Tag Archive | "mexico"

Mexico: Prosecutor Accuses Ex Iguala Mayor for Murder of Students


Protesters march for the 43 missing students in Mexico City (photo: AFP Photo/Ronaldo Schemidt)

Protesters march for the 43 missing students in Mexico City (photo: AFP Photo/Ronaldo Schemidt)

Mexico’s General Prosecutor Jesús Murillo Karam accused former Iguala mayor José Luis Abarca Velázquez and his wife, Ángeles Pineda Villa, of masterminding the kidnapping and murder of 43 students in the state of Guerrero. Both of them remain at large.

According to Murillo Karam, the ex-mayor and his wife worked closely with criminal organisation Guerreros Unidos, to whom the students were delivered.

In a press conference, the prosecutor gave a detailed account of what investigations suggest may have happened on the night of 26th September, when the 43 Ayotzinapa students were last seen.

“According to testimonies, the ‘hawks’ —informers for Guerreros Unidos— and members of the Iguala police, report to the Iguala Control Centre the arrival of students from Ayotzinapa and some other people,” said Murillo Karam.

It is believed that both local authorities and members of Guerreros Unidos thought the students were planning to sabotage a ceremony held by the mayor and his wife in the centre of town, something that had already occurred last year.  “Thinking the conflict scenario of June 2013 could repeat itself, [the Iguala police] are ordered to react and to ask the Cocula police for support.”

“Between both police forces, they block the road and stop the buses where the students were travelling,” continued Murillo Karam. “In this first incident, a municipal police officer kills one of the students with a firearm.” Then both the police and the Guerreros Unidos’ thugs mistakenly attacked a bus that was transporting a local football team, killing a football player and the bus driver. “Minutes later, they stop the bus that had got away and which transported the students,” said the prosecutor.

The students were allegedly taken into custody by the Iguala police, and then taken to an area in the border between Iguala and Cocula in a joint operation by both police forces. There, they were given away to Guerreros Unidos.

“At that moment, a group of people in which it is presumed there were some students, are loaded onto a pick a up truck on their knees and they are driven on a gravel road to the Pueblo Viejo area.” It is in Pueblo Viejo where nine clandestine graves holding 30 bodies were discovered.

“We have carried out two forensic examinations on these graves. The first two (…) were based on genetic samples sent by the Guerrero Prosecutor’s Office. The results of this first examination were negative,” said Murillo Karam. “The third examination is being carried out by an Argentine forensics team. They took samples directly from the families of the students and we are awaiting their results. These will be fundamental to confirm or not the sample that was sent by the Guerrero prosecutor.”

In an interview with Mexican publication Animal Político, members of the forensics team indicated that the first two exams carried out by federal authorities lacked the protocols necessary to identify the victims. They are expected to hand in the results of the third examination —which is being carried out in a laboratory in the US— next week.

The prosecutor confirmed that the testimony of Sidronio Casarrubias, leader of Guerreros Unidos, was crucial to the investigation. Casarrubias was arrested on 18th October, two weeks after the General Prosecutor’s Office took over the case from the Guerrero prosecutor.

As the scandal over the missing students took hold of the country, mayor Abarca Velázquez took leave of absence and has never been seen ever since. His wife and the police chief also ran away.

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Mexico: Missing Students Not Among Bodies in Mass Graves


The state of Guerrero in Mexico (photo via WIkipedia)

The state of Guerrero in Mexico (photo via WIkipedia)

The search for 43 students missing since 27th September continues in Guerrero after authorities confirmed yesterday that they were not among the bodies found in mass graves last week.

Federal state prosecutor Jesús Murillo said that DNA tests on the 28 bodies found on the outskirts of the city of Iguala did not match any of those provided by relatives of the disappeared students.

This means that after nearly three weeks there is still no sign of the students, who went missing after being attacked by local police and armed civilians on 27th September. A national security commission set up to investigate the case said that it was not ruling out any theory.

Close to 900 federal police and gendarmerie officers have been sent to Iguala to support the search for the students and prevent any further incidents.

