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domingo, junio 22, 2008

Mexico Week In Review: 06.16-06.22

Mexico Week In Review: 06.16-06.22
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"


Political parties across the Mexican spectrum hailed a new version of
the Merida Initiative, passed this week in the US Congress, which
removes some oversight provisions included in the Senate version. The
US$465 million military aid bill includes US$400 million for Mexico,
with the rest designated for Central America. The bill includes
US$215.5 million in direct military aid, including helicopters,
advanced radar and weapons, and US$116.5 million for "military to
military cooperation." The original Senate version called for
withholding funds from army or police units that commit human rights
abuses or are involved in narco-trafficking. The new version calls
for a series of periodic "consultations" with Mexican and US
officials and non-governmental organizations concerning human rights
violations. The bill also expresses concern for the failed
investigations of "police responsible for the violations of human
rights, including sexual abuse and sexual violence against women in
San Salvador Atenco on May 3 and 4, 2006, and Oaxaca between June and
December, 2006."

Human Rights Watch supports the new bill, claiming consultations will
reveal human rights abuses committed by army and police units
involved in narcotics operations. The bill includes US$20 million for
"construction of institutions and assistance for civil society,"
including US$3 million in "assistance for non-governmental
organizations and civil society," perhaps accounting for comments by
Jose Vivanco, Executive Director of the Americas Division of Human
Rights Watch, who claimed the US Congress "has a long tradition of
not providing assistance to security forces that commit human rights
violations." The House approved the legislation by a 268-155 vote as
part of the military spending bill for the war in Iraq.

Source: Mexico Solidarity Network Weekly News Summary: 06/16-22


Nearly three months after the Mexican army kicked off Operation
Chihuahua Together against drug trafficking organizations in Ciudad
Juarez and the state of Chihuahua, multiple accusations of human
rights violations committed by soldiers are surfacing in the press. A
hot point of contention is in the Juarez Valley just outside the
border city of the same name. Long the stomping ground of drug
traffickers and other criminal bands, the rural area bordering the
Rio Grande has been the target of repeated army raids in recent
weeks. While the operations have netted arrests and drug loads, some
residents charge the army is going overboard and harassing innocent
citizens. On June 14, valley residents staged protests outside the
offices of the Federal Attorney General (PGR) and in the downtown
plaza in Ciudad Juarez.

Josefina Reyes, a resident of the town of Guadalupe Bravo, charged
that soldiers recently raided her home and destroyed property before
making off with a cell phone and other goods. "On that day, there
were around 25 more searches in which they made off with various
people," Reyes said. As of mid-June, 50 legal complaints against the
army had been filed with the PGR's Ciudad Juarez office. The
complaints accuse the army of committing abuses of authority,
carrying out illegal detentions, forcibly disappearing citizens,
conducting improper searches, and inflicting bodily injuries and
damages. In one of the worst incidents, three men were shot to death
by soldiers June 8 at an army checkpoint near Cuauhtemoc in the
central part of Chihuahua. The full story of the incident is still
not thoroughly known, and it isn't certain whether the killings were
the result of an intentional attempt by the victims to run the
roadblock or due to an accident related to possible drunken driving
and/or the failing brakes of the victims' car. Reportedly, the
soldiers began shooting after the suspect vehicle struck and severely
injured a soldier. A reporter on the scene, El Diario's Hugo Reyes,
was forced to lie on the ground by soldiers. A member of the
Chihuahua State Congress' human rights commission, legislator Victor
Quintana, showed up at the site of the incident but said he was
denied access by the military.

Meanwhile, Chihuahua's official State Human Rights Commission (CEDH)
received 28 complaints about the army in May and an additional 32,
mainly from the border town of Ojinaga, during the first 11 days of
June. Jose Luis Armendariz Gonzalez, CEDH president, said complaints
have also come from the municipalities of Chihuahua, Manuel
Benavides, Madera, Guachochi, Delicias, Cuahtemoc, Namiquipa,
Bachiniva, and Casas Grandes. According to Armendariz, human rights
cases involving the army are turned over to the National Human Rights
Commission in Mexico City for further action. CEDH investigator
Gustavo de la Rosa Hickerson contended that human rights violations
shared a "dangerous pattern." Many of the purported victims, he said,
were small-time drug dealers and addicts who were beaten and
tortured. According to the official, detainees have been allegedly
subjected to electric shocks, simulated suffocations with plastic
bags and razor cuts at army installations. De la Rosa compared the
reports with the rampages of the 1970s Dirty War, a period of time
when torture and disappearance were widely employed by the Mexican
government against dissidents and suspected guerrillas.

