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La Jornada > Cobertura de "La otra campaña"

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Rage One (blog)

domingo, junio 08, 2008

Mexico Week In Review: 06.02-06.08

Mexico Week In Review: 06.02-06.08
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"


This past Wednesday, June 4, a military convoy of about 200 Mexican
soldiers and federal and municipal police attempted to enter
Zapatista villages under the pretext of searching for marijuana
plants; something patently absurd in communities that have maintained
a self-imposed "dry law," prohibiting all drugs and all forms of
alcohol throughout Zapatista territories for nearly fifteen years.
The convoy first stopped at the entrance to the Garrucha Caracol (the
regional seat of the Good Government Council, or Junta de Buen
Gobierno ). Four soldiers stepped out into the road, others
photographed and filmed the Zapatistas from their vehicles, but the
community began to draw people together, shouting at the soldiers to
leave, and gathering slingshots, machetes, rocks, and sticks. The
soldiers quickly got back in their vehicles and continued down the
road. The convoy joined a second convoy down the road where they all
descend and set off walking to the Zapatista support community of
Galaena. A police officer from Ocosingo, Feliciano Román Ruiz, guided
the soldiers through the trails towards the community. In Galaena,
the men, women, and children organized to bar the soldiers' entrance
to the community.

According to the Zapatista communiqué denouncing the events, the
Zapatistas shouted at the soldiers to turn back. The soldiers said
that they had come to destroy the marijuana plants they know to be
near by. The Zapatistas denied growing marijuana and began to gather
slingshots, machetes, rocks, and sticks to defend their land. The
soldiers turned back, but warned that they would return in two weeks,
and they would enter the community no matter what. But they did not
leave; they walked to nearby San Alejandro where some 60 soldiers had
already taken up position around the community, automatic weapons
drawn. The people of San Alejandro, also a Zapatista support
community (bases de apoyo) also confronted the soldiers and barred
their passage. Soon the soldiers withdrew.

"People of Mexico and of the world," the Good Government Council of
La Garrucha wrote in a denunciation of these events released on June
4 and published in La Jornada online on June 6, "it will not be long
before there is confrontation provoked by [President Felipe]
Calderón, [Chiapas governor] Juan Sabines and Carlos Leonel
Solórzano, municipal president of Ocosingo, who send there dogs of

Aggressions against Zapatista support communities have been building
steadily since Calderon took office in December 2006. The military
bases in Chiapas have been restructured to include Special Forces and
air-borne capacity throughout the state. The government has
reorganized various paramilitary organizations. This has been
extensively documented by the San Cristóbal-based organization CAPISE
(Center for Political Analysis and Socio-economic Investigation).
Paramilitary organizations have invaded Zapatista territories
throughout the state, often attacking Zapatista support communities.

In recent weeks the aggressions have escalated. On May 19, federal
agents and soldiers, arriving in helicopters and military convoy,
entered the community of San Jerónimo Tuliljá, in the Caracol of La
Garrucha, breaking into houses and pushing people around without
explanation. On May 22, a large group of armed men from the PRI
(Institutional Revolutionary Party) invaded the Zapatista Caracol of
Morelia , cutting off the community's electricity and attacking
people in their homes throughout the night. The gunmen wounded over
20 Zapatistas, six of whom were taken to the hospital in serious

But the aggressions are almost daily: kidnapping Zapatista
supporters and taking them to local jails on invented charges,
contaminating local wells, invading lands, cutting corn plants,
leaving death threats for the community. "It is as if we are seeing
the preparations for what will be another Acteal," said Subcomandante
Marcos in a recent interview published in book form in Mexico ,
referring to the December 22, 1997 paramilitary massacre of 45
indigenous men, women, and children gathered in a church in the
community of Acteal. "But now they are not looking for a conflict
between aggressors and defenseless people, but really a
confrontation," he said.

Zapatista autonomy is not only a threat to the perceived legitimacy
of the state, but it is the structure of resistance that maintains
and protects Zapatista territories, land recuperated through the 1994
uprising and cared for and cultivated since. Ernesto Ledesma of
CAPISE says that over 74,000 hectares of Zapatista territory are
under thereat of invasion. The federal, state and local governments,
and all three national political parties in Mexico , including the
PRD (Party of the Democratic Revolution) have joined together in the
aggression against the Zapatistas, he says, using direct paramilitary
land invasions, bureaucratic trickery through the federal secretary
of agrarian affairs, and through federal expropriations.