So far 44 people have been arrested, including 22 police officers from Iguala, 14 police officers from the nearby town of Cocula, and eight members of the criminal gang ‘Guerreros Unidos’. Meanwhile, Iguala mayor José Luis Abarca, his wife María de los Ángeles Pineda, and the city’s secretary for public security, Felipe Flores, remain fugitives.

Meanwhile, Benjamín Mondragón Pereda, a Guerreros Unidos leader, yesterday committed suicide after his house was surrounded by police.

The arrest of 14 officers from Cocula was announced yesterday by the director of the Criminal Investigation Agency (AIC) Tomás Zerón de Lucio, who said that the suspects admitted to handing the missing students over to members of ‘Guerreros Unidos’. “As a result of intelligence work we were able to show the intervention of Cocula police… they confessed to participating and we were able to verify this,” said Zerón de Lucio.

Earlier today, President Enrique Peña Nieto reaffirmed his promise that the state would “find those responsible and treat them with the full force of the law.”

However, students from the Ayotzinapa Rural College, where the missing youngsters study, said the investigations so far have been “a joke”.

“They are laughing at us,” they told a gathering of other student groups at the National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM) yesterday. “We still hope to be reunited with our colleagues.”

Riot police had been called in on Monday after students and relatives of the disappeared staged a violent protest outside the Guerrero state government building. Some protesters ransacked the offices and set fire to the building, causing widespread damage. The students promised to “radicalise” their protests if there were no advances in the investigation.

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Mexico: Massive Protests Over Missing Students


The state of Guerrero in Mexico (photo via WIkipedia)

The state of Guerrero in Mexico (image: Wikipedia)

Thousands of people marched yesterday across the country and overseas, demanding the 43 students missing from the town of Iguala since 26th September be found alive.

Rallies were held in 27 Mexican states, Mexico City, and in 15 countries, including Argentina, Colombia, Bolivia, Brazil, Spain, and the US, among others. The largest demonstrations took place in Mexico City and in the states of Guerrero, Oaxaca, and Chiapas.

In San Cristóbal de las Casas, state of Chiapas, thousands of members of the Zapatista movement were seen marching alongside other protesters in a silent protest. In other states, there were also roadblocks and strikes.

Protesters targeted President Enrique Peña Nieto, whose administration was criticised for not doing enough to find the missing students. In a press conference, the student’s parents, together with social organisations and a survivor of the attack, demanded Peña Nieto assume responsibility for the disappearance, and said: “The Mexican state is responsible for what happened.”

The president condemned the incidents of 26th September and warned that “there will be no room for impunity” in this case. Earlier this week, he instructed the national security cabinet to get involved in the investigation into the disappearances. The government is also preparing a report about the case, to be presented before the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) in two weeks, that will detail the steps taken to protect the victims and their families.

The students, who had been fundraising in Iguala, state of Guerrero, were attacked on several occasions, reportedly by local police officers and unknown armed men, as their convoy travelled on the main highway leading out of the city. In total, six people were killed – three students and three bystanders – and another 25 were injured in the incidents.

Last Saturday, 28 bodies were found in mass graves in the outskirts of Iguala. Authorities were conducting DNA tests to determine whether the bodies belong to some of the 43 missing students.

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Mexico: Report Shows Alarming Rates of Deforestation


Pine forest in Oaxaca, Mexico (photo: Wikipedia)

Pine forest in Oaxaca, Mexico (photo: Wikipedia)

Data released by the National Institute of Statistics and Geography (Inegi) shows that Mexico has lost almost 35% of its forests and jungles in the last 20 years.

The information was made public yesterday, to coincide with World Habitat Day, which is celebrated on the first Monday of October since 1985. The report states that in the last two decades, between 1990 and 2011, the country lost 353,173 km2 of forests and jungles, which represent 18% of the national territory.

Up until 1990, says the report, “52% of the country’s surface (1,021,375 km2) was covered by forests and jungles. Today, due to the rapid destruction of the ecosystems, only 34% of the national territory (667,105 km2) keeps that condition,” which means a 34.68% decrease in the forested surface.

Despite these numbers, Mexico remains the fifth country in the world in terms of biodiversity, with 25,000 different plant species, surpassed only by Brazil, Colombia, Indonesia, and China.