There was no immediate comment from the Mexican military on either
the PGR or CEDH complaints. At the state level, elected officials
have begun showing some concern about the army's alleged abuses.
Earlier this month, the Chihuahua State Congress exhorted the Defense
Ministry to punish any soldier involved in abuses. State Congress
President Jorge Alberto Gutierrez Casas later urged military
officials to come clean about the Cuahtemoc checkpoint shooting. "We
are going to demand from the legislative branch that human rights not
be violated in a struggle that is focused on organized crime, because
what happened at the checkpoint doesn't justify the response of the
army members." Gutierrez said. "The army is one of the institutions
which has more prestige and credibility in the eyes of the citizenry,
and because of this we must not permit isolated situations to end up
discrediting the confidence that society has in them."

Ciudad Juarez Mayor Jose Reyes Ferriz struck a similar tone about the
army's reputation. Insisting that no abuses had occurred during the
last weeks since the municipal police began participating in joint
operations, Mayor Reyes said the army as a whole should not be held
responsible for a few bad apples. "Like any other big force that
exists in Ciudad Juarez, there will always be abuses," the mayor
said, "but abuses by individuals, by persons, and not by the army, by
the institution."

Reports of human rights complaints in Ciudad Juarez and Chihuahua
come at an especially sensitive time for both the federal Mexican and
US governments. The Mexican army is expected to be the primary
beneficiary of the Bush Administration's proposed anti-drug
assistance package to Mexico known as the Merida Initiative. A
version of the billion dollar-plus aid plan passed the US House of
Representatives last week, but it is still waiting action in the US
Senate where lawmakers have attached human rights and justice system
reform conditions. Both the Bush and Calderon administrations have
criticized conditioning the Merida assistance as an affront to
Mexico's national sovereignty. On June 16, President Bush appealed to
US lawmakers to approve Merida "without many conditions."

Human rights advocates in Mexico and abroad have long contended that
the use of the Mexican military in the drug war is a violation of the
nation's Constitution which precludes the army from acting
domestically in times of peace. Pressured by the escalating
narco-violence, many Mexican lawmakers, business and civic leaders
have agreed that the army is the only force capable of taking on the
highly-organized and well-armed private armies of the various drug
syndicates. Officially launched to bring organized crime under
control, Operation Chihuahua Together has had decidedly mixed results
even by its own objectives. Mexican soldiers and federal police have
detained scores of suspects, confiscated some weapons and seized
several large drug loads, but none of the leaders of the warring
cartels have been arrested so far. Perhaps most importantly, the
deployment has not halted the violence. Indeed, an analysis of
homicide rates in Ciudad Juarez before and after the beginning of the
military operation reveals that the violence has actually worsened
since the army deployed in late March. According to press accounts,
210 people were murdered from January 1 to March 31. From April 1-
only a few days after the army operation began- to June 16, a
reported 276 people were murdered.

In a startling declaration, Mayor Reyes told the El Paso Times that
local authorities knew that a major, violent confrontation between
rival cartels was imminent early this year. Reyes said the local
government even knew the date when the violence would commence and
passed the tip on to federal authorities. According to Reyes'
account, the information was available nearly three months before a
government operation to contain the violence was announced. Even
though narco-violence has long been a stark feature of Ciudad Juarez,
the level of violence witnessed in 2008 is unprecedented.
Additionally, new manifestations of violence that never existed
before in Ciudad Juarez have surrounded the implementation of the
military operation. For instance, a dozen businesses have been
torched by presumed cartel elements in recent days. On the Internet,
rival drug organizations wage a cyber-war complete with threatening
videos and insulting messages. In another development heretofore
unseen on the border, individuals have started hanging execution
lists and "narco-banners" from public monuments and overpasses.
Postings are even seemingly timed to coincide with rush hour and
maximum exposure. In the 21st Century battle for the Ciudad Juarez
drug "plaza," a psychological war increasingly accompanies the
physical one.