"We are not drug traffickers," the Good Government Council of La
Garrucha wrote, "we are what we alre well known to be, brothers and
sisters and Mexico and the world. It is clear that they will be
coming for us, the Zapatistas; they will be coming from the three
levels of bad government, and we are ready to resist, and if
necessary to comply with our slogan, which is: live for the
fatherland or die for liberty (vivir por la patria o morir por la
libertad)." This is a brief and dramatic lesson in autonomy: with
slingshots and machetes the Zapatistas are ready to refuse entrance
to their communities to the soldiers and federal police. Most of the
daily work of autonomy goes unseen and unreported: collective land
management, autonomous schools and health clinics, community dispute
resolution. But autonomy also means rejecting the authority of the
state, rejecting the legitimacy of the state; and this rejection
comes not only in the form of eloquent communiqués, but also staring
down the soldiers with nothing other than a farm tool in hand.



Amnesty International (AI) this week denounced the violation of human
rights in Mexico, which "continues to be generalized and, in some
states, systematic." In AI's annual report, the section on Mexico
notes that often police "use excessive force to break up
demonstrations. The investigations of complaints against arbitrary
detentions, torture and other mistreatment by police officials were
often deficient, and the impunity for human rights violations is
generalized." President Felipe Calderon's war on drugs came under
blistering attack, with AI accusing the army of "arbitrary
detentions, torture and the illegitimate murder of at least five
peopleŠ" The AI report also sited several important cases, including
prison sentences of 67 years handed out to leaders of the People's
Front in Defense of the Land (FPDT) in Atenco: "There is profound
concern in relation to the impartiality of the court proceedings and
the sentences."

Source: Mexico Solidarity Network Weekly News Summary: 05/25-06/01


A Mexican court sentenced a former state governor to 36 years in
prison for fomenting drug trafficking, overturning an earlier ruling
that had imposed six years on lesser charges, his defense attorney
said. Mario Villanueva, who was governor of the Caribbean state of
Quintana Roo from 1993 to 1996, is also fighting extradition to the
United States on charges he helped traffickers ship drugs to the U.S.
market. A Mexico City federal court, acting on an appeal by
prosecutors, convicted Villanueva of money laundering and fomenting
drug trafficking, said defense attorney Horacio Garcia. He was
sentenced to 36 years and nine months in prison.

Villanueva had been convicted by a lower court of money laundering
but cleared of drug trafficking and organized crime charges. The
former governor was released last year after serving six years in
prison but was immediately re-arrested on the extradition request.
Garcia said the extradition proceedings against Villanueva would
continue. The U.S. alleges that Villanueva offered aid or protection
to traffickers who smuggled 200 tons of cocaine into the U.S.
Prosecutors have said Villanueva received $500,000 for each of
several shipments he aided. Although other former Mexican governors
have been suspected of having links to the drug trade, Villanueva
would be the first one ever extradited to the U.S.

The government of President Felipe Calderon agreed to extradite
Villanueva last year, but the former governor has appealed the
decision. Garcia said the ruling would only bolster their case that
an extradition would subject Villanueva to being tried twice for the
same offense. Few drug lords have been extradited to the United
States because they have argued they should face justice first in
Mexico. But Calderon has shown greater willingness to extradite drug
suspects to the U.S. since taking office in 2006. Garcia said
Villanueava would also appeal the sentence. The former governor's
son, Carlos Mario Villanueva, said the ruling was politically
motivated, and that authorities fought for the longer sentence
because they were afraid of losing the extradition case.

Source: Associated Press: 06/05


White House drug czar John Walters urged the U.S. Congress not to
"sabotage" relations with Mexico and pass a $1.4 billion
anti-narcotics package to help crush drug cartels. Congress has
scaled back the so-called Merida initiative that President George W.
Bush proposed in October as a three-year plan to provide Mexico with
aircraft, equipment and training to fight drug traffickers. The
Senate version also includes amendments aimed at protecting human
rights, but which Mexico says would require constitutionally
unacceptable changes to its laws.

"If we asked other nations what we are asking of Mexico, we would
sabotage our relationship," Walters, director of the Office of
National Drug Control Policy, said at a news conference. "These
provisions are counterproductive and self-defeating ... We risk
sabotaging this opportunity," he added.

