Feb 29, 2012

U.S. Corruption and Drug War: Gandara Moved to Federal Courthouse to Arrange for Release

KVIA El Paso: "El Paso Sheriffs deputies tell ABC-7 that Guillermo "Willie" Gandara Jr. was moved from the El Paso County Jail to the U.S. Federal Courthouse this morning where he is making arrangements to bond out of jail.

A federal judge on Monday set Gandara's bond at $50,000 cash bond. Gandara has been charged with federal drug trafficking charges and has been in jail since Thursday morning.

During Monday's hearing, prosecutors played video surveillance evidence they said shows Gandara and Juan Canales engaged in illegal activity. Canales was released early Wednesday morning on a $20,000 cash bond.

Gandara is expected to officially resign his seat on Commissioners Court on Wednesday, according to County Judge Veronica Escobar." read more

Drug War: In Mexico, a Dramatic Decline in Seizures of Cocaine and Heroine

La Jornada-  At the same time that Mexico has become the potential producer of 9 percent of all heroin trafficked in the world and become renowned for the ease of setting up methamphetamine laboratories, it has experienced the largest drop of cocaine seizures of all countries in a study by the International Narcotics Control Board (INCB). The annual report also revealed that heroin seizures had fallen off by 30 percent.

The report was distributed yesterday by the Secretary of Foreign Relations. It claimed that despite the deployment of a high number of military and police forces over the past 5 years, 90 percent of the cocaine that arrives in the United States passes through Mexico.

The study states that the three main producers of heroin used in the United States in 2009 are Afghanistan, Colombia, and Mexico. According to the Department of Drug Enforcement in Colombia, 58 percent of the heroin seized in the United States came from Colombia while 39 percent originated in Mexico. The seizures of this drug have diminished from around 459 kilograms in 2005 to 369 kilograms in 2010.

Regional Analysis

The regional analysis section mentions that in 2010 Canada, the United States, and Mexico continue to show elevated levels of production, trafficking, and consumption of illicit drugs.

“The fact that, globally speaking, 70 percent of marijuana seizures, 70 percent of MDMA seizures (ecstasy), and 44 percent of methamphetamines seizures happened in North America illustrates the magnitude of the problem. Furthermore, 99 percent of the world’s dismantled methamphetamine laboratories were found in region.”

The human, social and economic cost of the improper use of drugs in North America has been heightened. In 2007 the estimated economic impact of the use of illicit drugs in the United States was $193 billion. For their part, the Canadian Center for Substance Abuse has calculated that the costs for the Canadian economy due to illicit drug use surpasses $9 billion per year. “In Mexico, the government has budgeted $10.7 billion for the army in 2012,” remarks the report.

Central America and the Caribbean, “for their strategic geographical location,” continue to be important areas in trafficking drugs from South to North America. “A few Mexican drug cartels have moved their operations to Central America, which has consequently bore witness to an increase in violence, kidnappings, bribery, torture, and homicides.”

The study also reports that “Guatemala has been utilized as a transit route for cocaine headed to Mexico, and despite the efforts by Costa Rica, Honduras and Nicaragua in 2010 to combat drug trafficking, for the first time, these countries have became important areas of transit for drugs destined, principally, for the United States. At the same time, the Caribbean has become less important as an area for drug shipment north.” Spanish original 

Translation by Mikael Rojas, Americas Mexico Blog 

Immigration: Mexico's migrants return as the American dream fades

BBC News: "He crossed the river Rio Grande - or Rio Bravo as it's known in Mexico - along the Texas border to work illegally as a construction worker in Nevada.

But when the US economy began to stall with the housing market collapse six years ago, he decided to leave that dream behind. Last January he became the mayor of Chilcuautla, where 80% of the population has a family member in the US.

He represents a new wave of Mexicans who are deciding to return home - though it is unclear whether their homeland is ready to take them all back" read more

Mexico Economy: Mexico official seeks to reassure on tourism safety

Vancouver Sun: "Mexico’s tourism chief has met with Texas officials to head off a potential warning against visiting Mexico during the lucrative Spring Break and summer vacation seasons.

The meeting on Monday followed a robbery last week of a tourist bus in the resort city of Puerto Vallarta.

'Mexico received 22.7 million tourists last year,' Rodolfo Lopez Negrete, chief operating officer of the Mexico Tourism Board, said in an interview.

'In addition to that, we received at least 5 million passengers who came through the different cruise companies through the different ports of call in Mexico, and these numbers exclude the hundreds of thousands of people from the U.S. who cross the border into Mexico every day.'" read more

Drug War: The Cali cartel, Mexican smugglers and the war on drugs

The Los Angeles Times, Opinion: "If the often-frustrating 40-year war on drugs has taught us anything, it is that even success can have dangerous downsides. Here's an example I came across in researching a book on the downfall of the Cali cartel.

It all started in the summer of 1989, in the northeast San Fernando Valley. But first some background:

Throughout the 1980s, Mexican smugglers were traditionally paid as couriers for hire by the Colombian cartels. They transported cocaine across the U.S. border for commissions that started as low as 20% of a load's wholesale value. As the flow of drugs increased, so did pressure to raise that commission to 30%, then 35%, 40% and more, until the Colombians said: "No mas." No more." read more

Feb 28, 2012

Drug Policy Debate: U.S. not budging on drug decriminalization stance

The Tico Times: U.S. Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano arrived in Guatemala Monday evening to discuss drug war strategy with President Otto Pérez Molina, who caused a stir in Central America a few weeks ago with his proposal for a discussion on illicit drug decriminalization. Napolitano reiterated U.S. opposition Monday night.

'The United States does not view decriminalization as a viable way to deal with the narcotics problem,' she said. She suggested a regional effort that would prevent drug use, intercept production and distribution, and stop money laundering.

But Pérez Molina was firm. 'We are calling for a discussion, a debate. And we continue to insist it. ... We want to open a debate to find a more effective way to fight drug trafficking.'" read more

Mexico Crime: Four Bodies found in SUV in Veracruz

La Jornada- "Government sources have reported that four lifeless bodies have been found inside a SUV in the Veracruz neighborhood of Ampliación las Bajadas.

According to primary reports, at about 12:00PM on Tuesday, the Naval Police received word that a white Ford Explorer had been abandoned on the corner of Calle Siete and Zapata in Veracruz.

Members of the federal police force arrived at the scene, cordoning off the area, while local authorities performed the standard crime scene procedures.

Forensics officers transported the bodies to the coroner for autopsies that will attempt to determine the cause of death and the identification of the victims." Spanish original

Mexico Crime: Numbers put safety issues in perspective, officials say

Los Angeles Times: "For Mexican tourism officials, the perception that their country is unsafe just doesn’t add up.

Twenty-two passengers on Carnival's Splendor, on their way back from the pueblo of El Nogalito, in Mexico, were stopped as their bus was returning to the ship. Gunmen took electronics, jewelry and money, the Los Angeles Times reported Sunday. No one was injured.

In a statement, Rodolfo Lopez-Negrete, chief operating officer of the Mexico Tourism Board, called the robbery "a rare and isolated incident," adding, "While 22 people were in involved in this incident, in all of 2011, 22 million (22.7 million to be precise) international tourists visited Mexico, in addition to the many millions who arrived by cruise line. The vast majority of these visitors enjoyed their stay in Mexico without any incident.” read more

Mexico Economy: Stirrings Of Nightlife Return To Ciudad Juárez

Fronteras Desk: "In the violent city of Ciudad Juárez, one industry is making a strong and sudden comeback: nightlife.

Thanks to police protection in certain parts of this Mexican border city, business owners have decided to reopen. That means recently abandoned hot spots for clubs and bars have come alive again." read more

Drug Policy Debate: Should Central America Legalize Drugs?

The Atlantic: "Last week, the president of Guatemala joined former and current presidents of Colombia and Mexico in expressing interest in considering the regional legalization of the drug trade. The U.S. State Department immediately expressed its disfavor, but the question is out in the open now. The issue of whether to legalize drugs -- and thus reject the U.S. model of "war" against drugs -- threatens to consume the next Summit of the Americas, an April meeting of Western Hemisphere Heads of State in Colombia.

