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Rage One (blog)

domingo, mayo 27, 2007

Mexico Week In Review: 05.21-05.27


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 escalation of murders of women in Mexico State, 62 so far this
year, is alarming local authorities. Patricia Martinez, special
prosecutor for the Commission of Attention to Homicides against
Women, termed the situation extremely serious in the state of Mexico,
and the most vulnerable age group is that between 11 and 20 years.
Martinez said that an important number of victims worked at bars in
the Metropolitan area, particularly Naucalpan municipality, one of
the most industrialized and populated by military personnel.

At least 15 cases this year are girls ranging from eight to 16 years,
in addition to the murders of toddlers under three years by close
relatives like parents, neighbors or friends. The official noted that
these 59 ongoing crime investigations join the 68 begun in 2006, when
129 women were murdered.

Source: Prensa Latina: 05/21


Domestic violence is not a phenomenon exclusive to Mexico. But the
figures you are about to read are chilling. Between 1999 and 2005 it
is believed that more than 6,000 women and girls were murdered. That
is an average of 1,000 every year, three murders a day. Put most
graphically, a girl or a woman is murdered every eight hours, the
overwhelming majority of the deaths the result of violence in the
household. They are the kind of statistics you would expect of a
country at war. It is happening in cities and the countryside, and
across every socio-economic divide. Sometimes the men use guns or
knives, whilst others use their hands.

"I was regularly beaten," says Maria, a woman whose name we have
changed, but whose story will be familiar to many. "Over six years
the attacks went on, both physical and psychological. It was awful.
He even threatened our three children. I couldn't leave, I didn't
know what to do." Eventually Maria did get out and is now in a
women's refuge. Earlier this year, a law was enacted making such
violence a criminal offence. "It has taken a long time," says
Angelica De La Pena, the member of congress who sponsored the new
law. "For the first time," she says, "there is legislation that
defines violence as psychological, physical, sexual or any other type
of violence that harms or is likely to harm women's dignity,
integrity or freedom." This once hidden subject is now firmly out in
the open. It has even made it on to Mexican television.

One of the most popular soap operas here is La Madrastra, or The
Stepmother. Recently, there was a shocking storyline that wove
domestic violence into the plot. It was some of the most graphic
mainstream television I have witnessed. In the main scene, a woman is
attacked by her boyfriend. But this was not just some sanitized
television version of a complicated social issue. The "attack"
involved the woman ending up on the floor with the man straddling her
in a rape sequence. The end only came with the arrival of another man
who hauled off the assailant and promptly punched him. It all went on
for several uncomfortable minutes. This was primetime television
giving real time coverage to a once taboo subject.

Mexico has already earned unwanted international attention for its
record of violence against women because of the ghastly events in
Ciudad Juarez, a city on the Mexico-US border.

In the past decade, hundreds of women have been killed there and in
surrounding areas, their bodies often recovered from remote desert
graves. Suspicion has focused on individual or group serial killers,
though others now believe a large proportion of the deaths are the
result of domestic violence. These killings, too, have now led to
screen time, with events depicted in a film called Bordertown and
starring Jennifer Lopez.

"It is very good that people are finally dealing with this subject,"
says Wendy Figueroa who helps run a women's refuge in Mexico City.
"But television programs or films alone wont stop it," she says.
"What is needed is education for both men and women so people know
what their rights are."

There are other outlets dealing with it as well. The government has
produced television and radio adverts where an abusive husband is
trying to convince his battered wife he loves her. The voice-over at
the end comes in and warns women not to be duped by the soothing
words of the attacker. But not everyone is convinced about all this
attention for domestic violence.

We were given access to Mexico City's main jail. In it, we met Jorge,
again it is not his real name, who was convicted of murdering his
wife. "The new law is biased against men," insisted Jorge, a man who
like many others, remains in complete denial of his wrongdoing. "The
evidence against me was lies," he told us. "I never did it." Jorge
later walked out on our interview without warning. It came after we
repeatedly asked him about his attitude to women and to domestic
violence. Mexico's men are, for the most part, not the sort who
resort to their fists, or worse, to make their point. But enough do
to make the reality of domestic violence a scourge on this society.

Source: BBC: 05/22


One of Mexico's leading regional newspapers has said it is shutting
temporarily amid continuing attacks and threats from suspected drugs
gangs. The offices of Cambio Sonora have come under grenade attack
twice since April The newspaper is based in Sonora state on the US
border, which last week saw a battle between drug gangs and security
forces that left 22 people dead.