The Merida initiative was to offer Mexico $500 million in this fiscal
year that ends September 30, but Congress has scaled that back to
between $350 million and $400 million. Walters said that the Senate
version would require trials of Mexican soldiers in civilian courts,
and federal officials taking on state and local judicial roles in

Mexican Foreign Minister Patricia Espinosa rejected the Congressional
amendments on Tuesday and complained they did not put Mexico "on an
equal footing" with the United States. In a letter to U.S.
legislators, Walters said their conditions heightened sovereignty
concerns for Mexico. "Insisting in such conditions would reduce the
possibility of implementing our strategic partnership and compromise
relations with a vital partner in the fight against crime and illegal
drugs," he said.

Mexican President Felipe Calderon has made the war on drug cartels
the centerpiece of his presidency, deploying some 25,000 troops and
federal police across the country, but the operation has sparked
considerable bloodshed. More than 1,400 people have been killed in
drug violence across Mexico so far this year, a faster pace than in
2007 when around 2,500 were murdered over the year.

Despite rising drug violence in Mexico, Drug Enforcement
Administration (DEA) Deputy Administrator Michele Leonhart said
Calderon's effort has been a success because drug prices were higher
on U.S. streets. Cocaine prices have risen 86 percent in Boston, 50
percent in New York and 33 percent in Los Angeles this year, she
said. "We're very confident we can put (the drug gangs) out of
business," she added.

Source: Reuters: 06/03


She has a passion for Chanel suits, luxury real estate and political
power play. She has been accused by some critics of embezzlement and
worse - but she has never been charged with a crime. And she holds
the future of Mexico's beleaguered education system in her hands.
Meet the most powerful woman in Mexico: Elba Esther Gordillo, the
63-year-old president-for-life of the 1.6-million-member National
Education Workers Union. In her 19 years at the head of Latin
America's largest union, Gordillo - an elementary school dropout,
college graduate, and divorced mother of two who's popularly known as
"The Teacher" - has extended her influence into the highest echelons
of Mexico's politics. She has even started her own political party.
She has also gained a reputation as a throwback to Mexico's
authoritarian past, when labor bosses traded political favors for
power and wealth.

Her support has been seen as critical to President Felipe Calderon's
razor-thin 2006 election victory, and he has since appointed her
allies, including her son-in-law, to top posts in the Public
Education Secretariat, Mexico's equivalent of the Department of
Education. But by returning the favor to Gordillo, experts inside and
outside of Mexico said, Calderon may have set back his own drive to
overhaul the country's education system. The teachers union "is
without doubt the major obstacle facing the Mexican education system
now," the Washington-based Inter-American Development Bank said in a
recent report. It accused the union, known by its Spanish acronym as
the SNTE, of blocking government efforts to implement a system of
teacher accountability and evaluation, which is key to Calderon's
proposed education reform.

In a survey last year on corruption in education worldwide, UNESCO,
the United Nations' education agency, went further, accusing the
union of selling teaching positions, and other corrupt practices.
Despite meager starting salaries of between $300 and $550 a month,
teaching jobs are coveted in Mexico as a guaranteed source of income.
Gordillo, who got her start teaching elementary schoolchildren in a
Mexico City slum, shrugs off such criticisms. "I challenge UNESCO to
show proof," she said in a written response to questions. She
acknowledged problems in the country's education system, but said
they were the shared responsibility of the government and the
teachers. "Enough with blaming the union," she wrote.

Some education experts disagree. "The SNTE is so powerful, literally,
that you cannot make an educational policy decision if they're
against it," said Laura Moodey, an education specialist at the Mexico
City-based IDEA Foundation, a public policy think tank. Changes to
Mexico's General Education Law in 1946, three years after the union's
founding, gave it sweeping control over public elementary and middle
school education. For example, the union oversees the hiring of 50
percent of new teachers. It also has the exclusive right to sanction
or fire teachers, which experts say rarely happens. In the union's
six decades of existence, its officials also have amassed enormous

They include the right to continue collecting their teacher
paychecks, even while earning fat salaries working for the union.
They also are allowed to hand over their teaching jobs to family
members or friends.
Then there are the financial stakes. The federal government has
disbursed more than $10 billion in public funds to the union for
teacher training, subsidized housing and other programs since
Gordillo took control, according to a study by Noe Rivera Dominguez,
a former close collaborator who now leads a dissident movement in the
union. Other estimates by independent scholars put the figure at
twice that. "These are stratospheric sums," said Rivera Dominguez,
who served as Gordillo's chief political operator from 1999 to 2003.
"No union in the world handles that kind of money."