It is easy to see why. The drug war has been a disaster for the Latin American countries fighting it, especially Mexico, and Central Americans' suspicion that legalization could be less painful and costly is reasonable. Whether or not legalization would in fact be a good thing for Central America, the situation is desperate enough that they must at least consider their options." read more

Feb 27, 2012

Mexico Economy: In revived Tijuana, a new calm delights - and mystifies

Kansas City Star: "TIJUANA, Mexico — This border city, once as violent as any in Mexico's drug-fueled trafficking wars, appears to have shaken off narco-related mayhem, allowing an explosion of new music halls, art galleries and world-class restaurants.

Tijuana's 1.6 million residents are grateful for the calm, which allows them once again to dine out at night, visit nightclubs and generally exist without fear of the sudden, random violence that had become so much a part of Mexican life.

But behind the relative peace is a nagging question: Why did it occur? Residents admit that they don't know.

"It's not very clear what happened," said Luis Ituarte, an artist and promoter. "It's just not as bad as it used to be."

Security officials credit better policing and the arrival of army patrols. Activists say that emboldened citizens began ratting out gangsters.

But some experts cite a more sinister reason. They say the calm is because Mexico's most powerful crime group has seized control of Tijuana's key drug-trafficking corridor and now enforces the peace. Rival drug gangs that used to gun down one another simply are working together now." read more

Drug War: Napolitano defends U.S. drug war in face of legalization debate

Chicago Tribune: "Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano defended Washington's drug war strategy on Monday despite calls by some Latin American leaders to consider decriminalizing narcotics.

Napolitano, who is touring Mexico and Central America to strengthen security cooperation, said the United States would continue assisting efforts by Latin Americans to go after producers and traffickers in the region despite relentless drug-related violence.

"I would not agree with the premise that the drug war is a failure," Napolitano said. "It is a continuing effort to keep our peoples from becoming addicted to dangerous drugs." read more

Drug War & Rule of Law: Arrest of Texas Official Raises Questions of Cross-Border Corruption

InSight Crime: "The recent arrest of an El Paso, Texas official on drug trafficking and money laundering charges has fueled concerns over corruption along the border with Mexico.

Last week, DEA agents arrested El Paso County Commissioner Guillermo “Willie” Gandara Jr. on suspicion of being part of a mid-size drug trafficking network. Gandara, who is running for a seat in the Texas House of Representatives, stands accused of distributing more than 110 pounds of marijuana since November 2010, and laundering the profits." read more

Rule of Law: The Dark Side to Juarez's Security Gains

InSight Crime: "Mexican border city Juarez, formerly the most dangerous place in the world, made significant security advances in 2011. But this may have come at a steep cost in terms of human rights, as Mexico’s Proceso argues.

Though Juarez remains the most violent city in the country, murders have dropped precipitously over the past year or so. In May of 2011, the city saw the lowest number of monthly murders in two years, with the total number of killings dropping·by somewhere between 40 percent and 50 percent from the same period in 2010." read more

Drug War: Colombia Makes Mass Arrest of Gang Linked to Sinaloa Cartel

InSight Crime:"Colombia's police have announced the arrest of 34 suspected members of the Galeano Clan, a drug trafficking group which allegedly had links with the Mexican Sinaloa Cartel and with Guatemalan criminal organizations.

Those arrested are suspected members of a group called the Galeano Clan, which the authorities say has ties to Mexico's Sinaloa Cartel and to Guatemalan trafficking groups the Lorenzanas and the Mendozas." read more

Drug War: US Homeland Security Secretary visits Guatemala

After voicing his opinions on drug decriminalization, Guatemalan President Otto Perez Molina will have the opportunity to meet with US Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano. 

Prensa Libre: "Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano will visit Guatemala on Monday to meet with President Otto Perez Molina and his ministers.

Through a press release, the United States Embassy in Guatemala stated that Napolitano will be accompanied by Deputy Commissioner of US Border Patrol and Customs Agency, David Aguilar, and the Undersecretary of International Relations for US Homeland Security, Alan Bersin.

Napolitano will arrive in Guatemala this afternoon as part of a tour that will also pass through Mexico, El Salvador, Costa Rica, and Panama. The tour will last from February 27-29.

According to the US embassy, the objective of the trip will be to “meet with international counterparts to discuss the efforts of the United States government to facilitate business and travel, improve the exchange of information, and to make sure that work is the safest and most protected as it can be, and that the global supply chain is reliable.”

Decriminalization

Combating drug trafficking will be another issue addressed during the meeting between Napolitano and Perez Molina—the Guatemalan President has recently proposed to lead a debate about drug decriminalization and Vice President Roxana Baldetti will begin a lobbying tour this week on the issue throughout Central America.

Another issue expected to be addressed is the request for Temporary Protection Status (TPS) for Guatemalans who live in the United States without documentation.

Both issues were already discussed with the Secretary when Guatemalan Chancellor, Harold Caballeros, recently visited the US. After the visit, Caballeros signaled that Napolitano showed interest in aiding mechanisms that support TPS for Guatemalans and the continued training for border patrol agents.

Napolitano’s activities will begin at 5:00PM when she arrives in Guatemala." Spanish original
 

Translation: Mikael Rojas, Americas Mexico Blog

Rule of Law: Is Mexico a Failed State? … Not Yet

Excelsior: "There has been much debate over whether our nation has reached the deplorable condition of being a “failed state.” Certainly it has not, but the government is in crisis. The U.S. recently warned its citizens not to visit 14 states of the Mexican Republic and due to crime and violence, to take precautions in four others.

With criminals taking over the functions of government by extorting shopkeepers and entrepreneurs, it is as if they are collecting taxes to ensure security for their victims. Yes, reader, we refer to security that is not being provided by the three levels of government [federal, state, and local] and President Calderon, who believes that he's doing things right. Let's just think about the crisis in the Mexico prison system." read more

Drug War: Mexico meth seizure felt in San Antonio

KSAT- San Antonio: "Police said a major drug seizure in Mexico will have an impact locally on the streets of San Antonio.

A total of 15 tons of crystal methamphetamine was seized by the Mexican military a few weeks ago near Guadalajara, and DEA officials said there is a good chance some of it could have ended up in Texas. DEA agent Mauricio Fernandez said about 80 percent of the meth in San Antonio comes from Mexico. He said it's readily available and extremely pure."

Lt. Darrell Sanders with the Bexar County Sheriff's Office said major meth crackdowns state-side has pushed operations south of the border, so a major bust there has a direct impact here." read more


Feb 24, 2012

Week's Top Articles on Mexico: Feb. 17-23, 2012

Drug War, Human Rights and Rule of Law issues all came together this week with the prison riot and escape in Nuevo Leon, Mexico. 44 people were killed and another 30 inmates escaped in what authorities are now calling a joint operation between corrupt prison officials and the Zetas cartel. By week's end, the prison director and 28 guards had been arrested. The Mexican Interior Secretary, speaking on behalf on the Calderon administration, claimed that the federal government is doing its part by building more federal prisons, but that state governments are responsible for what happens in their own prisons.

The UN Human Rights Commissioner called for an immediate investigation into the prison conditions in Mexico, a call that was echoed by the Mexican Human Rights Commission, as well as other international human rights groups.  Mexico's practice of detaining people in jail who have been arrested and are held without bail, pending their trials, exacerbates prison overcrowding. 

Another investigation, that of a Mexican General allegedly on the payroll of the Zetas cartel, further demonstrates the interweaving of the drug war and corruption in the Mexican government.

Meanwhile, the federal Judicial (investigative) Police are seeking to reform their department by providing additional training to 4,000 of their agents, with assistance provided by the US under the Merida Initiative.

Finally, we conclude with two excerpts of an interview with the leader of the Movement for Peace with Justice and Dignity, Javier Sicilia. In the first excerpt, Sicilia talks about reconstructing the social fabric of Mexico, and in the second, he talks about the upcoming peace caravan through the United States this fall.