Rising drug-related violence in Mexico has prompted President Felipe
Calderon to send troops to several states. Speaking on Thursday, Mr
Calderon insisted he would not abandon his policy of sending the army
in to tackle drug-traffickers despite growing criticism. Mr Calderon,
who has been in office nearly six months, has sent more than 20,000
troops throughout the country to battle the drugs cartels who have
been fighting each other for control of territory and drug routes.
About 1,000 people have been killed in drug-related violence so far
this year.

Last week, unidentified attackers threw a grenade at Cambio Sonora's
offices in the state capital, Hermosillo, following a similar attack
in April - both caused minor damage. The head of the company that
publishes the newspaper said these attacks were clearly designed to
intimidate the staff and create an atmosphere of fear and terror.
"With profound sadness, we have to acknowledge that in Sonora the
dangers and insecurity that confront...Cambio Sonora have surpassed
the limits that common sense, patience and human sensitivity can
tolerate," said Mario Vazquez Rana. The newspaper had already halted
most of its investigations into organized crime or drug trafficking
because of the rising level of violence.

Media rights groups consider Mexico to be one of the most dangerous
countries for reporters in the world. Seven journalists have been
killed since October and earlier this month, a TV reporter and
cameraman disappeared in the northern city of Monterrey provoking
fears they were abducted by a criminal gang.

Source: BBC: 05/25


President Felipe Calderon said that he wouldn't back down from using
federal forces, including the Army, to fight organized crime all over
the country. "We cannot allow criminals to try to snatch from
Mexicans either sovereignty or their right to the territories,"
declared Calderon, in response to a congressional petition demanding
withdrawal of the Armed Forces from public security activities.

The president averred that Army operations against drug crime is
logical to rescue occupied territories from drug cartels, and he
declared the government won't just stand by doing nothing because
that means handing the country over to the criminals. Despite those
who insist on no government action, we will continue to confront
crime, he said, asking Mexicans to support the drug crackdown he
began four months ago.

The Mexican Congress urged the government to strengthen the police
instead of using the Armed Forces. Legislators urged Calderon to
remove the 10,000 soldiers from public security activities as it
encourages an escalation in drug-related violence in the country.

Source: Prensa Latina: 05/24


Mexico's National Human Rights Commission blamed both authorities and
protesters for "excesses" during a months of unrest last year in
Oaxaca, and urged the government to investigate its finding that
federal police tortured detainees. In its final report on the unrest
in the southern colonial city, the independent governmental
commission found that 12 people were killed in the conflict, mostly
protesters shot by gunmen. The report also slammed the federal
government for not intervening sooner after state authorities were

What began as a teachers' strike in May 2006 quickly turned into a
broader protest in which a coalition of leftist groups occupied the
city center for nearly five months to demand the ouster of the Oaxaca
state governor. Shortly after the shooting death of Bradley Roland
Will, a 36-year-old journalist-activist from New York who was killed
while filming a clash between demonstrators and gunmen,
then-President Vicente Fox sent federal troops to evict protesters
from the city center.

Commission President Jose Luis Soberanes said Fox's administration
had "unjustifiably delayed, for more than a month and a half, in
complying with its constitutional duty to help restore order and
peace in Oaxaca." The report also criticized the investigation into
Will's killing, saying Oaxaca prosecutors had failed to probe the
facts or bring a good case against his possible killers.

While the commission has the power only to make recommendations,
Soberanes said he hopes current President Felipe Calderon will
investigate rights violations including complaints that officers
tortured at least 13 people being transported to prison. In all, the
commission received 1,352 complaints of rights violations and found
hundreds of them justified, mainly for excessive use of force by

But the report also stated that "it is important to note that,
without exception, both sides in the confrontation committed
excesses. Both the demonstrators and public servants committed
aggression." Soberanes said the protesters, who blockaded the city,
had mistreated the people of Oaxaca.

The report found that only one death was directly attributed to the
police raid that ended the blockades, but 11 more were closely
related - many of them protest supporters killed by unidentified
gunmen, as well as one protest opponent slashed to death. Others died
who may not have taken sides in the conflict, such as a motorcyclist
who broke his neck when he ran into an unseen cable at a barricade
and a person who died in an ambulance blocked by protesters.

Source: Associated Press: 05/24


Mexico is expanding its ability to tap telephone calls and e-mail
using money from the U.S. government, a move that underlines how the
country's conservative government is increasingly willing to
cooperate with United States on law enforcement. The expansion comes
as President Felipe Calderon is pushing to amend Mexico's
constitution to allow officials to tap phones without a judge's
approval in some cases.