However, Inegi alerted that 10.4% of said species are either endangered (475 of them), threatened (896), subject to special protection (1,085), or extinct (49), but “in average, science registers 899 new species in Mexico every decade, that is, almost 90 species per year.”

 

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Mexico: Fears for Missing Students as Mass Grave Found in Guerrero


The state of Guerrero in Mexico (photo via WIkipedia)

The state of Guerrero in Mexico (photo via WIkipedia)

Authorities in the state of Guerrero have confirmed that 28 bodies have been found in mass graves near the city of Iguala, where dozens of students were reported missing after coming under attack last week.

Guerrero state prosecutor Iñaky Blanco said it would take weeks for the results of DNA tests to confirm if the bodies are those of some of the 43 students that remain ‘disappeared’ since 27th September.

However, he admitted that it was “probable” that some of the students were among the victims, who he said had been found murdered and badly-burned.

“According to the verdict from forensic specialists we can reveal that in the graves the bodies of the victims were laid on top of a bed of sticks and branches and then covered with a flammable substance such as diesel or petrol,” said Blanco.

Police Involvement

The graves were found on the outskirts of Iguala on Saturday, based on information given to police by several suspects with links to organised crime group “Guerreros Unidos”, who were detained after the attacks last week.

According to Blanco, two of the suspects confessed to murdering 17 of the students and dumping them in the mass grave on the instructions of a gang leader known as ‘El Chucky‘.

The investigation has also uncovered more information about members of the Iguala police force who were reportedly behind the attacks on the students on 26th and 27th September, including the city’s security director.

“The instruction [for the gang hitmen] to go to the site where the students were was given by the municipal public safety director Francisco Salgado Valladares, while the order to take the students away and kill them came from a subject nicknamed ‘El Chucky‘, leader of the ‘Guerreros Unidos’,” continued Blanco.

So far 30 people, including 22 police officers, have been arrested for the original attacks on students over a week ago.

Meanwhile, Iguala mayor José Luis Abarca, the focal point for protests by relatives of the student victims, is currently missing after taking a 30-day leave of absence to “facilitate the investigation.”

Abarca and the deputy head of security in Iguala, Felipe Flores, have been summoned to provide testimonies about the case but there whereabouts remain unknown.

No Impunity

Parents and friends of the missing students said that it was not yet a fact that the bodies belong to their loved ones, adding that they doubted the official version of events.

“We don’t believe any of the comments made by the public prosecutors. We still hope our children will return ok, because they were taken alive and they should be returned to us alive. This is a massacre that we cannot allow,” one father told news portal Milenio.com.

The parents said they did not trust the authorities to investigate the case properly and called for a protest march on 8th October.

Amid the confusion as the grisly discovery was made over the weekend, Reuters reported anonymous local officials as confirming that there were 34 bodies in the graves, six more than the number officially reported.

Meanwhile, President Enrique Peña Nieto today ordered his cabinet and national security institutions to find those responsible and bring them to justice.

“Like all Mexicans, as president I am deeply angered and dismayed by the information emerging over the weekend,” said Peña Nieto in an address to the media. “I am very upset by the violence of the actions, and especially because young students have been affected by it… Faced with this violence, there must not be even the tiniest room for impunity.”

This afternoon, local press are reporting that a contingent of the national gendarmerie is being directed to Iguala to take control of security and aid in the search for the missing students.

The National Commission for Human Rights and the UN High Commission for Human Rights in Mexico are also investigating the case for severe abuses, including extrajudicial executions and forced disappearances.

Attacks

The students, who had been fundraising in Iguala, were attacked on several occasions, reportedly by local police officers and unknown armed men, as their convoy travelled on the main highway leading out of the city.

In total, six people were killed – three students and three bystanders – and another 25 were injured in the incidents.

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Mexico: Violence in Guerrero Leaves Seven Dead, Dozens Missing


The state of Guerrero in Mexico (photo via WIkipedia)

The state of Guerrero in Mexico (photo via WIkipedia)

At least seven people were killed and dozens are reported missing after a weekend of violent attacks by police on students in the state of Guerrero, southwest Mexico.