Articles

At least 38 people are killed during riot in prison in Nuevo Leon 
CNN Mexico: " At least 38 people were killed during a riot that occurred early Sunday at the Center for Social Rehabilitation (Cereso) in the municipality of Apodaca, Nuevo Leon, in the north (of Mexico), a spokesman for state security said. He warned that the death toll may rise..." read more

Mexico Says Prison Riot Masked Escape of Drug-Gang Members 
Wall Street Journal- Nuevo León Gov. Rodrigo Medina said that 30 inmates, all members of the Zetas drug cartel, used the massacre on Sunday as cover for an escape from Apodaca state prison, a few miles from the state capital of Monterrey. "Without a doubt there was premeditation," said Mr. Medina, speaking at a news conference. "This was planned." read more 

9 prison guards confess to helping Zetas escape in deadly brawl
AP/LA Daily News: "Nine guards have confessed to helping Zetas drug gangsters escape from prison before other Zetas slaughtered 44 rival inmates, a state official said late Monday, underlining the enormous corruption inside Mexico's overcrowded, underfunded prisons. read more

Grave situation in prisons is responsibility of states: Mexico Interior Secretary 
La Jornada: "Throughout the Calderon administration, there has not been one of these incidents in any of the federal prisons, not one," he said. He also emphasized that there are very dangerous inmates in federal prisons, such as kidnappers. "We are assuming our responsibility to reverse the historical pattern. We are doing it very quickly and without incident in federal prisons," he said. read more

Mexico prison riot: Apodaca boss and guards arrested  
BBC News "The director of a Mexican prison and 28 guards have been arrested on suspicion of helping a mass breakout and massacre by gang members on Sunday. Thirty inmates with links to the Zetas drugs cartel escaped from the Apodaca jail during the unrest and 44 prisoners from a rival gang were killed. Investigators say they have evidence that guards helped plan the killings." read more

UN Human Rights Commissioner calls for investigation of Apodaca prison deaths and escape 
Milenio: "The High Commissioner of United Nations Human Rights (OHCHR) today called on Mexico to make an exhaustive inquiry into the deaths of 44 inmates and the escape of 30 inmates from the prison of Apodaca. "Those responsible, including the prison authorities, ought to be brought to justice and all necessary steps taken to prevent the recurrence of such attacks," said agency spokesman, Ravina Shamdasani. read more

Mexico prison riot: Mexico Human Rights Commission opens investigation  
La Jornada: "The National Commission on Human Rights (CNDH) has opened an investigation into the murder of 44 prisoners and the escape of 30 others from the prison of Apodaca, Nuevo Leon, which occurred on Sunday, February 19. read more

Pre-Trial Detention Brews Crisis in Latin America Prisons 
InSight Crime: "Recent prison disasters, with a deadly fire in Honduras and a massacre in Mexico, point to the misuse of pre-trial detention in those countries' justice systems, stuffing penal facilities with people who haven't been convicted of a crime. read more

General accused of being on the Zetas’ payroll  
Justice in Mexico: "According to... Reforma newspaper, a General of the Sixth Military Zone based in Coahuila– a state in northern Mexico– was on the payroll of the Zetas’ criminal organization, as investigations by the Military Attorney General’s Office (Procuraduría General de Justicia Militar, PGJM) and the Mexican Attorney General’s Office (Procuraduría General de la República, PGR) have discovered.  read more

Mexico Judicial Police seek to improve their image 
Milenio: "The Federal Judicial Police are seeking to renew their image with the launching of a new policing model. After the dismissal of more than 700 police, nearly 20 percent of its staff, the agency now seeks to improve the expertise of nearly 4,000 agents that work in this division of the PGR (federal Attorney General's office), said the Commissioner of the federal ministerial (judicial or investigative) police, Vidal Díaz Leal Ochoa. read more

Interview With Javier Sicilia Part II: Reweaving Mexico’s Social Fabric 
North American Congress on Latin America- "Javier Sicilia talks about his belief that Mexico needs to reconstruct its social fabric—the broad complex of obligations and expectations that groups and individuals owe to and expect from one another—in order to effectively take on the dark forces of violence and organized crime that have beset the country over the past few years." read more

Javier Sicilia Talks about Mexican Violence and U.S. Responsibility  
North American Congress on Latin America: "In this third installment of the interview, Sicilia talks about the upcoming caravan to the United States, that will travel from California to New England attempting to raise awareness of the wave of violence Mexico is living through and, in particular, the relationship between that violence and U.S. policies and institutions." read more     

Rule of Law: How to Fix Mexico's Broken Prisons

InSight Crime- "An incident earlier this week at the prison in Apodaca, in the tumultuous northern state of Nuevo Leon, resulted in the escape of 30 inmates and the massacre of 44. The dead, who succumbed to beatings and stab wounds, were members of the Gulf Cartel, while the perpetrators and the escapees belonged to the Zetas, a rival group. While the incident was widely described as a riot,·it seems to have been a carefully planned assault rather than a spontaneous eruption of violence, as with the mass killing in a Juarez jail last summer.

Such incidents of mass violence have become common in Mexico’s prison system. While the Apodaca killing was the worst on record, several comparable massacres have been documented in recent years: 19 prisoners were killed in a Gomez Palacio, Durango facility in 2009; 20 died in a Juarez facility in 2009, and another 17 were killed last year; 23 inmates wound up dead·in an incident in Durango in 2010; in Mazatlan, 28 prisoners were killed in 2010; and just last month, 31 inmates were killed in a Tamaulipas prison." read more

Drug War and Rule of Law: Search for escaped Zetas; prison staff on Zeta payroll

La Jornada: "Federal and state authorities in Coahuila, Tamaulipas and Veracruz states have established a government alert, which includes the installation of checkpoints, given their suspicion that the 30 members of Los Zetas, who escaped from the prison in Apodaca, Nuevo Leon, last Sunday, might have fled to these states. Ten of those involved in the killing of 44 inmates have been identified, officials of the federal government and Nuevo Leon announced.

According to the Attorney General of Nuevo Leon, the prison managers and custodians were in the service of the Zetas, receiving payments. The former prison director, Geronimo Miguel Andres Martinez, received 30,000 pesos a month ($2,300 US), and his subordinates received from 10,000 to 15,000 pesos ($770 to $1,150US). Guards, who receive a salary of six thousand pesos ($460US) a month, got 5 thousand pesos ($350US).

A source close to the investigation revealed that, according to testimony obtained from those involved in the leak, the main organizer of the execution of 44 inmates and the escape of 30 members of Los Zetas was the chief guard, Oscar Deveze Laureano.

... The former warden of Apodaca, Geronimo Miguel Andres Martinez Andres Martinez, who is under investigation for the escape, was removed from a similar position in 2009 because, as director of the Santa Martha Acatitla prison, he reputedly allowed a group of kidnappers and extortionists, the gang of Giovanni Bautista Rodriguez, to operate from the prison. He was never charged criminally." Spanish original

Drug Policy Debate: Decriminalize drugs--an urgent debate

La Jornada editorial: "Yesterday, in front of members of the Euro-Latin American Parliamentary Assembly (EuroLat), the head of the Mexican Foreign Ministry, Patricia Espinosa, said that while the government of Mexico does not agree with the decriminalization of drugs that are currently banned--because that measure does not suffice to end drug trafficking and organized crime--it is willing to participate and open itself to a debate regarding this matter.

As you may recall, in January last year, three former Latin American presidents, Fernando Henrique Cardoso of Brazil, Colombian Cesar Gaviria and Ernesto Zedillo of Mexico, recognizing the failure of the police and military struggle against drugs, spoke out to promote drug "regularization." This position was supported by the writers Carlos Fuentes and Mario Vargas Llosa and, months later, Vicente Fox joined the proposal.

The most recent regional impetus to the discussion of decriminalization came from the presidents of Colombia and Guatemala, Juan Manuel Santos and Otto Perez Molina. The former said, at the end of 2011, that he would agree with a decision to that effect, provided that it was accepted by the rest of the world. Last week, his Guatemalan counterpart went further, arguing the benefits that would follow from eliminating the ban on the production and trafficking of currently illegal psychotropic drugs.

