Nov 22, 2014

Undocumented Cannot Count on Obama's Migration Initiative (La Jornada, Mexico)

WorldMeetsUS: President of the United States Barack Obama yesterday announced the adoption of a regularization plan to grant five to eleven million undocumented migrants living in the country legal status for the next two years. To take advantage of the change in requirements one must demonstrate having been in the United States for five years, the existence of children or dependent permanent residents in the U.S., with potential beneficiaries subject to a criminal background check. In the short term, the measure could halt the deportations of about 4 million people. Read more.

Nov 13, 2014

US State Department Urges Mexico "To Stay Calm"

Note: No one in the Obama cabinet, including Obama, has said anything about the Ayotzinapa case that I have seen. Only spokespersons. It's a topic they would like to go away--after all they have a lot riding on the Peña reforms and Peña has been a darling of the U.S. government. Now they have asked us to stay calm during the judicial process--as if there were a judicial process and as if 43 young men were not still forcibly disappeared. What did Shannon talk to Wayne about and what did Obama presumably talk to Peña Nieto about in China? That we will never know, but it surely went beyond patronizing platitudes to stay calm.

QUESTION: Jen, you were concerned about Mexico yesterday, and a couple of questions: Has the U.S. offered – or Mexico requested – any help in addressing the disappearance of the 43 students?

MS. PSAKI: Well, let me just – since you gave me the opportunity, let me just reiterate that we extend our deepest sympathy to the family and friends of the victims. The heinous and barbaric crime must be thoroughly and transparently investigated and those responsible be brought to justice without delay and punishment – without delay and punished, sorry – consistent with due process and respect for the rule of law. We urge all parties to remain calm through the process.
I’m not aware of any specific requests from the Mexican Government for U.S. assistance. I can certainly check with our team and see if anything has changed on that front since yesterday.

QUESTION: Please. Also, the – is there a concern by the U.S. Government – I know that Mr. Shannon met with Ambassador Wayne this morning. Is there any concern about the stability of the Mexican Government, given the violence, the lack of confidence on state and federal government, that maybe Mexico is sliding towards a failed state situation?

MS. PSAKI: I don’t believe that’s a concern we’ve expressed. Obviously, we’re concerned about tensions on the ground. That’s why we’re continuing to urge all parties to remain calm through the process, and obviously why we’re engaged, also, closely with officials there. We have recently put out a new travel advisory to U.S. citizens who are living there, and, obviously, we continue to provide them updated information.

NYT: Law and Order in Mexico

Note: This is a pretty strong statement from the NYT Editorial Board. Although it's basically just a rundown of the facts, it chides the federal government for not taking the case earlier, mentions the Tlatlaya executions and uses the more accurate figure for the number of deaths. It still falls back on calling for a fix to the criminal justice system, without mentioning the complicity between government and drug cartels.

The disappearance, and presumed murder, of 43 college students six weeks ago has brought parts of Mexico to a tense point. On Monday, thousands of protesters blocked access to the airport in Acapulco, and last week tens of thousands more filled the streets of Mexico City.

They are understandably outraged at a government that has failed to provide security, respect the rule of law, hold criminals accountable and ensure justice for victims and their families. In short, when gang members, security forces and others kill, they know there is a good chance they can get away with it.

The 43 students from a rural teachers college disappeared on Sept. 26 in Iguala, 120 miles south of Mexico City. They had traveled there to collect money and steal buses for transportation to a demonstration. According to authorities, the town’s mayor feared the students would disrupt a speech by his wife, so he told the police to stop them. The police ambushed them, engaged in a shootout that left six people dead, and then turned the students over to members of a drug gang who killed them, burned their bodies and erased much of the evidence.

Although the attorney general, Jesús Murillo Karam, announced on Friday that authorities had arrested at least 72 people, including the mayor and his wife, questions remain, including whether some students may still be alive. The government has said it will send some incinerated remains to a lab in Austria for identification. There may have been more to work with if the federal authorities had not delayed in taking over the investigation.

Tragically, this is merely the latest example of a breakdown of law and order. In June, military personnel in Tlatlaya killed 22 people inside an empty warehouse; later, according to the National Human Rights Commission of Mexico, state prosecutors detained two of three surviving witnesses, beating and threatening them into saying the military was not responsible for the killings.

The two incidents are “the worst atrocities we’ve seen in Mexico in years,” said José Miguel Vivanco, the Americas director at Human Rights Watch. But they are part of a pattern. Some 22,000 people have gone missing since a wave of drug violence began in 2006, and 100,000 people have died since 2007 in violence linked to organized crime. A 2013 investigation by Human Rights Watch found that in 149 of 250 disappearance cases, there was “compelling evidence” that state agents were involved.

Two years ago, when he took office, President Enrique Peña Nieto pledged to revise the penal code, give more attention to crime victims and focus on Mexico’s economic growth as a means of reducing drug-related violence. What limited progress has been made still has not repaired a criminal justice system unable to properly investigate crimes, end the corruption or stop the killings.

