Tag Archive | "mexico"

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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Mexico: Drug War Disappeared Number 16,000

A march in Mexico City highlights issue of forced disappearances (photo by Pepe Rivera)

A march in Mexico City highlights issue of forced disappearances (photo by Pepe Rivera)

New figures announced by Mexico’s Government Secretary, Miguel Ángel Osorio Chong, have put the number of disappeared in the country at 16,000. The number, which is double the estimate given by the government last May, come from the National Information System, which was put in place to correlate information from the country’s 31 states and capital.

Some of those who are missing are victims of forced disappearances related to the country’s on-going drug war, whilst others have simply left home without telling anybody.

However, the number of disappearances has risen as a result of a growing number of violent crimes and human rights violations, the vast majority of which are linked to drug cartels and the country’s on-going drug war, although some have been tied to the country’s security forces. Since the country’s drug war began in December 2006, up to 120,000 people have been killed.

Amnesty International, said in their 2013 report ‘Facing a Nightmare: Disappearances in Mexico': “Despite the chilling numbers, the authorities have systematically failed to investigate and clarify the vast majority of the cases, including the many hundreds of disappearances in which there is evidence of detentions and removal of freedoms by State agents or criminal gangs. The systematic failure on the part of the federal and state authorities to take the growing number of disappearances seriously has contributed to the creation of a climate of tolerance towards these crimes.”

The human rights organisation went on to call the impunity in such cases a “chronic pattern”.

Osorio Chong said that Enrique Peña Nieto’s government asked all of the states to coordinate with the federal government, the Attorney General’s office, and his own office to formulate a revision commission to remove any discrepancies between local and federal authorities. As such the cases, which have been compiled into one sole database, give the most accurate official count of disappearances to date.

It is hoped that the new list will not only iron out the discrepancies in the numbers, but will also be the first step on the path to combatting the issue of disappearances in the country.



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Mexico: Indigenous Communities Denounce Land Theft

Copper Canyon, Chihuahua (photo: Wikipedia)

Copper Canyon, Chihuahua (photo: Wikipedia)

The governors of seven indigenous communities from the Mexican state of Chihuahua appeared before the Senate to denounce being robbed of their territory and natural resources by drug traffickers and businessmen. They also denounced suffering from harassment and the murder of four people from their communities who defended their territory. The community leaders hope to also bring their demands to government representatives.

Miguel Manuel Parra, governor of Mogotabo, in the municipality of Urique, said that organised crime groups as well as businessmen seeking to build hotels and tourist resorts have taken their ancestral lands, with the apparent complicity of several state departments.

The governors said that “they are ruining the landscape, the natural beauty of the Copper Canyon to turn this impressive beauty into a grotesque block of iron and cement that is out of place with and affects the extremely beautiful environment of the Sierra Tarahumara.” Though they clarified they do not oppose development as such, they defended the ownership of their ancestral lands.

As they demanded the protection of their natural resources and their land, of which they were removed “with the complicity of politicians and the omission of judges who prolong the sentences, many of which they resolve against us,” they added that they “live with fear of being removed from our territory. We’re patient, but [the authorities] are not keeping their word.”


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Mexico: Farmers Begin Protest in the Capital

Secretariat of the Interior building, in Mexico City (photo: Wikipedia)

Secretariat of the Interior building, in Mexico City (photo: Wikipedia)

Some 5,000 peasant farmers from 20 Mexican states marched into Mexico City yesterday, where they set up a protest camp.

Farming organisations are demanding the federal government to be included in the negotiations for an agrarian reform. Álvaro López, from the National Union of Agrarian Workers (UNTA), said that “a democratic reform must come from a wide consultation to all the agricultural sectors and must put forward criteria that generates equality and that ends the great inequalities that we have today.”

Several placards carried by demonstrators also showed some of the farmers’ demands: against the privatisation of their districts, against the expansion of mining and wind energy companies, against transgenic corn, and to put an end to the concentration of land and resources, among others.

The protesters set up tents opposite the Secretariat of the Interior and warned they will remain there at least until tomorrow.