It is surprising that two political representatives of authoritarianism and militarism, such as Santos and Molina-Perez--the first, a former Defense Minister charged with criminal responsibility for the Colombian military attack on Sucumbios, Ecuador, and the second singled out for having participated in the genocide of indigenous people in Guatemala carried out by military regimes--now advocate a humanistic and avant-garde approach to meet the security challenge involved in drug trafficking and to delimit the problem posed by addiction, which is a public health issue that must be approached differently and with different instruments. Again paradoxically, it is two of the most pro-American rulers of the region that are openly challenging the anti-drug approach driven--or imposed--by Washington.

Similarly, one wonders why progressive, sovereign governments like Venezuela, Bolivia, Ecuador and Brazil--all affected by drug trafficking and the power of blackmail and interference that this criminal phenomenon gives the United States--have not taken the lead in this matter. The current Mexican authorities, meanwhile, have, so far, stubbornly and counterproductively insisted on the failed strategy derived from U.S. policy on drugs. This also is in harmony with submission to our neighboring country and with the morally conservative and authoritarian ruling party which has led this country into a bloody, very costly and tragic conflict, .

It is striking that now the Foreign Secretary expresses the government's disposition to participate in the discussion of an idea that has been rejected in advance by the Federal Government, whose head has repeatedly expressed his determination to end his term "with drums beating" and throwing "all his weight" into the war that he declared against organized crime, particularly against the drug cartels.

Perhaps, if the debate on the decriminalization of drugs had been begun before adopting the present course regarding public security, the country would have saved countless lives, widespread social suffering, grave processes of institutional breakdown and astronomical monetary resources. In whatever form, it is urgent and impossible to postpone the analysis of alternatives to the failure of a drug policy that is one only of the police, the military and the judiciary. In that sense anyone who takes this position--though it may be late and contradictory--is welcome." Spanish original

Drug War Merida Initiative: Plan to Train Mexican Officers is Slow to Start

Webb County's (Laredo, Texas) Sheriff is Martin Cuellar, brother of U.S. Rep. Henry Cuellar, D-Laredo. Guess the congressman's plans aren't going so well.
The Texas Tribune: "In August, the Webb County Sheriff's Office hailed a new cross-border training agreement endorsed by the U.S. State Department as a step toward helping Mexican law enforcement agencies beef up their ranks. But six months later, little more than initial planning has taken place." read more

NAFTA vs. Indigenous Mexicans: Hundreds of Mexico’s Huichol Indians trek to their sacred ground seeking to stop silver mine

AP/The Washington Post: "Huichol Indians believe the sun was born in a spot high in the arid Sierra de Catorce mountain range of northern Mexico. For them, that spot — the Cerro del Quemado, or the Burned Mountain — is the center of the universe, a sacred ground. It’s also part of a mining concession Mexico’s government granted to Canada-based First Majestic Silver Corp., and Huichols are fighting to block the project.

More than 600 Huichols wearing colorful clothes with cross-stitch patterns and hats decorated with feathers and beadwork recently made a pilgrimage to the Cerro del Quemado to ask their gods to guide them in keeping the $100 million mining project from starting this year." read more

Feb 23, 2012

¡Viva Mexico!: Nogales, Mexico - A Few Steps, and a Whole World Away

NYTimes.com: "A SIMPLE painted sign on a wooden board — “To Mexico” — was propped near the door in the fence, but it was the fence itself that fascinated me. Some masterpieces are unintentional, the result of a freakish accident or an explosive act of sheer weirdness, and the fence that divides Nogales, Ariz., from Nogales, Mexico, is one of them." read more

Drug Policy Debate: Legalizing drugs may be part of the solution to the drug problem: Mexico Deputy Attorney General

Milenio: "The Mexican Deputy Attorney General for International Affairs (PGR), Alejandro Ramos, said the legalization of drugs can be a part of the solution to combating drug trafficking, but it should be a measure undertaken internationally.

"I believe that policy in this matter must be comprehensive. We should not be closed to legalization; it can be a part of the solution. I do not think it's the total solution, and I also believe that no country alone can take one position or another without the consent of the other members of the international community." He spoke while participating in a seminar on organized crime held by the Euro-Latin-American Parliamentary Assembly, held in the Mexican Senate." Spanish original

Rule of Law - Mexico prison riot: Mexico Human Rights Commission opens investigation

La Jornada: "The National Commission on Human Rights (CNDH) has opened an investigation into the murder of 44 prisoners and the escape of 30 others from the prison of Apodaca, Nuevo Leon, which occurred on Sunday, February 19.

In a statement, the agency headed by Raul Plascencia Villanueva reported that, exercising its power to analyze gross violations of human rights--previously the sole prerogative of the Supreme Court of Justice--the Commission will begin an inquiry into the incident Apodaca, which is now a national and international issue. CNDH staff... will monitor what local authorities do, and then make a recommendation.

Meanwhile, Amnesty International (AI) added itself to the call which various organizations in Mexico and abroad have made to Mexican authorities to conduct a thorough and impartial investigation into what happened in Apodaca and in the Topo Chico prison where, last Tuesday, three more inmates were killed..

... In the same vein, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) expressed its "concern" about what happened in Apodaca, and called upon the Mexican State "to adopt appropriate measures to prevent the recurrence of similar incidents and to investigate and punish those responsible."

As guarantors of the rights of inmates, governments "have a fundamental duty to ensure control and internal security of prisons and can in no way waive this inherent duty," the subsidiary of the Organization of American States stressed." Spanish original

Rule of Law - Mexico prison riot: Apodaca boss and guards arrested

BBC News: "The director of a Mexican prison and 28 guards have been arrested on suspicion of helping a mass breakout and massacre by gang members on Sunday. Thirty inmates with links to the Zetas drugs cartel escaped from the Apodaca jail during the unrest and 44 prisoners from a rival gang were killed.

Investigators say they have evidence that guards helped plan the killings." read more

Feb 22, 2012

Mexico Drug War: Increased Violence Likely in Guanajuato State

STRATFOR: "Unknown assailants thought to be part of the Knights Templar killed eight people and injured another eight Feb. 16 in attacks in six municipalities of Guanajuato state (in central Mexico). The attacks followed the Knights Templar's placement of 18 narcomantas around Guanajuato warning the Cartel de Jalisco Nueva Generacion (GJNG), which has ties to the Sinaloa Federation, to stay out of the state. The narcomantas appeared to be in response to the archbishop of Leon's request on Jan. 22 that organized criminal groups in Guanajuato come to a truce during Pope Benedict XVI's visit to the state, scheduled for March 23.

The incidents also follow the January release of a video depicting the interrogation of Los Zetas leader Hector Daniel Reyes Reyes in which he states he was in Jalisco to prepare for a possible incursion into Leon, Guanajuato's largest city and a regional transportation hub. The attacks, combined with the indications that CJNG and Los Zetas may be attempting a move into Guanajuato, could portend increased violence in the region." read more

Rule of Law: Pre-Trial Detention Brews Crisis in Latin America Prisons

InSight Crime: "Recent prison disasters, with a deadly fire in Honduras and a massacre in Mexico, point to the misuse of pre-trial detention in those countries' justice systems, stuffing penal facilities with people who haven't been charged with a crime.

... Both prisons were severely overcrowded, and filled with inmates who had not yet been convicted or charged. The Mexican prison ... was at 180 percent capacity. In Honduras, two-thirds of the inmate population were being held without a charge, or were awaiting trial. The prison, designed to hold 400 inmates, housed twice that number.

Both Mexico and Honduras have employed pre-trial detention as a core part of the national strategy against organized crime. In a functioning justice system, only those deemed to be high-risk or likely to flee the country are held in prison before trial. Instead, in these countries, suspected first-offense muggers and drug dealers are locked up alongside more serious offenders, with no chance of bail.

