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domingo, marzo 30, 2008

Mexico Week In Review: 03.24-03.31

Mexico Week In Review: 03.24-03.31
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"


Zacario Hernandez, a member of Pueblo Creyente who has been in prison
on false charges for the past five years, was released this week
after hunger striking for 35 days. Hernandez was the first of over
40 inmates at three Chiapas prisons to begin a hunger strike
demanding immediate liberation. The number of hunger strikers
continued to grow this week as Zapatista supporters and religious
activists protested their unjust confinement. Governor Juan Sabines
is under increasing pressure to resolve the justice system's
statewide crisis of credibility.

Source: Mexico Solidarity Network Weekly News Summary: 03/17-23


The assassination of Chihuahua rural protest leader Armando Villareal
Martha last March 14 outside his home in Nuevo Casas Grandes is now a
national issue. On Tuesday, March 25, the Mexican Senate passed a
resolution that demands the government of President Felipe Calderon
quickly get to the bottom of Villareal's murder. The resolution was
brought before the high chamber of Mexico's Congress by Senator
Heladio Ramirez, a former governor of Oaxaca who represents the
Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI). The next day, March 26,
hundreds of members of the National Committee for the Improvement of
Agriculture, an organization with which Villareal was once
affiliated, blocked highways and held protests in two different
regions of Mexico to repudiate the Nuevo Casas Grandes murder.
Employing tractors, farmers staged actions in Irapuato, Guanajuato,
as well along the Leon-Silao and Mexico-Nuevo Laredo highways. Led by
Gustavo Guerrero Velazquez, a former elected official from the
National Action Party (PAN), farmers who took over the Leon-Silao
highway in the state of Guanajuato passed out pamphlets to motorists.

In Villareal's home state of Chihuahua, several agricultural
organizations are planning a mass protest for Monday, March 31, in
Chihuahua City. Supported by El Barzon, the National Campesino
Confederation, National Agrodynamic and the Democratic Campesino
Front, organizers of the action said they will form a human chain
between the state and federal justice departments located in the
Chihuahua state capital. The broad range of organizations speaking
out on the Villareal murder reflects the slain activists long history
in a variety of causes and political movements. Thousands of enraged
farmers and others attended his funeral. At one time or another,
Villareal had been involved with the PRI, PRD and Convergencia
parties. Best known for leading militant protests against National
Electricity Commission (CFE) rates charged to well-using farmers,
Villareal was also involved in protests against the extraction of
groundwater near the New Mexico border and the North American Free
Trade Agreement.

At the time of his death, the Chihuahua activist and former
self-proclaimed political prisoner, was targeting the national Pemex
oil company to protest the dismantlement of petrochemical operations
and the high cost of fertilizers. According to PRD Senator Yeidckol
Polevnsky, not long before his death Villareal denounced that Pemex
had purchased worthless equipment valued at more than $55 million.
Mexico's national oil giant is currently at the center of a growing
national political storm concerning its future as a state-owned

Meanwhile, conflicts between the CFE and an estimated 2,200 Chihuahua
farmers participating in a payment strike are still unresolved. On
March 26, Mexican federal law enforcement officials detained four
farmers from the Aldama ejido near Chihuahua City on charges of
illegally using electricity and preventing CFE workers from cutting
off the power supply to wells. In response, about 200 farmers
blockaded CFE offices in Chihuahua City March 27 to demand the
release of the four men. Prior to the action, Aldama ejido leader
Luis Carlos Nieto said he and other farmers also had outstanding
federal arrest warrants. "We can't live with this terror," Nieto
said. "We don't know if they are going to arrest us or kill us."
After a three-hour blockade, Nieto said his group and CFE officials
reached a preliminary agreement to release the four farmers, suspend
power cut-offs and form a new negotiating committee involving
Chihuahua state legislators. Farmers, however, would remain active
until their grievances are satisfied and Villareal's murder is
clarified, Nieto added.

Sources: Frontera NorteSur (FNS): 03/28; El Heraldo de Chihuahua:
03/26-28; La Jornada: 03/15,26-28


Mexico will send 1,500 soldiers and more than 400 federal police this
week to quell raging violence just across the border from the U.S.
city of El Paso, opening a new front in its war on drug gangs.
Following a leap in drug murders in the rundown city of Ciudad
Juarez, the government said the troop deployment over the next three
days aims to crush cartels warring over smuggling routes into the
United States. Some 200 people have been killed in drug violence in
Ciudad Juarez so far this year, a tenfold increase over the same
period in 2007. Some of the victims were shot dead on busy avenues or
tortured and strangled.

The new troops will join a low-profile contingent of around 500
soldiers already in Ciudad Juarez. They will take on a much more
visible role, setting up road blocks and using heavy weaponry,
helicopters and armored vehicles. Interior Minister Juan Camilo
Mourino said the increase in killings was "extraordinary" for an
already notoriously violent city that has drawn worldwide attention
in recent years for brutal murders of women. President Felipe
Calderon has sent out some 25,000 troops and federal police to fight
drug gangs since taking office in December 2006, but Ciudad Juarez
has so far had a very light military presence and analysts say the
cartels took advantage.