The worst of the violence was registered in the city of Iguala, where local police and unknown armed men reportedly attacked a convoy of protesting students on Friday night and Saturday morning, killing six and injuring 17.

According to local publication Milenio, the students, from a rural teachers’ college had been staging a rally in Iguala on Friday and were fired upon by municipal police as they travelled in three buses. Three were killed and several others injured in the attack. Shortly after that, police officers and other armed civilians attacked a bus carrying a local football team – reportedly after mistaking them for the student protesters – killing three more people, including the bus driver and a 15-year-old player.

The state authorities confirmed yesterday that 22 city police officers had been detained in relation to the incidents, which are currently being investigated. The arrested officers were transferred to Acapulco on Saturday night over fears of renewed clashes in Iguala.

The state government also said it was using all resources to discover the whereabouts of another 58 students that have been reported missing since fleeing the shootings on Friday night. A committee of students said on Sunday that up to 77 were still missing, and demanded that the authorities locate and return them to their families.

Social organisations and human rights groups condemned what they called the “extrajudicial execution” of student protesters.

“These incidents are not isolated or bad luck. They are part of a criminal policy designed from the top down as part of the low-intensity war waged by the government of Enrique Peña Nieto to silence all protests,” the groups released in a statement. “It is a criminal policy that every day creates more victims and drowns the Mexican people in a bloodbath.”

Meanwhile, staff at nine rural universities in the state of Guerrero announced a strike for Monday, demanding a full investigation into the police violence and the resignation of Iguala mayor José Luis Abarca Velázquez. The measure is expected to affect around 10,000 students.

Politician Murdered

In a separate incident, on Sunday morning, the leader of the opposition Partido Acción Nacional (PAN) in the state of Guerrero, Braulio Zaragoza, was gunned down as he ate breakfast at a hotel restaurant.

Zaragoza, who was shot three times at close range, died at the scene before paramedics arrived.

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Mexico: Soldiers Arrested over Tlatlaya ‘Massacre’


Flag_of_MexicoMexican authorities have arrested seven soldiers and their commander over the killing of 22 suspect gang members amid claims they were summarily executed. A further 17 soldiers are potentially facing arrest.

The deaths, which took place on 30th June, occurred in a warehouse in Tlatlaya, a rural community located about 100km south-west of Mexico City.

The army says the killings were a result of an armed confrontation between the military and a group of kidnappers. But witnesses say the victims were rounded up by the soldiers and killed in cold blood in the community.

The defence department issued a press release after the incident, saying that suspected drug cartel members in a warehouse had opened fire on soldiers patrolling the area. It said a fierce gunfight ensued in which all 22 civilians were killed, after which the soldiers found 38 firearms, a grenade and ammunition in the warehouse, along with three women who said they had been kidnapped.

But this account was disputed after it emerged that only one soldier was wounded and AP reporters visited the site, unveiling some inconsistencies.

The journalists said there were no signs of a prolonged battle, while blood and bullet marks inside the warehouse suggested at least five people had been shot in the chest from a close range while standing against a wall. Later a woman said she saw the soldiers shooting her 15-year-old daughter more than half a dozen times as she lay on the ground injured.

She said that only one gang member was killed and several wounded during the initial shootout. The remaining 21 people were shot dead after surrendering.

Human Right Watch called for a thorough and independent investigation to be carried out saying that the incident could prove to be one of the “most serious massacres in Mexico”.

The Ministry of Defense has said that the men, who are now being held in a military prison in Mexico City, were arrested under military charges for disobedience and dereliction of duty.

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Mexico: Reports of Torture up 600% in Ten Years


The majority of torture victims say their abusers were police or the armed forces (photo courtesy of Wikipedia)

The majority of torture victims say their abusers were police or the armed forces (photo courtesy of Wikipedia)

According to a new study released by Amnesty International, in the last ten years reports of torture in Mexico have risen 600%.

Between 2010 and 2013, the National Human Rights Council received more than 7,000 reports of torture and abuses, mostly at the hands of the police and armed forces.

The investigation, entitled ‘Out of Control: Torture and other Abuse in Mexico‘, was released yesterday and indicates that as well as the worrying figures of torture, a climate of impunity and tolerance towards these practices reigns.