Not only has this filled prisons beyond capacity, but it has helped to foster corruption among prison guards, who are unable to exert control over the huge inmate population. The lack of a strong government penal authority further strengthens the networks of corruption and bribery found within the system." read more

Mexico Presidential Race: Voter Indecision

Reforma/Sergio Aguayo: "The mood of citizens is far, far away from those experienced during the presidential elections from 1988 to 2006. While we have emergencies on several fronts, the elections, parties and candidates are seen by a large number of citizens as necessary evils that we have to tolerate and endure.

According to surveys by Reforma in January this year, 59% of voters are undecided. In March 2006, only 28% had doubts, and in 2000 that reduced to 20%. (Reforma, January 15, 2012, March 19 , 2006 and January 17, 2000). One of the main causes of the somber mood and discouragement is the discrediting of political parties. They have plunged into the cellar of the affection of citizens, followed closely by Congress, politicians and the police. For this and other reasons our tender democracy lives in a profound crisis.

Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, Enrique Peña Nieto, Gabriel Quadri and Josefina Vazquez Mota have not been able to go beyond the boundaries imposed by their party faithful.

... I could devote many columns to beating up on the leftist parties. I am ashamed to see their lack of modesty and cynicism with which they  that will allow them to jump to the next position or control those budgets that used to keep on giving suck to their clientele.Where is the dispute about a great thesis to get to Mexico out of its crisis or to resolve the contradictions in its institutions? Where are their proposals to close the huge gap they have with society and with all those undecided voters who otherwise would have given them their vote?

The reality is harsh but better than confront, this year will be the parties that appoint, with their usual methods, the majority of those who occupy positions in the coming years will allow them to make public policy decisions in Congress, governorships and municipalities. Andres Manuel is the only person capable of unifying these mobs ambitious, but how solid is the commitment of the tribes with the reform agenda proposed by the candidate of the left?

A similar phenomenon is observed in the other parties. Peña Nieto and Vazquez Mota are months filled the mouth of "citizens" and swear they will listen to society, which offer the cornucopia of good governance. They were soon added Quadri. As the Left parties, believe that demonstrate the strength of their commitment by inviting leaders of civil organizations, intellectuals, businessmen, artists, and others. It is symbolic concessions that do not alter their way of doing politics, nor influence the way of doing politics. I ask, where is the logic of the party of teachers and the teacher to invite an environmentalist to compete for the presidency?

Perhaps none of the people who aspire to the Presidency achieves society excite or convince the undecided. Regardless of how many voters will President / subjected to rule / aa current standards.In 2000 Vicente Fox had a formidable social organization, the Friends of Fox were millions that were quickly and quietly disbanded because neither the PAN nor the President's inner circle wanted a share.

In 2012 it presented a relatively similar. If successful, Andres Manuel would have Morena, which could serve as a counterweight and balance to the party structures of the left. But that is for the future. At the moment 59% of undecided voters has confirmed the depth of the crisis in our democracy.

Rodrigo Peña González worked." Spanish original

Rule of Law: Inmates start fire inside Mexico prison

Associated Press— Inmates set fire to mattresses and trash Tuesday after officials announced that three prisoners would be moved from the prison where 44 gangs members were massacred this week to a maximum security jail in western Mexico." read more

Mexico Violence: Poverty and unemployment, responsible for the violence in Mexico: survey finds

Milenio: "Poverty and unemployment are the main perpetrators of violence in Mexico, according to a survey by the Office of Strategic Communications. When asked, "In your opinion, what is primarily responsible for violence in the country?" Respondents answered: Poverty/Unemployment: 22%; Lack of educational opportunities: 17%; Previous governments: 16%; Corruption: 13%; Calderon's War: 7%.

Another question of ​​the survey concerned the perception of the level of violence nationwide in the last year, "Would you say, in your opinion, that the level of violence in the past year has increased, has decreased or stayed the same?" 64% of respondents said that violence has increased:" Spanish original

Rule of Law: Grave situation in prisions is responsibility of states: Mexico Interior Secretary

La Jornada: "The head of the Ministry of the Interior, Alejandro Poiré Romero, acknowledged that about 70 percent of federal inmates are currently in state prisons.

Two days after the escape and death of inmates at the prison in Apodaca, Nuevo Leon, the official stressed the responsibility of state governments in such prison incidents. While he implicitly recognized that the federal government is lagging on the issue, he said that, regarding the states' prison issue, the Calderon administration has already done its part.

"Throughout the Calderon administration, there has not been one of these incidents in any of the federal prisons, not one," he said. He also emphasized that there are very dangerous inmates in federal prisons, such as kidnappers. "We are assuming our responsibility to reverse the historical pattern. We are doing it very quickly and without incident in federal prisons," he said.

He noted that at the end of his term (within nine months) eight new prisons will be ready, which will solve the problem of having thousands of inmates prosecuted for federal crimes being held in state prisons. However, he immediatley admitted that the building of more prisons "does not remove the problem of corruption in prisons."

Poiré also stated that the federal government provides resources to states for the maintenance of federal prisoners and for prison infrastructure development.

"Today, the total number of prisoners under federal jurisdiction is 47 thousand and, of these, more than 18,000 are in federal facilities, i.e., we have thirty-something percent of all federal inmates in federal custody," he said.

... In 2006, he claimed, there were six federal facilities and, in December 2011, there were 12 functioning. That is, at the beginning of this administration were only 3,164 inmates in prisons under federal jurisdiction and currently there are 18,283, up almost five times." Spanish original

Movement for Peace: Javier Sicilia criticizes official security plans as inefficient

La Jornada: "The leader of the Movement for Peace with Justice and Dignity, Javier Sicilia, rejected a recent statement by the Interior Minister, Alejandro Poiré, who said that the government's security strategy is beginning to bear fruit. Sicilia noted that the plans remain ineffective to stem the tide of violence that the country is suffering.

"The dead continue to increase; so then what is Poire saying to us? The balance is negative and if it has to do with making up numbers, of building it completely with media lies, then, for them, reality lies," the poet said after an event where the artists' collective, "The Strongest Cry," announced the donation of 73,000 pesos ($5,600 U.S.) for the Peace Movement.

Question: Secretary Poire asked you to evaluate the progress ...

"We do not see progress!"replied the writer. "Where is justice and where is peace? There continue to be dead and missing, then where are the gains? We don't need to assess further the failure of the State in Mexico, or the identity of the victims or the injustice and war that we are living with every day. Don't come to us with these idiocies!"

Earlier in the ceremony, where he received the gift from the artists--obtained through a campaign of videos, "In the Other's Shoes," which seeks to raise public awareness about the crisis of violence in the country--Sicilia stated that such initiatives serve to "visualize the pain that we are living in Mexico, and the need to recover the meaning of words like solidarity and love, perverted by the political class." Spanish original

Feb 21, 2012

Drug War: Shifting Alliances Cannot Halt Weakening of Mexico Cartels

InSight Crime- A recent article published by Proceso argues that Calderon’s crime policy has not only coincided with a dramatic increase in the number of murders linked to organized crime, but has also had the perverse effect of strengthening the very gangs it should be weakening. Written by the longtime drug war chronicler Ricardo Ravelo, it states that:
A bit more than five years after Calderon ordered the militarization of the country, the criminal networks of five cartels -- the Zetas, the Familia Michoacana, and the Sinaloa, Juarez, and Gulf Cartels -- now dominate more than half of the national territory. This expansion has occurred despite the blows these organizations have suffered through arrests or deaths of their leaders.
read more

Rule of Law: Mexico Judicial Police seek to improve their image

Milenio: "The Federal Judicial Police are seeking to renew their image with the launching of a new policing model.

After the dismissal of more than 700 police, nearly 20 percent of its staff, the agency now seeks to improve the expertise of nearly 4,000 agents that work in this division of the PGR (federal Attorney General's office), said the Commissioner of the federal ministerial (judicial or investigative) police, Vidal Díaz Leal Ochoa.

In addition to the purging of staff, there is now a program for national rotation of staff and a strategic model for the evaluation of institutional management that measures the efficiency of each police agent.

