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Rage One (blog)

domingo, junio 03, 2007

Mexico Week In Review: 05.28-06.03


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"


Mexico promised to plant 250 million trees this year and ban old
trucks and buses from the roads as part of a plan to fight global
warming. President Felipe Calderon, handing out trees at a ceremony
to promote his national climate change strategy, said there would be
cleaner gasoline, more wind energy and more use of solar power in
houses, especially in Mexico's sun-baked north. "The fact that other
big countries are not disposed to take on the responsibility and
continue to damage the environment must not be an excuse to feign
ignorance of our own responsibilities," Calderon said.

Mexico is one of the major developing nations that will take part in
a global warming summit in Germany early in June. The United States
has rejected Germany's bid to get the Group of Eight to agree at the
meeting to tough cuts in carbon emissions, which cause global warming.

Mexico has many environmental problems, including massive illegal
logging, old buses and trucks that belch black smoke into the air and
pollute cities. It also uses huge amounts of fossil fuels as a major
oil producer. The Mexican plan wants to take off the roads all buses
and trucks that are 10 years old or over from next year and to plant
250 million trees in 2007. Calderon, a former energy minister, also
said he wanted to bump up Mexico's wind power generation by tenfold.
Mexico has a naturally windy zone in the south of the country where
wind farms already exist. The plan also hopes to increase independent
power generation and co-generation alongside the state oil and gas
monopoly Pemex.

Calderon said cleaning up public power companies and making them more
efficient was an integral part of the plan. He said Pemex and
electricity companies CFE and Luz y Fuerza should clean up their
acts. "Unfortunately I am fully conscious that perhaps our biggest
challenge is in our own government-owned companies," Calderon said.

Source: Reuters: 05/28


In the dusty village of Las Guacamayas, four hours from Morelia by
highway and dirt road, most people share the same last name:
Mondragón. "We are really mostly family here," said Pedro, a
subsistence corn and bean farmer in his 30s. In early May, that name
led these rugged country folk into the frontlines of President
Calderon's war on drugs when an identification card found on the body
of a slain suspected drug trafficker indicated he was a Mondragón.

Since taking office in December, Calderon has mobilized over 20,000
Army troops and federal policemen into action against drug
traffickers in seven states. Last week opposition parties, responding
to numerous human rights complaints, passed a resolution in the
Permanent Congressional Commission calling on the president to order
the Army back to its quarters. The next day Calderon vigorously
defended his use of the Army and federal troops to attack criminal
organizations and drug cartels.

The misfortune of the Mondragones of Las Guacamayas started on May 1,
though they did not know it. It was a hot, slow Tuesday, and a gang
of presumed drug traffickers was driving down the only paved road in
the tiny town of Carácuaro, Michoacán, when a group of soldiers
dressed in civilian clothes apparently backed into their truck,
igniting a 20-minute gun battle. Local police stayed indoors thinking
the gunfight was between two rival gangs. Five soldiers, including
one colonel, died and three more were wounded. Most of the presumed
drug traffickers escaped, leaving behind one member dead.

Within hours, the Army mobilized over 1,000 soldiers to comb the
Tierra Caliente region of Michoacán - famed for harboring members of
a quasi-independent extension of the Gulf Cartel known as La Familia
- looking for the killers. On May 2, the Army raided houses in
Carácuaro, neighboring Nocupétaro, and several surrounding villages.
According to the National Human Rights Commission (CNDH), which
gathered over 50 complaints of human rights violations during the
Army's operation around Carácuaro, soldiers beat, detained and
tortured dozens of people and sexually abused three underage girls
detained in Nocupétaro.

One of the girls, who asked to remain unidentified for security
reasons, confirmed the testimony released by the CNDH in an interview
a few days after she was released. She said that soldiers brutally
beat her and the other girls, and that they sexually molested her
during the helicopter ride as they told her, "that this would take
the whore out of us, that we were (expletive), that they were the
law." The day after soldiers detained the girls, May 3, they moved on
to the nearby village of Las Guacamayas. Soldiers arrived in 17
trucks and three helicopters, all because the last name of many of
the villagers here matched the last name of one of the drug
traffickers killed in a shootout with the Army in Carácuaro.