Sources: Frontera NorteSur: 06/18; Norte: 06/16; El Paso Times:
06/15; La Jornada: 06/13,16; El Diario de Juarez: 06/09, 12, 14, 15,
16, 17; 06/03, 11, 14, 16; El Universal: 06/12, 13, 16; 06/09; Frontera/SUN: 06/06


Mexico threw open the doors to its judicial system allowing
U.S.-style public trials and creating a presumption of innocence.
Under the long-awaited constitutional amendment signed by President
Felipe Calderon, guilt or innocence will no longer be decided behind
closed doors by a judge relying on written evidence. Prosecutors and
defense lawyers will now argue their cases in court, and judges must
explain their decisions to defendants. "This is perhaps the most
important reform to the criminal system that Mexicans have had in a
long time," Calderon said after signing the amendment.

Mexico now faces the long, tedious task of implementing the changes,
which must be in place by 2016 according to the law. That includes
training thousands of lawyers and judges across the country on the
logistics of holding a trial. Even courthouses must be modified to
make room for Mexicans who will be able to attend trials for the
first time. It will likely take even longer to change the culture
surrounding treatment of the accused in Mexico, where suspects are
routinely paraded before cameras - sometimes holding weapons they are
accused of using in crimes - even before they have been charged. "Now
we can offer citizens a more transparent judicial system that
respects human rights and protects your rights with more speed and
efficiency," Calderon said.

All trials will be open unless a judge decides a case must be closed
because of national security reasons or to protect a witness or a
minor. Analyst George Grayson said the amendment brings the judicial
system into the 21st century. "This is long overdue," said Grayson, a
Mexico expert at the College of William & Mary in Virginia. "It was a
medieval system." Such a reform had been in the works for more than a
decade, but the two previous presidents had been unable to get it
through Congress. At least 17 of Mexico's 31 states had to approve
the constitutional amendment. Calderon said the reform will also
boost his fight against organized crime.

Prosecutors can now hold organized crime suspects without charge for
up to 80 days, and properties seized by law enforcement will
automatically belong to the state unless the accused proves they were
acquired through legal means. Before, criminals could fight in court
for their properties to be returned even if they were illicit. This
will allow police to hit with "more weight the operative and
financial structures of organized crime."

Law enforcement, however, lost its fight for the right to search
homes without a warrant if police believe a crime is being committed
inside. That clause was dropped after human rights groups protested.
Prosecutors said such searches are necessary in cases where urgent
action is needed to free kidnap victims. Instead the law creates a
new class of judges who can rule more quickly on warrant requests.

Source: The Associated Press: 06/17


Moving to stem rising inflation and civil discontent, President
Felipe Calderon and Mexican industrialists announced an agreement
Wednesday to freeze prices on more than 150 food items. The pact,
which will be in effect through the end of the year, comes amid
escalating costs of corn and other staples of the Mexican diet.
Companies agreed to hold prices steady for cooking oil, tomato sauce,
canned soups and tuna, beans, chili sauces and other staples of the
Mexican table. "In recent months a significant increase in the price
of food has been felt worldwide," Calderon said in announcing the
deal. "Maintaining the maximum prices of these products fixed will
truly permit an enormous support for the household economy."

Calderon last month ordered the easing of restrictions on imported
corn, wheat and rice to stabilize local prices of those grains. He
has also announced measures - criticized as insufficient by farm
groups - to boost agricultural production and lower farmers' costs.