Diaz Leal also announced that its officers will be trained by U.S. agents in May as part of the package of support included in the Merida Initiative." Spanish original

Rule of Law: Calderon says government is addressing prison crisis

Milenio: " President Felipe Calderon said that in some states of the Republic, such as Tamaulipas and Nuevo Leon, "where their prison systems are in crisis", new prisons are being built. ...The president said that the majority of a dozen of these new prisons will be nearly ready this year." Also, we are building new institutions, revising the police, the Public Ministry (investigative police), modernizing, applying controls to improve confidence (in the police), creating the Federal Police." Spanish original

Drug War & Rule of Law: 9 prison guards confess to helping Zetas escape in deadly brawl

AP/LA Daily News: "Nine guards have confessed to helping Zetas drug gangsters escape from prison before other Zetas slaughtered 44 rival inmates, a state official said late Monday, underlining the enormous corruption inside Mexico's overcrowded, underfunded prisons.

The top officials and as many as 18 guards at the Apodaca prison in northern Mexico had been detained under suspicion that they may have helped 30 Zetas escape during the confusion of a riot early Sunday in which 44 members of the rival Gulf cartel were bludgeoned and knifed to death." read more

Drug War: Interactive Map Charts Mexico's Drug War

Forbes: "This interactive map lets you compare homicides and drug-related homicides, with the option to examine marijuana, opium, and drug-lab-related homicides. If you click on a bubble, you can see the number of murders over time, dating back to 2004. Important events are highlighted on that time line. You can also draw a shape on the map to look at a particular region." see map

Rule of Law: New attack in another prison in Nuevo Leon, Mexico, leaves three dead

CNN Mexico: "A fight in a prison in Nuevo Leon left three inmates dead Tuesday morning, state officials said. The dead inmates, who had entered the Topo Chico prison on Monday, were killed with knives. ... The spokesman described the event as "a direct attack," and said that officials "discarded the possibility that it was the result of a clash between rival gangs." He added that local authorities will investigate." Spanish original

Rule of Law and Human Rights: UN Human Rights Commissioner calls for investigation of Apodaca prison deaths and escape

Milenio: "The High Commissioner of United Nations Human Rights (OHCHR) today called on Mexico to make an exhaustive inquiry into the deaths of 44 inmates and the escape of 30 inmates from the prison of Apodaca. "Those responsible, including the prison authorities, ought to be brought to justice and all necessary steps taken to prevent the recurrence of such attacks," said agency spokesman, Ravina Shamdasani.

Last week an OHCHR report criticized the state of prisons in Latin America. .... OHCHR urged the Mexican government "to ensure that minimum standards are observed in the conditions of federal and state prisons, ensuring that the security and integrity of the detainees is respected. We also call upon the National Human Rights Commission to monitor prison conditions throughout Mexico," Shamdasani said." Spanish original

Movement for Peace Caravan to the North: Javier Sicilia Talks about Mexican Violence and U.S. Responsibility

North American Congress on Latin America: "This is the third (and final) set of excerpts from a long conversation I had with Sicilia about three weeks ago. In the first installment I excerpted some of Sicilia’s comments on the questions of nonviolence and the process of dialogue. In a second installment, I excerpted comments on the question of the unraveling of Mexico’s social fabric.

In this installment, I present more excerpts from that same conversation, this time focused on the rationale for the MPJD’s upcoming caravan through the United States. This Fall, Sicilia will bring a caravan to the United States, where it will travel from California to New England attempting to raise awareness of the wave of violence Mexico is living through and, in particular, the relationship between that violence and U.S. policies and institutions." read more

Movement for Peace: Interview With Javier Sicilia Part II: Reweaving Mexico’s Social Fabric

North American Congress on Latin America: "In my last blog, published two weeks ago ... I reported on a long conversation I had just had with Javier Sicilia, the founder of the nonviolent, anti-violence group called Movement for Peace with Justice and Dignity (MPJD). In that report I excerpted some of Sicilia’s comments on the questions of nonviolence and the process of dialogue.

In this blog, I present more excerpts from that same conversation, this time focused on Sicilia’s belief that Mexico needs to reconstruct its social fabric—the broad complex of obligations and expectations that groups and individuals owe to and expect from one another—in order to effectively take on the dark forces of violence and organized crime that have beset the country over the past few years." read more

Feb 20, 2012

Freedom of Expression: Community Station in Mexico Conquers Airwaves and Internet

IPS ipsnews.net: "AMECAMECA DE JUÁREZ, Mexico, This city, located 55 km from the Mexican capital on the border between three states of central Mexico - Morelos, Puebla and Mexico – is home to 30,000 people, with another 20,000 in outlying areas.

Ask any local resident and they will tell you about La Voladora, the radio station that won a major legal battle for freedom of expression when it challenged the government in a case in which the Supreme Court handed down a ruling in its favour in 2011. La Voladora is one of the community radio stations with the greatest impact in Mexico, and it now has an on-line presence as well. " read more

Drug War: Mexico Says Prison Riot Masked Escape of Drug-Gang Members

Wall Street Journal—A day after 44 inmates died in Mexico's worst prison riot, authorities said they believed the massacre was a cover for the escape of 30 drug-gang members.

Nuevo León Gov. Rodrigo Medina said that 30 inmates, all members of the Zetas drug cartel, used the massacre on Sunday as cover for an escape from Apodaca state prison, a few miles from the state capital of Monterrey. "Without a doubt there was premeditation," said Mr. Medina, speaking at a news conference. "This was planned."

Mr. Medina said all the dead prisoners were members of the rival Gulf Cartel. The Zetas and the Gulf Cartel have been warring for two years for control of drug routes and lucrative drug markets, especially in the northeastern Mexican states of Nuevo León and Tamaulipas.

Mr. Medina said prison personnel appeared to have been involved in the massacre and escapes. He said four top prison officials had been fired from their jobs, as had 18 guards on duty at the time of the incident. All were being investigated for complicity, he said. As police and soldiers combed the state searching for the escaped prisoners, Mr. Medina said the state was offering a reward of about $800,000 for information leading to their capture. read more

Mexico Economy: Native Farmers in Mexico Help Drive Local Eco-Friendly Farming

Inter Press Service- North America: The largely invisible work of small local groups of indigenous farmers in Mexico who are spearheading the defence of their territory and identity and of native seeds is strengthening ecologically sound family farming, experts say.

"For thousands of years, indigenous people have been responsible for developing agricultural biodiversity," Narciso Barrera, a researcher at the public Autonomous University of Tlaxcala in southern Mexico, told IPS. "However, these efforts remain basically invisible, and they should be highlighted and linked with other local movements."
read more

Drug War: Mexico Attorney General inaugurates program to seize clandesting meth labs

See our post of InSight Crime's analysis of the growth of methamphetamine production in Mexico and its implications for the cartels and for the war against them.

Milenio: "The Attorney General of the Republic, Marisela Morales, inaugurated the Interdepartmental Program for Seizure and Procesecution of Clandestine Laboratories which seeks to train federal officials.

With the help of the DEA (U. S. Drug Enforcement Agency), the Attorney General's office will instruct personnel from the Army, Air Force, Federal Police, Navy and PGR laboratories to detect and seize laboratories that process synthetic drugs.

Ms. Morales said synthetic drug labs have grown exponentially in the country and warned that the process for making these drugs is being industrialized. The current administration has managed to destroy 712 of these places. "The development of synthetic drugs has begun to displace the cultivation of marijuana and poppies among criminal organizations, as well as the acquisition of cocaine," the official explained.

She added that the U.S. government has offered to do the training in the state of Virginia, using officials who excel in this matter." Spanish original

Rule of Law: Politicized Attorney General

John Ackerman is a U.S. born and trained scolar (Ph.D. in political science, University of California, Santa Cruz) who is also a Mexican citizen. He is a researcher in the Institute of Judicial Research of the National Autonomous University of Mexico and editorial director of the Mexican Law Review. He is a columist for La Jornada newspaper and Proceso magazine. He maintains a blog of his articles in Spanish, as well as some in English. 

