 11 million Mexicans live in the United States, most illegally.

Source: Associated Press: 04/18


A Mexican state judge dismissed charges against five employees of copper producer Grupo Mexico relating to the deaths of 65 miners in an explosion at the Pasta de Conchos underground coalmine in 2006, Reforma newspaper reported. Sergio Tamez Moreno, a criminal judge in the northern state of Coahuila, said the case was resolved after the employees deposited P128,290 (US$11,675) for each of the dead miner's widows or direct family members, Reforma said.

Mexico's miners union plans to present to authorities a new accusation of industrial homicide against the company and those who are responsible, Carlos Pavon, secretary of political affairs for the union said. The union is also seeking to increase the payments to the dead miners' families to P1.5 million, and to include scholarships for their children. The Pasta de Conchos coalmine, owned by Mexico City-based Grupo Mexico, located near the city of San Juan Sabinas, Coahuila, exploded on February 19, 2006 because of an accumulation of methane gas.

Source: Bloomberg: 04/18


The delegates of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) who began a visit to Mexico Monday (04/09) will leave at the end of the week with their suitcases full of files and complaints by civil society groups, which say the human rights situation in the country remains serious and that the government is attempting to criminalize social protest. Among the cases that the visitors will study is the alleged rape and subsequent death of an elderly indigenous woman at the hands of soldiers, the dismantling of a special prosecutor's office that was investigating the abuses committed in the "dirty war" against opponents of the government in the late 1960s, 1970s and 1980s, and sexual harassment of women taken into custody by the police after a protest in the town of San Salvador Atenco. The IACHR delegates will also receive detailed reports on the arrests of young demonstrators ordered by a governor who now sits on the ministerial cabinet, and on the harsh crackdown on a months-long social uprising in the southern state of Oaxaca.

Only the case of the indigenous woman, which occurred in February, and the closure of the special prosecutor's office correspond to the administration of conservative President Felipe Caldersn, who took office in early December. Nevertheless, human rights groups see the way these cases were handled as clearly indicative of the new government's approach to human rights questions.

The delegation will be headed by the president of the IACHR, Florentmn Melindez, who is rapporteur for Mexico; IACHR executive secretary Santiago Cantsn; and human rights expert Daniela Salazar. The representatives, who will be in Mexico until Apr. 14 on the seventh IACHR mission to the country, were invited by the government itself. But activists say the team has come to Mexico in response to repeated requests by human rights groups. "We have been asking for this visit since last year, which was a very bad year for Mexico in terms of human rights, just as 2007 has started off to be," Edgar Cortez, head of the All Rights for All Human Rights Network, told IPS. The 54 local organizations that make up the Network have spent months preparing the reports that they will present to the IACHR, an Organization of American States (OAS) body. So has the government, whose officials will meet with the delegates, as will legislators and members of the judiciary.

Although the majority of denunciations by human rights groups involve incidents and events that occurred between 2004 and 2006, activists also complain that the current government has not taken any steps to clarify them and that it has not made it clear what its human rights policy will be. Activists have repeatedly urged the Caldersn administration to clarify its stance on human rights -- something that may occur this week, since the government has stated that the IACHR delegation will be informed of its official priorities in that area. According to Cortez, the Caldersn administration "has been guilty of omission with regard to human rights, and has also shown signs that it is really not very interested in the question."

Human rights groups have been concerned about the deployment of army troops to different parts of the country, ordered by the president on the argument that they would be fighting drug trafficking. In their view, it is a strategy aimed at militarizing the country and criminalizing social protest. They also complain that the government has done nothing to clarify cases like the violent repression of protesters in the state of Oaxaca during the social uprising staged in the second half of 2006 to demand the removal of corrupt, abusive local authorities. A total of 23 demonstrators and others -- including an independent U.S. journalist -- were killed, hundreds
were arrested, an unspecified number of people went missing, and there was abundant testimony of abuses of power, all of which ended in total impunity.

Another issue of concern to activists was the disbanding of the Office of the Special Prosecutor for Social and Political Movements of the Past, created by former president Vicente Fox (2000-2006). The special prosecutor's office was charged with investigating the repression against opponents of the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) regimes that ruled Mexico from 1929 to 2000. A total of 532 people were "disappeared" during the "dirty war" and thousands were tortured. But the office met with little success in its attempts to take legal action against those responsible for the abuses, such as former president Luis Echeverria (1970-1976). Caldersn allowed the special prosecutor's office to die a quiet death, and so far has given no indication of whether he plans to do anything to clarify human rights crimes committed by the security forces in the past. "Hopefully, after the IACHR visit, the measures to be taken by the government in terms of human rights will be made clear; we really need to know what it plans to do," said Cortez.

One of the steps taken by Caldersn that put human rights defenders on the alert was his decision to name Francisco Rammrez, former governor of the west-central state of Jalisco, as interior minister. As governor, Rammrez ordered a harsh clampdown in May 2004 on hundreds of young demonstrators who had gathered in the western city of Guadalajara to protest against the Latin America/Caribbean-European Union summit. The police illegally detained 73 protesters, tortured at least 19, and submitted 55 others to degrading treatment, according to an exhaustive report by the National Human Rights Commission, a government body. At the time, Rammrez downplayed the accusations and said the police acted appropriately. He even decorated police officers implicated in illegal acts. "Leaving internal policy and part of the official security strategies in the hands of Rammrez is simply appalling," said Cortez. Activists say that under Rammrez, the government is adopting strategies to cover up for soldier's accused of committing abuses and crimes while on duty.

They argue, for instance, that the government is concealing the guilt of soldiers in the death of 73-year-old Ernestina Ascensio. On Feb. 25, the elderly sheepherder, who belonged to the Nahua indigenous community, was reportedly brutally raped by troops in the rural district of Soledad Atzompa in the eastern state of Veracruz on the Gulf of Mexico. The initial forensic reports and testimony pointed to the involvement of soldiers. However, the Caldersn administration denied that the woman had been raped, and claimed that she died of intestinal bleeding and severe malnutrition.

Human rights groups also argue that the government has been tolerant of abuses committed in May 2006 by the security forces in the case of San Salvador Atenco, 15 km east of the capital. During an operation to evict street vendors from an unauthorized area of the town, female
protesters were purportedly subjected to humiliating sexual abuse, according to several reports.

Source: Inter Press Service: 04/09


The above articles were originally published and copyrighted by the
listed sources. These articles are offered for educational purposes
which CIS maintains is 'fair use' of copyrighted material as
provided for in section 107 of the US Copyright Law.

end: Mexico Week In Review: 04.16-04.22

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