López informed that they will carry out protests before different federal government buildings in order to obtain a satisfactory answer to their demands.

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Mexico: Subcomandante Marcos “Ceases to Exist”

Subcomandante Marcos (photo: José Villa)

Subcomandante Marcos (photo: José Villa)

Zapatista leader Subcomandante Marcos announced in a statement released yesterday that the organisation has “decided that Marcos cease to exist”.

In the statement, Marcos briefly outlines the history of the Ejército Zapatista de Liberación Nacional (EZLN) and the decision to create the character of Subcomandante Marcos, described as a “fraud” and a “hologram”, as a spokesman before the mainstream media.

Upon rising up on 1st January 1994 in the southern state of Chiapas, and realising that indigenous people were “invisible” to Mexican society, the EZLN “[t]hen began carrying out a complex diversionary tactic, a terrible and wonderful magic trick, a malicious play from our indigenous heart, indigenous wisdom challenged modernity in one of its bastions: the media. Then began the construction of the character called ‘Marcos’.”

In August 2013, the organisation carried out a political course called ‘Freedom according to the Zapatistas’, where, Marcos states, “we realised that there was already a generation that could look us in the eye, that could listen to us and talk to us without expecting guiding or leadership, without hoping for submission or following. Marcos, the character, was no longer necessary. The new state in the Zapatista fight was ready (…) It is our conviction and our practice that in order to rebel and to fight we don’t need leaders or caudillos or messiahs or saviours. To fight, we only need a bit of shame, some dignity, a lot of organisation.”

After the murder of Zapatista teacher José Luis Solís López ‘Galeano’ at the hands of members of the Partido de Acción Nacional (PAN) and the Partido Verde Ecologista (PVE) on 2nd May, the EZLN “thought it was necessary for one of us to die so that Galeano could live. And to satisfy the impertinent death, instead of Galeano we put up another name so that Galeano lives and death takes not a life, but just a name, some letters emptied of meaning, without history, without life. So we decided that Marcos cease to exist today.” After a series of post-scripts, the statement, signed by Subcomandante Marcos, suggests the emergence of a new ‘character': Subcomandante Insurgente Galeano, who would replace him.

The literary nature of the statement has left many wondering about the future of Subcomandante Marcos, who has been identified as university professor Rafael Sebastián Guillén Vicente, within the EZLN.


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Mexico: Amnesty Warns of ‘Critical’ Human Rights Situation

Amnesty International Secretary General, Salil Shetty, at launch of Stop Torture Campaign (photo courtesy of Amnesty International)

Amnesty International Secretary General, Salil Shetty, at launch of Stop Torture Campaign (photo courtesy of Amnesty International)

Amnesty International today published a letter sent to Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto expressing concern over the ‘critical situation’ for human rights in the country.

“It is vital that measures are taken to tackle current patterns of disappearances, torture, and arbitrary arrests, as well as the regular attacks against those supporting human rights, journalists, migrants, and women,” said the letter, which was signed by Amnesty International’s secretary general, Salil Shetty. It also urged an end to impunity by ensuring that any members of the government of armed forces involves in these crime be swiftly handed over to the judiciary.

The organisation said it had also handed the president 170,000 signatures collected over the last year from people demanding concrete action to deal with these problems.

The letter was sent to coincide with Amnesty International’s global report on the use of torture, in which Mexico was one of five countries singled out as where torture is “rife”.

According to the report: “The use of torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment by military and police forces remains widespread throughout Mexico, with impunity rife for the perpetrators.”

According to Amnesty’s global survey, at least 44% of respondents from 21 countries said they feared torture if taken into custody. In Mexico, that rate stood at 64%.

Other Latin American countries included in the survey were Brazil, where 80% of respondents said they would not feel safe from torture if arrested, Peru (54%), Argentina (49%), and Chile which reported the lowest regional figure of 30%.

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On the 8th anniversary of the disappearance of Jorge Julio López, we revisit Patricia di Filippo's 2011 article on the case.

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