This year's sustained price spikes for oil, grains and other
commodities have sparked riots across the developing world and parts
of Europe. Food riots forced the resignation of Haiti's prime
minister earlier this year. Though Mexico's mostly urban population
has remained calm, Calderon's government has been maneuvering to keep
food and gasoline prices low. The price freeze on some items will
hold until December only if "there aren't indiscriminate increases in
these prices, specifically of raw materials," said Ismael Plascencia,
president of the Concamin, a national organization of various
manufacturers associations. But increasing raw material costs are as
likely for Mexican manufacturers as they are worldwide, said
economist Rogelio Ramirez de la O, whose firm advises some of the
largest companies operating here. "Everything is going up in price,"
Ramirez de la O said. "There is no escape."

Larger Mexican companies, some of which have a stranglehold on their
industries and enjoy profit margins of as much as 30 percent, likely
will be able to absorb the increased costs, Ramirez de la O said. But
many smaller manufacturers could be severely squeezed. "No one really
expects these prices to be fixed for such a long time," said Ramirez
de la O, who also served as economic adviser to the leftist candidate
who lost the presidential election two years ago to Calderon.

The price of corn tortillas went up 22 percent early last month,
according to the federal consumer protection agency, while the price
of rice has spiked by 40 percent since the beginning of the year.
Calderon's government disclosed recently that nearly all the windfall
profits from Mexico's oil exports - some 1.3 million barrels a day to
the U.S. Gulf Coast refineries - are being spent to subsidize
gasoline sold inside the country. Mexico imports some 40 percent of
its gasoline, most of it from the United States. Regular gasoline
here sells about $2.80 a gallon, far lower than the price in the
United States. "This is a populist measure," Ramirez de la O said of
the accord. "The government is running very short of real

Source: Houston Chronicle: 06/18


Mexico asked the World Court to take urgent steps to stop imminent
U.S. executions of five Mexicans on death row who were denied their
rights to consular assistance. One of the five, Jose Medellin, is due
to die on August 5 in Texas, which is poised to set execution dates
for the others. The International Court of Justice (ICJ) in The Hague
ruled in 2004 that the United States had violated international law
by failing to inform 51 Mexicans now on death row of their right to
consular assistance and said the cases should be reviewed.

Mexican representative Juan Manuel Gomez-Robledo said the United
States was in breach of its international obligations, and asked the
U.N.'s highest court to seek stays of the five imminent executions.
"Five Mexican nationals ... could be executed without their
convictions and sentences being given the review and reconsideration
that is their right," he said. The issue has soured relations between
the United States and its southern neighbor Mexico, which opposes the
U.S. death penalty. "The situation is indisputably urgent," said
Donald Donovan, a lawyer for Mexico. "It is impossible to identify an
act more irreparable than the execution of a human being."

In 2005, President George W. Bush, a staunch defender of the death
penalty, directed state courts to review the 51 cases following the
World Court's ruling, saying the United States must adhere to its
international treaty obligations. But the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in
March that Bush overstepped his authority when he directed Texas to
comply with the ICJ's ruling and reopen the case against Medellin. A
gang member, Medellin was denied the right to meet with a consular
official from Mexico after his arrest for the June 1993 rape and
murder of two teenage girls in Houston. The killings were linked to a
gang initiation. Under the Vienna Convention, foreign nationals have
a right to talk to consular officers after their arrests. Texas has
acknowledged Medellin was never told he could talk to Mexican
officials. But it has argued that claim cannot be made now because he
never raised it at trial or sentencing. Even if his treaty rights had
been violated, it would not have made any difference in the outcome
of the case, Texas said.

The ICJ, also known as the World Court, is responsible for handling
disputes between U.N. member states. Its rulings -- which often take
years -- are binding and not subject to appeal. Sandra Babcock from
the Center for International Human Rights at Chicago University said
the Mexicans only had a 1 percent chance of clemency, noting Texas
had commuted just two of its more than 400 death sentences in the
last few decades. The Mexicans are on death row in several other
states as well as Texas, including California and Oklahoma.
Gomez-Robledo, Mexican under-secretary for multilateral affairs and
human rights, called Bush's efforts to get the cases reviewed
"praiseworthy" and said U.S. authorities were doing more to respect
the rights of arrested foreign nationals. But he appealed to the
United States to respect international law. "The rule of law is the
foundation stone on which the United States was built," he said.

Source: Reuters: 06/19

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: 06.16-06.22

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