La Jornada: "The most serious cases of politicization of law enforcement are not the ones known to us, but those that we don't know. The Michoacan cases (in which thirty-some mayors belonging to the PRI--Institutional Revolutionary Party--were arrested on drug corruption charges just before the mid-term congressional elections in 2009 but subsequently released for lack of evidence) and the cases of Greg Sanchez (Cancún area politician charged with, but absolved of ties to drug trafficking) and Jorge Hank Rohn (former PRI mayor of Tijuana), and the ongoing criminal investigations (of Humberto Moreira, former PRI governor of) Coahuila and (three former PRI governors of) Tamaulipas, are only the tip of the iceberg. The real scandal is not that the PGR (Attorney General of Mexico) has decided to investigate and make a show of these politicians, but that it has not done so earlier and in a more systematic and widespread manner.

How many times will Felipe Calderon, for political reasons, order that a criminal case be filed against a high-level official? Why do none of the political front line investigations by the PGR have to do with PAN (National Action Party, the party of President Calderon)? The politicization of justice has been the rule throughout the country's recent history. More serious than the current attempts by Calderon to intimidate his present-day opponents are his pacts of complicity and impunity with his friends of yesterday.

... Mexico needs more, not less, serious investigation of the probable complicity of senior officials and business leaders with organized crime and drug trafficking. The levels of impunity and infiltration that remain in the country today are not just a result of actions by individual police, prosecutors and corrupt judges. Instead, they reflect government policies and systems of complicity that are fostered and tolerated at the highest levels.

Last week, General Guillermo Galván confessed that, in many parts of the country, public safety agencies are completely overrun and that in some regions organized crime has appropriated state institutions. This is not just the responsibility of the PRI, but also of the party that now rules the federal level.

The audit by the Supreme Audit Office of the Federation (ASF) for FY 2010 helps us to understand the reasons for such a monumental failure in public safety. During 2010, for every 100 criminal investigations opened by the Federal Public Ministry (MPF) only 34 were presented before a judge. In other words, 66 percent of investigations were completely without substance, either because the persons being investigated or arrested had nothing to do with the crimes under investigation or because of the total ineptitude of the agents of the MPF to prove the crime or who was responsible. Also during the same year, nearly 7,000 injunctions were canceled because their time limits had expired and the authorities had not acted.

The ASF also found that the PGR simply does not have a reliable record of the arrests and dispositions before the Federal Public Ministry for all of 2010. It turns out that during the process of a change in the systems for recording this information the data was lost or never recorded.

The auditor, Juan Manuel Portal, also certified what many already suspected: the PGR simply does not have an anti-drug strategy. The National Drug Control Program of 2007-2012, which was drafted early in the presidential term, was never properly approved or given institutional follow-up. The PGR also now operates with completely outdated and unworkable rules that do not correspond to the new Organic Law of the institution, published on May 29, 2009.

The recent firing of the special prosecutor for electoral crimes, Jose Luis Vargas, and of the inspector general of the PGR, Cesar Chavez, are not, then, a turn toward greater politicization of the institution, but are just the latest examples of the large institutional weakness have eaten away at the state agency from the beginning of the current administration. While the case of Vargas has received more media attention, the Chavez case is also serious. In 2011 he had achieved a 300 percent increase in the number of observations issued to PGR officials regarding administrative and criminal irregularities. Apparently, this effort to implement a more energetic internal purge made the attorney general, Marisela Morales, uncomfortable.

The good news, however, is that the temporary breakdown of the pact of complicity and impunity between PRI and PAN has allowed important information about political corruption in the country to come to light. The result could be positive if society succeeds in transforming its new knowledge into specific demands for greater accountability by the entire political class." Spanish original

Drug War: Intelligence Center report says contraband-detection device Mexico uses doesn't do its job

El Paso Times: "The GT200 hand-held scanner used by law enforcement in Mexico, a device that led to El Pasoan Shohn Huckabee's arrest on marijuana possession charges, does not work, according to an El Paso Intelligence Center report.

A double-blind study of the MOLE Programmable System (the GT200's precursor) by Sandia Laboratories "showed that there is no possible means by which the device could detect anything, and 'random chance' was more likely to be successful," the EPIC report said." read more

Drug War: Mexico’s messenger angels amid the drug war violence in Ciudad Juarez

torontostar.com: "It’s a sunny and cool Saturday morning in Colonia Barrio Alto, where small houses of unfinished concrete push eastward out of Ciudad Juárez, the border town at the epicentre of Mexico’s drug war violence. Three teenage girls sit on a curb, singing. Faces painted silver, they break harmony occasionally to giggle about missing a note, but stay focused on their main task: fixing a giant set of angel wings.

Next to them, group leader Carlos Mayorga calmly touches up a wooden placard that reads “Hit man, repent: Christ loves you.”" read more

Drug War vs. the Rule of Law: Gang war leads to death of prison inmates in Mexico

sydneymorningherald: "A riot in a northern Mexican prison left 44 people dead on Sunday, providing yet another sign of the violence and crowding overwhelming Latin American prisons... The authorities in Mexico's Nuevo Leon state said a confrontation among inmates in two cell blocks broke out about 2am on Sunday and lasted a few hours before the state and federal police could bring the prison, in Apodaca, under control.

Jorge Domene, a spokesman for the state government, said it appeared members of Los Zetas and the Gulf Cartel, two of Mexico's most powerful criminal groups, started the fight as part of a power struggle, using sharp objects, stones and clubs. He said firearms were not used. ... Local news reports said the prison in Apodaca held 3000 inmates but was built for 1500." read more

Feb 19, 2012

Rule of Law: Lynching in Mexico highlights mistrust of institutions, advancements in oral trials

Justice in Mexico: "A mob lynching in the State of Mexico (Estado de México, aka "Edomex") last week has exposed some of the strengths and weaknesses in Mexico’s public security and criminal justice system. The lynching took place on the night of Friday, February 10, when over 20 people from the town of Chalco, which is about 15 miles from Mexico City, rallied around a youth who was threatened to be kidnapped the day before, and subsequently killed the three alleged kidnappers.

... On the one hand, citizens turning to privatized justice and settling matters on their own highlights the mistrust and lack of confidence many Mexicans have in their police forces and judicial system to adequately handle the problem. ... this is not necessarily a surprise when one considers that the failure to report a crime is very common in Mexico, as the readily accepted figures show that only 25% of crimes are reported, and that only one out of every 1,000 crimes is sentenced.

... Yet at the same time, the legal action that has actually followed from the lynching is a testament to the work being done in Mexico to strengthen the criminal justice and judicial system. Not six days after the lynching, Edomex state police had already arrested the alleged leader of the mob... read more

Mexico Rule of Law: At least 38 people are killed during riot in prison in Nuevo Leon

CNN Mexico: " At least 38 people were killed during a riot that occurred early Sunday at the Center for Social Rehabilitation (Cereso) in the municipality of Apodaca, Nuevo Leon, in the north (of Mexico), a spokesman for Security state security said. He warned that the death toll may rise.

... Apodaca prison is medium security prison housing common law offenders under state administration. It has about 3,000 inmates, a figure that exceeds capacity by 30%, as happens in most prisons in Mexico, EFE (the Spanish news service) reported." Spanish original

Drug War Corruption: General accused of being on the Zetas’ payroll

Justice in Mexico: "According to information published by news outlet Reforma, a General of the Sixth Military Zone based in Coahuila– a state in northern Mexico– was on the payroll of the Zetas’ criminal organization, as investigations by the Military Attorney General’s Office (Procuraduría General de Justicia Militar, PGJM) and the Mexican Attorney General’s Office (Procuraduría General de la República, PGR) have discovered.