Victims from different parts of the country told Amnesty International that they had been the subjects of beatings, death threats, sexual violence, electric shocks, and suffocation semi-asphyxiation at the hands of the police or the armed forces, often with the aim of getting “confessions” or incriminating other people in serious crimes.

Erika Guevara Rosas, Director of Amnesty International Americas, highlighted that despite the alarming figures, in recent years only seven people had been found guilty of torture.

“Authorities cannot keep looking the other way. The fact that the safeguards are barely applied to prevent torture or other abuses, and that investigations into such reports often play down the seriousness of the abuse and are biased against the victim, are a clear indication that the government does not protect human rights.”

It is the third time this year that the country has come under fire for its record on torture, after reports released by the UN and a previous investigation by Amnesty International.

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Mexico: President Promulgates Energy Reform Laws


President Peña Nieto promulgates the energy reform bills (photo: Mexican government)

President Peña Nieto promulgates the energy reform bills (photo: Mexican government)

Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto promulgated today the energy reform laws that were passed by Congress last week.

According to Peña Nieto, the 21 laws will boost employment and encourage private investment. However, the reform has been resisted by those who oppose the introduction of this type of investment in the country’s state-controlled oil sector.

During the promulgation ceremony, Peña Nieto described the ten actions his government will undertake in order to speed up the reform’s implementation process. The first step will be to bring forward the so-called ’round zero’, for the Energy Secretariat to be able to inform state-owned company Pemex by Wednesday which oil exploration and production areas it will retain. Once that step is completed, ’round one’ will begin, which will oversee the process of putting the remaining areas up for tender to private investors.

The other actions involve the “establishment of bases to efficiently administer the resources of the oil profits and to supply energy to all areas in the country,” said the president, who emphasised his administration’s will to move with the reform quickly.

The reform allows for private investment in the country’s state-owned oil sector, which supporters say will encourage foreign and domestic investment. The move will be the end of 75 years of government control over all of the country’s hydrocarbon reserves.

The controversial bills were brought forth by the ruling Partido Revolucionario Institucional (PRI) and the opposition Partido Acción Nacional (PAN) and essentially allow for private firms to be able to partner with Pemex through profit-sharing, risk-sharing services’ contracts. The year-long legislative debate extended for a total of 170 hours and involved over 1,300 interventions by lawmakers from across the political spectrum.

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Mexico: Congress Approves Reforms to Telecommunications Law


Mexican businessman Carlos Slim, one of the wealthiest men in the world (photo: Wikipedia)

Mexican businessman Carlos Slim, one of the wealthiest men in the world (photo: Wikipedia)

The Mexican Lower House passed a bill which modifies the country’s telecommunications law. The bill was introduced by President Enrique Peña Nieto’s administration and affects some of Mexico’s industry giants, such as Carlos Slim’s América Móvil.

América Móvil, which has a market share of 70% in the mobile sector, will be forced to share part of its network with its competitors. It must also unblock mobile phones, speed up the process to change companies to under 24 hours, and eliminate national long distance charges.

As the bill was being debated, América Móvil announced its intention to sell part of the company in order to reduce its market share and avoid the restrictions imposed on it by the reform. The company could sell up to 30% of its assets, for a value of US$15bn, to shake off the tag of ‘prevailing economic agent’. The move, however, is yet to be approved by the Federal Institute of Telecommunications.

If approved, the divestment could allow América Móvil to offer telecommunications services which is currently unable to sell. “We want to offer our clients the famous ‘triple play’, the three services that are precisely voice, data, and video, that is, cable TV,” said Arturo Elías Ayub, Slim’s son-in-law and spokesman for the company.

América Móvil has 292m clients in 26 countries, 35% of which are in Mexico. Slim, its owner, is one of the richest men in the world.

The reform also affects television giant Televisa, which will have to offer its television contents to cable operators free of charge and share parts of its infrastructure with other television companies.The bill, which had already been approved by the Senate, was passed on Wednesday after a 20-hour debate by an overwhelming majority of 318 votes against 107. It must now be signed off by President Peña Nieto.

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