The teachers union also takes in an estimated $5 million a month in
member dues, Rivera Dominguez said. Its property includes some 20
hotels and recreation centers around the country, according to Rivera
Dominguez and union documents. But the exact state of the union's
finances is not known, because the results of infrequent government
audits have not been made available to the public. "They handed the
control of primary education to the union in 1946, and that control
has only grown stronger," said Ricardo Raphael, the author of the
2007 book about the union leader, The Partners of Elba Esther. "If
the state doesn't recover the autonomy and tear control away from the
union's fiefdom," he said, "there is no way to reform the education

During recent interviews, top education officials declined to comment
about Gordillo, deferring to their boss. The federal education
secretary, Josefina Vazquez Mota, declined repeated requests for an
interview for this article over a one-year period. Unlike other
veteran Mexican labor leaders, Gordillo managed to survive the
collapse of the country's one-party system in 2000, positioning
herself as a key ally of the democratically elected governments of
Vicente Fox and his successor, Calderon. After he took office,
Calderon named Gordillo's son-in-law, Fernando Gonzalez, a union
member, to the powerful post of undersecretary of basic education.
Calderon also appointed Gordillo's allies to head the Mexico City
Education Secretariat, the State Workers' Social Security Institute
and the National Lottery.

Meanwhile, in the Senate, rivals have been pushing for a
congressional audit of the union's finances. They have seized on
thousands of documents amassed by dissident union members to support
their accusations of malfeasance against Gordillo, who they say has
personally handled billions of dollars in federal funding. There are
other accusations against her. The union leader's lavish lifestyle -
in stark contrast to her humble origins - has drawn frequent
allegations of corruption, charges she denies.

The daughter of a rural schoolteacher in southern Chiapas state,
Gordillo dropped out of school at age 11 to work. She later resumed
her education and graduated from the National Teachers' College in
Mexico City. She joined the teachers union in 1960 and quickly became
a union representative in Ciudad Nezahualcoyotl, a teeming slum on
the outskirts of the capital. She was a key ally of the union's
iron-fisted leader, Carlos Jonguitud Barrios. When Barrios ran afoul
of President Carlos Salinas de Gortari in 1989, the Mexican leader
installed Gordillo in his place. Nineteen years later, different
estimates put her fortune at between $50 million and $100 million. In
addition to her penthouse apartment in the exclusive Polanco
neighborhood of Mexico City, Gordillo owns properties in the capital,
luxury apartments in Paris and New York and a $2 million home in the
exclusive Coronado Cays area of San Diego, according to a 2003
investigation by the news magazine Proceso. She also is famous for
her designer tastes, particularly Gucci, Ferragamo and Chanel.
Gordillo has never publicly revealed the size of her fortune. But she
says it stems from a single $800,000 inheritance in 1973 from her
grandfather, a coffee plantation owner in Chiapas. "They say I'm very
rich. I want to clarify that I'm not that rich," she said in the
earlier interview. "I live well. My grandfather amassed a fortune.
"And I've worked very, very hard."

Source: Houston Chronicle: 05/25


The head of Mexican state oil monopoly Pemex sees a proposed energy
reform overcoming opposition and being approved before September,
Mexican media reported. Pemex Chief Executive Jesus Reyes Heroles
said in an interview with the daily Excelsior he believed lawmakers
could push through an oil law during extraordinary sessions before
Congress formally reopens in September. "I am very confident in the
responsibility of Congress to bring the process to a happy end,"
Reyes Heroles told Excelsior. Parties rejected the plan, however, and
leftists blocked Congress with protests. Although Congress is closed
for the summer, lawmakers and independent experts are debating in
televised sessions how to rescue the struggling oil sector.

Mexico is the world's No. 6 oil producer and a key U.S. supplier, but
Pemex's crude output has fallen short of targets this year due mainly
to declining yields at its aging Cantarell offshore field. The reform
is aimed at helping Pemex reach potentially huge oil reserves more
than a kilometer deep in the Gulf of Mexico. "It would be a waste to
leave buried the wealth we know the country has," Reyes Heroles said.

In a separate interview with the daily El Economista he said, "It is
key that the reform passes ... Pemex will lose the most if it is not
approved. We have never been so close to so many regulatory changes."
Calderon is keen to win passage of oil reform before Congress reopens
in September and shifts its focus to the 2009 budget.

Source: Reuters: 06/02

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: 06.02-06.08

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