Mexican authorities for years have been able to wiretap most
telephone conversations and tap into e-mail, but the new $3 million
Communications Intercept System being installed by Mexico's Federal
Investigative Agency would expand its reach. The system would allow
authorities to track cell-phone users as they travel, according to
the contract specifications. It would include extensive storage
capacity and allow authorities to identify callers by voice. The
system, scheduled to begin operation within the next month, was paid
for by the U.S. State Department and sold by Verint Systems Inc., a
politically connected company based in Melville, N.Y., that
specializes in electronic surveillance.

Documents describing the upgrade suggest that the U.S. government
could have access to information derived from the surveillance.
Officials of both governments declined to comment on that
possibility. "It is a government of Mexico operation, funded by the
U.S.," said Susan Pittman, of the U.S. State Department's Bureau of
International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs. Questions over
its use should be directed to Mexico, she said. Calderon's office
declined comment. But the U.S. government's contract specifications
say the system is designed to allow both governments to "disseminate
timely and accurate, actionable information to each country's
respective federal, state, local, private and international partners."

Calderon has been lobbying for more authority to use electronic
surveillance against drug smuggling. Already this year, drug wars
have cost hundreds of lives and threatened Calderon's ability to
govern. Despite federal troops posted in nine Mexican states, the
violence continues as smugglers fight over shipping routes to the
U.S.-Mexico border, as well as for control of Mexican port cities and
marijuana- and poppy-growing regions inland.

It's unclear how broad a net the new surveillance system would cast:
Mexicans speak regularly by phone, for example, with millions of
relatives living in the U.S. Those conversations appear to be fair
game for both governments. Within the United States, legal experts
say that if prosecutors have access to Mexican wiretaps, they could
use the information in U.S. courts. Supreme Court decisions have held
that Fourth Amendment protections against illegal wiretaps do not
apply outside the United States, particularly if the surveillance is
conducted by another country, said Georgetown University law
professor David Cole.

Mexico's telecommunications monopoly, Telmex, controlled by Carlos
Slim, the world's second wealthiest individual, has not received
official notice of the new system that will intercept its electronic
signals, a spokeswoman said this week. "Telmex is a firm that always
complies with laws and rules set by the Mexican government," she
said. Calderon recently asked Mexico's Congress to amend the
country's constitution and allow federal prosecutors to conduct
searches and secretly record conversations among people suspected of
what the government defines as serious crimes. His proposal would
eliminate the current requirement that prosecutors gain approval from
a judge before installing any wiretap. Calderon says the legal
changes are needed in the battle against the drug gangs. "The purpose
is to create swift investigative measures against organized crime,"
Calderon wrote senators when introducing his proposed amendments in
March. "At times, turning to judicial authorities hinders or makes
investigations impossible."

But others argued the proposal undermined constitutional protections
and opened the door to the type of domestic spying that has plagued
many Latin American countries. Colombian President Alvaro Uribe last
week ousted a dozen generals, including the head of intelligence,
after police were found wiretapping public figures, including members
of his government. "Calderon's proposal is limited to 'urgent cases'
and organized crime, but the problem is that when the judiciary has
been put out of the loop, the attorney general can basically decide
these however he wants to," said John Ackerman, a law professor at
the Autonomous National University of Mexico. "Without the
intervention of a judge, the door swings wide open to widespread
abuse of basic civil liberties."

The proposal is being considered by a panel of the Mexican Senate. It
is strongly opposed by members of the leftist PRD party. Members of
Calderon's National Action Party have been lobbying senators from the
former ruling party, the Institutional Revolutionary Party, for
support. Renato Sales, former deputy prosecutor for Mexico City, said
Calderon's desire to expand federal policing powers to combat
organized crime is parallel to the Bush administration's use of a
secret wiretapping program to fight terrorism. "Suddenly, anyone
suspected of organized crime is presumed guilty and treated as
someone without any constitutional rights," said Sales, a law
professor at the Autonomous Technological Institute of Mexico. "And
who will determine who is an organized crime suspect? The state
will." Federal lawmaker Cesar Octavio Camacho, president of the
justice and human rights commission in the lower house of Congress,
said he too worried about prosecutorial abuse. "Although the proposal
stems from the President's noble intention of efficiently fighting
organized crime," he said, "the remedy seems worse than the problem."

Source: Los Angeles Times: 05/25

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: 05.21-05.27

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