Las Guacamayas is a collection of some 20 houses spread on either
side of a single dirt road. There are no stores or hospitals.
Surrounded by dry earth and cornfields, the residents of Las
Guacamayas live in adobe and concrete houses. María's house has only
one wall, a dirt floor, and a corrugated tin roof held up by branches
and adobe brick columns. She and her family do have electricity and
one small TV set, but they cook in an adobe oven and on a cast iron
comal suspended over a wood fire. On May 3, soldiers with machine
guns drawn stormed the village asking everyone for their full names.
According to more than 20 people interviewed in Las Guacamayas, all
those with the last name Mondragón were immediately beaten down,
taken to María's, house by the road, laid face down in the scorching
earth, and then one by one beaten again, burned with cigarette
lighters and interrogated about the Carácuaro shoot out. "A
2-year-old girl tried to get up and a soldier put a gun to her head,"
María said.

Over a week later, Pedro Mondragón still had burn marks on his back,
a huge scab and swelling on his right knee and throat pain from where
a soldier rammed his machine gun barrel down his throat. "I was
eating when they arrived and asked me my name. I told them and they
said, "Ah, you son of a bitch, you are the very one we're looking
for," Pedro said. One soldier then stuck his machine gun barrel down
Pedro's throat, forced him to the ground and beat him in the face and
body. He was bleeding badly, he said. The soldiers took 10 villagers
off in helicopters to the military base near Morelia, nine of them
had the last name Mondragón. "There in the base they treated us real
bad," Pedro said, referring to unrelenting beatings. "They asked,
'Why did you kill them?' We had no idea what they were talking
about," he said.

After the interrogation, the soldiers gathered all the detainees in
one room and told them that they had found two kilograms of marijuana
in their village and wanted the 17 of them to agree on whom to blame
for it. But the prisoners said no. One official from the Federal
Agency of Investigation (AFI) beat many of them to try and force them
to comply, released prisoners said. In the room where the soldiers
beat and tortured them there was a poster on the wall saying torture
was against the law, one of the other men detained on May 3 said.
Many residents of Las Guacamayas complained of soldiers robbing
earrings, necklaces, cellular phones, even an old T-shirt from the
United States. According to various testimonies, the soldiers also
confiscated two registered .22 caliber rifles and an old pellet gun.

One woman complained that a soldier attempted to take her 15-year-old
daughter into another room. Several witnesses said the soldier
grabbed the girl by one arm and her mother grabbed her by the other.
They said the soldier only relented when the girl began crying.

Efforts to contact a spokesman at the Defense Secretariat regarding
the allegations made by the residents of Las Guacamayas were
unsuccessful. A list of e-mailed questions went unanswered.

Back in the little Michoacán village, those interviewed expressed
shock and dismay at the violence the Army used, still shaken by their
experience. Despite this, they all supported the government's efforts
to locate and punish the real criminals involved in the May 1
shooting. Effectively, it was made clear that the soldiers somehow
believed that all the villagers of Las Guacamayas were involved with
the region's brutal drug traffickers. María, gesturing broadly to her
dirt floor and tin-roofed home, responded: "Do you think somebody who
works in that (drug trafficking) is going to have a house like this?"

Source: The Herald Mexico, El Universal: 05/31


A crime reporter for a newspaper in northern Mexico was abducted,
beaten and released by his captors, the latest in a wave of attacks
against journalists, a Mexican watchdog group said. Onesimo Zuniga,
who works from the city of Gomez Palacio, was held for nine hours by
three men on May 23, according to the Center of Journalism and Public
Ethics. A reporter for the Torreon-based newspaper El Sol de La
Laguna, Zuniga was abducted after dropping off his daughter at school
and driven to a remote location, the journalism advocacy group said.
Zuniga told his newspaper that the men told him they had "personal

Mexico has become the world's second-most dangerous place for
journalists after Iraq with seven journalists killed across the
country since October. A Mexican TV reporter and cameraman
disappeared this month in the northern city of Monterrey. Many
journalists hold back from reporting on drug gangs out of fear the
cartels will retaliate.