"The challenge is to retake those areas that organized crime has
claimed from society," Mourino said in a speech in Chihuahua state,
home to Ciudad Juarez. "The government of President Calderon ... has
decided to act with all the force of the Mexican state." Police say
Mexico's most wanted man, Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman, who leads the
Sinaloa cartel of Pacific coast traffickers, has taken his fight for
control of smuggling routes to this border city, targeting the
once-mighty Juarez cartel. The local cartel was weakened by the 1997
death of its leader Amado Carrillo Fuentes, and is also being
attacked by eastern Mexico's Gulf cartel. Mexico's drug turf wars
have killed some 720 people so far this year and more than 2,500
people in 2007.

Source: Reuters: 03/27


Fueled by the rising popularity of soft drinks and fast-food
restaurants, Mexico has become the second fattest nation in the
world. Mexican health officials say it could surpass the U.S. as the
most obese country within 10 years if trends continue. More than 71
percent of Mexican women and 66 percent of Mexican men are
overweight, according to the latest national surveys. With diabetes
now Mexico's leading cause of death, activists and leaders hope to
renew efforts to crack down on junk food and other fatty-food
consumption and encourage citizens to exercise more. But it will be a
tough battle, as industry groups are expected to put up a fight.

No one knows better the country's affection for fattening foods than
Lidia Garcia Garduno , who runs a fruit stand in central Mexico City
for the past 10 years. "People don't eat right anymore," said Garcia
Garduno, mixing a drink of strawberries and pineapple. "Instead of
coming here and purchasing a fruit drink, they prefer to walk across
the street and buy fried pork chips. That's why so many Mexicans are

In 1989, fewer than 10 percent of Mexican adults were overweight. No
one in the country even talked about obesity back then, said Barry
Popkin, a University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill professor who
studies global weight gain. Experts were too concerned with poverty
and hunger. "It certainly snuck up on them," said Popkin, who's
working with the Mexican health ministry to develop strategies to
address obesity throughout the country. " Mexico has probably had the
most rapid increase of obesity in the last 15 years." Mexican Health
Secretary Jose Cordova, who launched a new health campaign Feb. 25 ,
agrees: "We have to put the brakes on this obesity problem."

Some Mexicans say there's less space on an already crowded Mexico
City subway because riders are getting larger. At a flea market in
the south of the city, vendors hawk clothes brought from the United
States made for overweight individuals. Francisco Princegali knew he
was eating too much junk food when he bent down last week and heard a
tear. "I ripped my pants because of the fat," said Princegali, who's
20, crumbling up a wrapper of sweetened bread he'd purchased from a
vendor. "I think I'm addicted to junk food." Princegali, sucking in
his stomach, said that many of his pants were too tight these days.
Some people are addicted to alcohol and smoking, he said: "My problem
is I love fried chicken- Kentucky Fried Chicken."

As in the U.S., Mexicans are living more sedentary lives. Studies
show that they're eating more fat and processed foods, and fewer
whole grains and vegetables. Foods- healthy and unhealthy- that once
were unavailable now can be purchased at new modern supermarkets. In
some areas of the country, it's easier to get a soft drink than a
clean glass of water. The vast majority of Mexico City's public
schools, and many private schools, lack drinkable water, Popkin said.
The national study also found that a quarter of Mexican children ages
5 to 11 are too heavy, a 40 percent increase since 2000. According to
the government's National Institute of Public Health , the
consumption of soft drinks increased 60 percent in Mexico over the
last 14 years. Last week, children lined up to purchase soft drinks
and potato chips outside their school in the center of Mexico City.
Virginia Soriano , 35, said it was difficult teaching her children
good eating habits when they were flooded with advertising for fatty
foods. Naomi, her daughter, says her favorite things to eat are
McDonald's Chicken McNuggets and Coca-Cola. The 6-year-old sometimes
pushes away her dinner plate if it has too many vegetables, Soriano
said. "She'll say, 'This has no taste,' " Soriano said. "She wants
McDonald's or Kentucky Fried Chicken."

Legislators have considered putting warning labels on junk food and
taxing whole milk to encourage consumption of skim milk. Past
efforts, however, have foundered, and some lawmakers have reported
difficulty fighting powerful industry groups. In 2006, legislators
voted down a proposed tax on soft drinks, arguing that it
discriminated against the poor. Leaders hope that the growing concern
over diabetes will lead to greater public acceptance of such efforts.
PepsiCo joined the education ministry last year in launching a new
health program, "Living Healthily," that encourages more daily
exercise and better eating habits. But consumer group El Poder del
Consumidor, "Power of the Consumer," has accused the company of
surreptitiously marketing its products to children. Monica Bauer, a
spokeswoman for PepsiCo International, said that the program, which
includes a video game that teaches healthy eating habits, didn't
include any advertising. "We understand there is an obesity problem,"
she said. "We're trying to be part of the solution."

The health consequences of obesity include increased rates of
diabetes, high blood pressure and heart disease. The Mexican Diabetes
Federation estimates that 6.5 million to 10 million Mexicans have
diabetes. More than 70,000 Mexicans die each year from
diabetes-related conditions, Cordova said. He said that the diabetes
burden was draining Mexico's already strained health services and
that if trends continued, the country's health-care system would be
bankrupt within a decade. "If we don't stop this, we're going to run
out of money to treat the sick," Cordova said.

Source: McClatchy Newspapers: 03/24

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: 03.24-03.31

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