Nov 11, 2014

Argentine Forensics Team Says First Remains Are Not of Ayotzinapa Students

Laura Carlsen, Americas Program

Finally, the Argentine forensics team called in as an independent analyst by human rights groups and parents of the missing students of Aytozinapa, has weighed in. The Team announced today that it analyzed 24 of the 30 remains discovered in Cerro Viejo in six graves outside Iguala, Guerrero and none are of the missing students.
"El EEAF has obtained genetic results from the laboratory The Bode Technology Group in the United States on 24 of the 30 remains recovered in Cierro Viejo. None of those showed probability of biological parentage with the 43 students of the rural college. Work continues on the six additional remains and results are expected soon."
This result concurs with the findings of the Federal Attorney General's office announced on Oct. 14 that the remains were not of the students.

The Argentine team states in its comuniqué that it has participated in the exhumation of 2 of the 30 bodies found at Cierro Viejo, 1 of the 9 found at La Parota and in recovery of remains at the dump in Cocula.

The process-of-elimination method of identification now leaves the Parota bodies and the Cocula bodies--and any others that might turn up as the search continues in a region that has come to be known as a narco-cemetery. AG Jesus Murillo Karam announced on Nov. 7 that detailed testimony from criminals led to the Cocula dump, where --again, according to the criminals--the students were killed, their bodies incinerated, bagged and tossed in a nearby river and other sites.

Murillo Karam stated that those remains have been sent to a lab in Innsbruck. It is not clear why they were sent to a different lab, if the Argentine team is testing remains from that site separately or how long this identification will take.

Although the announcement that 24 of the first remains found are not the students provides the first scientific certainty to the case, it still leaves far more questions than answers.

First, the AG office found the Cierro Viejo remains on the basis of testimony by members of the Guerreros Unidos drug cartel arrested after the crime who said they had driven the students there and murdered them. So the federal government investigators were either duped by the criminals or arranged the exhumations of the wrong bodies as a distraction or a feint, as many of the Ayotzinapa students and families claim. Parents had long been skeptical of the first claims, stating what we now know--that some of the remains were female and that the age ranges were wrong.

Suspicions are now deepened. If criminal testimony proved false the first time, how reliable can it be now that three new cartel members are claiming with graphic detail that they killed the students at the Cocula dump?

The parents have already stated firmly and angrily that they will not accept criminal testimony as a resolution of the case. They maintain that their sons are alive until there is irrefutable scientific proof that the remains are of their loved ones. So far, no matches have been made.

The communiqué of Nov.11 concludes:
"In synthesis, up to now there have been no identifications between the remains found in the 3 locations mentioned and the 43 students. The EEAF continues to work on efforts to identify the recovered remains, alongside official investigations. The institutional policy of the EAAF is to inform results first to the the families of the victims, and to the authorities in charge of the investigations."
 The last statement could be a concern. Does the team have to have the OK from the authorities to announce its findings, or just chronologically inform them first before going public?

The problem with the process of elimination method of identification in Guerrero is that the state seems to be capable of producing an untold number of cadavers to eliminate. The task of connecting these to other disappeared people will be complicated, to say the least. Record-keeping is poor and DNA testing extremely limited.

A persistent accusation dogging the AG in recent weeks is that the government and his office in particular is "managing the crisis" rather than resolving it. That is to say, that it has failed to reveal what it knows and is in the throes not of a real search but of a political dilemma regarding whether it's best to keep the students alive in the public eye or produce evidence of death. The latter prolongs the situation of uncertainty that is feeding demonstrations and actions across the country; the former s admission of a massacre and could ignite even greater public indignation and rage.

Notably, the message from the Argentine team does not indicate that the Cocula remains might be too deteriorated to be analyzed. The government has hinted at the possiblity--the latest version of the criminals' testimony indicates they went to great lengths to assure the bodies not be identified.

It will be vitally important to identify the rest of the remains quickly and reliably. The Aytozinapa families need that, and so do the thousands of families of other disappeared persons whose bodies anonymously in clandestine graves. Like the ones of Cierro Viejo.

Report: Mexico president's home built, owned by affiliate of high-speed rail contractor

Brandon Sun: The private home of President Enrique Pena Nieto was built and is registered under the name of a company connected to a controversial high-speed rail contract that he abruptly cancelled last week, according to a report by a leading Mexican journalist.

The $7 million, 13,000-square-foot home in Mexico City's most exclusive neighbourhood was built and is owned by Ingenieria Inmobiliaria del Centro, a company belonging to Grupo Higa, according the report published Sunday by Aristegui Noticias, website of journalist Carmen Aristegui. Read more. 

US reviewing democracy work in hostile countries

AP: The State Department said Monday it was reviewing some of its secretive democracy-promotion programs in hostile countries after The Associated Press reported that the nation's global development agency may effectively end risky undercover work in those environments.

The proposed changes follow an AP investigation this year into work by the U.S. Agency for International Development, which established a Twitter-like service in Cuba and secretly sought to recruit a new generation of dissidents there while hiding ties to the U.S. government. The agency's proposed changes could move some of that work under America's diplomatic apparatus. Read more. 

Nov 10, 2014

Outrage as Mexico's Attorney General Says Missing Ayotzinapa Students Are Dead

Global Voices: Shot, burned in a garbage dump and thrown into a muddy river in black plastic bags. That was the fate of the 43 missing student teachers, known as normalistas in Spanish, who vanished on September 26, 2014, according to Mexico's federal attorney general on November 7.

Jesus Murillo Karam‘s words were met with disbelief, anger and indignation not only by the students’ families, but also by people throughout Mexico and the world because they rely on the confessions of three drug cartel hit men, not conclusive evidence — human remains discovered near a landfill based on their information haven't been identified yet. Read more.