Last week, the newspaper Cambio Sonora in the northwestern city of
Hermosillo announced it was shutting down temporarily after
assailants tossed a hand grenade from a passing car at its offices.
On Wednesday, non-governmental organizations and press freedom groups
noted in a report that attacks on journalists in Mexico has risen
markedly in recent years, and are increasingly the work of drug
traffickers. "Today, Mexican journalists don't just suffer
obstruction, threats or censorship from powerful public or economic
figures," said the report, compiled in part by the Manuel Buendia
Foundation, a group named for a crusading Mexican journalist
assassinated in 1984. "In the last four years, drug traffickers have
become some of the main culprits in ever-more-frequent killings and
attacks on journalists, particularly in the north of the country."

Source: Associated Press: 05/31


Gamaliel López Candanosa seemed an unlikely candidate to join the
ranks of disappeared or murdered reporters in Mexico, now the second
deadliest country in the world for journalists after Iraq. Known for
his rascal's smile and laughing eyes, López distinguished himself not
as a hard-nosed investigative reporter, but as the clown prince of
television news in this prosperous industrial city about 130 miles
southwest of McAllen, Tex. He slipped into tights, a mask and a cape
for his on-air reports, morphing into "Super Pothole Man," a comic
book-style hero who joked about poorly maintained streets. But on the
afternoon of May 10 -- after taping a piece that featured him singing
with a one-eyed mariachi and reporting live on the birth of conjoined
twins -- López and his cameraman, Gerardo Paredes Pérez, vanished.
Colleagues at the TV Azteca affiliate where they have worked for 12
years fear the veteran journalists are dead. They suspect drug
cartels, which have been blamed for 3,000 murders in Mexico in the
past year and a half, and which have turned this once mostly peaceful
city into a shooting gallery.

More than 30 journalists have been killed in the past six years in
Mexico, including a television reporter in Acapulco and a print
journalist in the northern state of Sonora in the month before López
and Paredes disappeared. Countless others have been kidnapped in a
campaign of intimidation largely attributed to the drug cartels. As
more reporters die, journalism itself is suffering. A newspaper in
Sonora said last week that it was temporarily shutting down because
of attacks and threats by criminal gangs. Top editors at the two
largest newspapers in Monterrey, Milenio and El Norte, said in
interviews that they no longer ask crime reporters to dig deeply on
their stories. "I don't know how to do investigations without getting
people killed," Roberta Gomez, Milenio's executive editor, said
during an interview at a Monterrey seafood restaurant where gunmen
opened fire during the lunch rush not long ago.

At risk is the vibrancy of the free press in Mexico's still
developing democracy. President Felipe Calderon has called the
intimidation of journalists "an unacceptable situation," promised to
protect journalists and discussed possible legislation to achieve
that goal. But reporters keep dying and news media offices keep
getting attacked. In the past 15 months, grenades have been thrown
into newspaper offices in Cancun, Hermosillo and Nuevo Laredo, and
gunmen have attacked a radio station and newspaper in Oaxaca.
Recently, the decapitated head of a city councilman was left in the
doorway of the newspaper Tabasco Hoy in the eastern state of Tabasco.
The threats and violence have sown fear across the journalistic
spectrum. While crime reporters are common targets, sportswriters
have been kidnapped by drug cartel hit men upset over coverage of
their favorite soccer teams. Feature reporters have been kidnapped,
too, though the reasons are more mysterious. In the case of TV
Azteca, colleagues suggested López might have been targeted because
he had boasted about knowing the locations of executions and proudly
told a colleague that he had twice been kidnapped -- for him it was a
badge of honor.

Monterrey, a city of 4 million at the foot of the soaring, rocky
Sierra Madre, once seemed immune to the drug violence roiling Mexico.
The nation's third-largest city is routinely ranked as one of the
safest places to do business in Latin America and is home to some of
the nation's most exclusive residential neighborhoods. But 2007 has
marked a startling reversal. In Monterrey and the surrounding state
of Nuevo Leon, more than 100 police officers have been arrested on
corruption charges and more than 70 killings have been recorded in
the first five months of the year. Calderon has sent federal troops
in armored personnel carriers to patrol some streets. Almost all of
the murders are attributed to drug cartels, which residents say are
attracted to Monterrey for the same reasons others flock here: clean
streets, nice neighborhoods, good schools. "We know which kids belong
to the narcos," a former educator said on condition of anonymity.
"They're the ones who show up with all the bodyguards and the fancy

At Milenio, a 40,000-circulation daily, editors began detecting the
change about a year ago. One afternoon, a seasoned crime reporter
approached Alejandro Salas, one of the newspaper's most experienced
crime writers and editors, with a hot story. "I've got great
details," Salas remembers the reporter telling him. The reporter had
plied confidential sources to find out that a member of the local
prosecutor's office was in a romantic relationship with a hit man
from the notorious Sinaloa cartel. The prosecutor, the hit man and
two others had just been murdered, the reporter said. Salas, who has
been a journalist in Monterrey, Tijuana and other Mexican cities for
23 years, smelled a front-page splash, and so did the reporter. But
the reporter made one request before sitting down to write, Salas
recalled: "Don't sign my name to the story." Salas was floored. This
was the kind of story reporters enter in contests, the hot scoop that
makes a writer the toast of the after-deadline watering hole. But
instead of grabbing the limelight, the reporter was begging for

Around the same time, Salas said, he and other crime reporters were
picking up snatches of disturbing chatter on police scanners. Cartels
were hacking into police radio frequencies and saying, "I'm following
a 20," the numerical code for a journalist. "I'm going to kill a 20."
Soon, other reporters were also asking for their bylines to be
removed. With fear rising in the newsroom, Gomez gathered her top
editors. "It's going to get worse before it gets better," Gomez
recalled telling them. She issued a decree: no more bylines on crime
stories. "They've intimidated us," Salas said later. "Their messages
have had an effect." Still, Salas did not feel the newspaper was
doing enough to protect its staff, especially the 10 or so reporters
who focus on crime. Even without bylines, he feared drug cartels
could identify reporters who have distinctive writing styles,
especially a star writer known for literary flourishes in crime
stories. So, Salas instructed editors to rewrite all crime stories in
an antiseptic, just-the-facts style. "It's less fun now," Salas said.
"There's less spice, fewer ingredients. There's no literary beauty."

The terror creeping across newsrooms has caused quick and dramatic
changes in the ways stories are reported here. Monterrey may be
Mexico's most competitive television market, because it is served by
two national networks and a slew of local stations. But television
reporters who once schemed to beat the competition are now
collaborating, hoping for safety in numbers. "They're going out in
pools to cover crime stories, like Nicaragua 20 years ago or Baghdad
now," said Alfonso Teja, a veteran television journalist at TV
Azteca, where López works. Frequently, journalists here say, they now
file crime stories based solely on police reports, without probing
deeper. Reporters have to be so cautious that Teja fears Mexican
journalism could slide back to the practices of a bygone era --
before Mexico shook off one-party rule in 2000 and began transforming
into a true democracy. In those days, Teja said, the old reporters'
saying was a version of "see no evil, hear no evil": "In Mexico,
nothing happens, and when something happens, still nothing happens."

"Journalists are scared, and the situation is very grave," said
Alejandro Gutiérrez, a writer at Mexico City-based Proceso magazine
and author of an upcoming book, "Narco-Trafficking: Calderon's Great
Challenge." "Information is one of the pillars of democracy." At El
Norte, a 68-year-old newspaper with more than 140,000 subscribers,
editors now fuzz out the faces of all police officers in crime
pictures -- a practice that is becoming less necessary because
officers now often wear ski masks to crime scenes so they cannot be
identified by drug cartel photographers. El Norte reporters, like
their competitors at Milenio, no longer put their bylines on stories
and seldom try to conduct deep investigations for crime pieces,
Eduardo Campos, a top editor at El Norte, said in an interview.
"Journalistic idealism is through," said Campos, who got his start
more than 20 years ago writing hard-hitting investigative pieces and
uses the "Rocky" movie theme as his cell phone ringer. "We're
confronting reality. We've never seen anything like this. The debate
is no longer theoretical."

Not long ago, two El Norte journalists -- a reporter and a
photographer -- were kidnapped and beaten by drug cartel thugs, then
released after several hours, according to newsroom sources. Word of
the kidnapping raced through this city's journalism grapevine. "I was
thinking, 'What is happening to my profession?' " a seasoned
Monterrey reporter said during an interview after slipping out of a
crowded bar for fear of being recognized. Journalists here anxiously
awaited details of the kidnapping. Back in the El Norte newsroom, the
journalists who had been kidnapped were terrified about inciting
their abductors, a newsroom source said. The story of their ordeal
was never published.

Source: Washington Post: 05/30

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: 05.28-06.03

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