... The investigation into members of the military being on the Zetas’ payroll began in March 2011 under the lead of the PGJM and the Special Prosecutor for Organized Crime (Subrocuraduría de Investigación Especializada en Delincuencia Organizada, SIEDO). It has since led to arrest the former sub-delegate of the PGR in Coahuila, Claudia González, and the former Chief of Operations Police (Policía Operativa de Coahuila), Manuel Cicero, on February 15 and 16, 2012, respectively, for their links to the Zetas." read more

Drug Policy Debate: Pro-drug legalization forces are gaining clout

Andres Oppenheimer - MiamiHerald.com: "For the first time since the United States launched its “war on drugs” four decades ago, there are signs that the forces supporting legalization or de-criminalization of illegal drugs are gaining momentum across the hemisphere.

Granted, this is a debate that is just starting at government levels, and that will take years to produce concrete results. But there are several new factors ... that are beginning to pose an increasingly serious challenge to the traditional interdiction-based U.S. anti-drug strategies." read more

Feb 18, 2012

Drug War - Central America: Prison fire puts spotlight on Honduras meltdown

Reuters: "One of the world's worst prison fires has turned a spotlight on the crime, corruption and weak government that has made Honduras a case study for a nation in crisis.

... Even more feared than the Maras (local gangs) are Mexican drug cartels, which in recent years have extended their reach in Honduras. Small planes fly cocaine from Colombia into airstrips hidden in Honduran jungle and old banana plantations, from where Mexican gangsters smuggle it on towards the United States.

Mexico's wealthiest Sinaloa Cartel and the notoriously violent Zetas gang have both built up empires in Honduras, recruiting local hitmen and buying up jungle properties. Increasingly powerful and profitable, Mexican cartels spread their tentacles south as the government launched a military crackdown on them in their homeland five years ago." read more

Mexican Drug Trade Expansion: Sinaloa cartel carving drug routes in Caribbean

GlobalPost: "The Sinaloa cartel, Mexico’s largest drug-smuggling organization, is working with Dominican criminal groups to establish a Caribbean trafficking route, Dominican and US officials said. ... The Sinaloa cartel is seeking to create a route to Europe using the Dominican Republic,” Dominican Ambassador to the US Anibal de Castro said this month... That marked the government’s first public acknowledgement of the group’s presence." read more

Feb 17, 2012

Drug War Politics: Mexicans want security, but candidates to succeed Calderon vague on drug war policy

The Washington Post: "Ever-expanding violence and insecurity have left many Mexicans desperate for a new leader who can stem the killings and pacify the gangsters. But public frustrationhas not translated into a substantive policy debate about how to change course, and political analysts say whoever succeeds Calderon will probably continue fighting the cartels in similar fashion — by working closely with the United States and relying heavily on the Mexican military." read more

Week's Top Articles on Mexico: Feb. 10-16, 2012

Drug War news this week brought the issue of drug legalization to the fore in two arenas. First, the new president of Guatemala, Otto Perez Molina, announced that he would propose discussion of legalization at the next meeting of the heads of Central American governments. The president of El Salvador, Mauricio Funes, after meeting with Perez, said he agreed, but then retracted, evidently after pressure from the U.S.

Meanwhile, in Mexico City an international forum, "Drugs: an Assessment of a Century of Prohibition," was convened to discussed whether or not legalization is a viable alternative to prohibition. It brought together the wife of President Calderon, the Mexican Secretary of the Interior, and leading Mexican and U.S. experts and political analysts. It made for a lively debate.

Human Rights and Rule of Law news centered on a speech by the Mexican Secretary of Defense, General Guillermo Galvan Galvan, in which he acknowledged two things: in parts of Mexico "public security ... is completely overrun," and that the Army has committed "mistakes" that violated human rights.

A Mexican Catholic bishop sharply criticized the militarization of the country as a strategy to intimidate the citizenry. Meanwhile, Mexico was reporting to a U.N. committee regarding the systematic violation of the rights of indigenous people.  The U.N. said it was happy with Mexico's improvements.

As for the Mexican government's efforts to build the rule of law, it announced the training--by U.S. experts--of 8,000 justice system personnel in how to collect evidence and conduct oral trials.

Articles

Drug War

Guatemala president to propose legalizing drugs
The Associated Press: "Guatemalan President Otto Perez Molina said Saturday he will propose legalizing drugs in Central America in an upcoming meeting with the region's leaders. Perez Molina said that his proposal would include decriminalizing the transportation of drugs through the area. "I want to bring this discussion to the table," he said. "It wouldn't be a crime to transport, to move drugs. It would all have to be regulated."" read more

El Salvador’s Funes Retreats on Drug Legalization Debate
The Pan-American Post: "Hours after expressing support for the Guatemalan president’s call for a debate on drug legalization, Salvadoran leader Mauricio Funes has beat a hasty retreat, declaring himself opposed to any such initative. ... He said, "I am not in agreement with the depenalization of drugs; neither the production, nor the transport, nor the consumption." This hasty clarification seems likely to have been made under pressure from Washington.read more

Drug prohibition follows the logic of the past
La Jornada: "To close one's self inflexibly to changing the strategy of total prohibition of drugs and to exclusively use force against the violence generated by organized crime make it impossible to have a healthier and safer society and reduce the use of illicit substances, warned specialists at the international forum, "Drugs: An Assessment of a Century of Prohibition". read more

War on drugs goes beyond legalization says Mexico's Secretary of the Interior
Milenio: "Interior Secretary Alejandro Poire defended the federal government's strategy to combat organized crime, noting that this problem goes beyond the legalization of a product and attention to drug trafficking. Participating in the International Forum "Drugs: an Assessment of a Century of Prohibition," ... Poire said that Mexico does not criminalize drug use. read more

Wife of Mexican president and Secretary of Interior deem drug legalization useless
Excelsior: "Legalizing drugs in Mexico would not solve the problem of violence and addiction, said Margarita Zavala, wife of President Felipe Calderon. ... Ms. Zavala also asserted that legalizing drugs would increase their consumption, and that would generate an increase in violence within families. She said that just as it has been shown that alcohol consumption aggravates situations of domestic violence, exacerbated drug use would produce an even more serious effect. read more

Pay attention to the clamor to legalize drugs, Drug Policy Allliance head suggests to presidential candidates
La Jornada: The New York political scientist, Ethan Nadelmann, who moved from academia (Princeton) to activism against prohibitionist policies in the past two decades, says he does not rule out that the three leading candidates in the upcoming presidential elections in Mexico may pay attention to the voices of civil society, which are gradually beginning to demand the legalization of marijuana. read more

Human Right and Rule of Law Mexico

Defense Minister says Public Security 'Overrun'
InSight Crime: "Mexican Defense Minister Guillermo Galvan Galvan addressed the national security situation in the country, pessimistically describing it in stark terms. “Clearly, in some sectors of the country the public security situation is completely overrun,” said Galvan, adding that “it should be recognized that national security is seriously threatened.” He went on to say that organized crime in the country has managed to penetrate not only society, but also the country’s state institutions." read more

What exactly are the “mistakes” of the Army?
Mexico Institute: "Last Thursday,.. general Guillermo Galván, secretary of National Defense, admitted that the Army has committed "mistakes" in the fight against organized crime.... However, he did not give any details on those "mistakes." They are, concretely: 33 civilians murdered, 225 tortured civilians, 20 victims of rape (17 women and three men), and three forced disappearances between December of 2006 and December of 2011. This information is contained in 82 archives from the National Commission on Human Rights." read more

Mexican Bishop says: militarization of the nation is intended to intimidate
La Jornada: "The terror implanted in the population, as well as the intimidation of human rights defenders, form part of the strategies applied to civil society thanks to the nation's militarization, said the bishop of Saltillo, Raúl Vera López. read more

Mexico will respond to the UN on violation of the rights of indigenous
Milenio: "The Mexican government will have to respond Tuesday, to the UN regarding the systematic violation of the rights of indigenous people, despite their legal status. It will also have to respond as to why it does not respect the rights of migrant workers who cross its territory. ... "The UN Program for Development (UNDP) said, in its 2010 report ... that, despite government measures, indigenous Mexicans suffer greater inequalities than any other group, and that their access to health, education, social security, housing and other services is very limited." read more

UN recognizes scope of “judicial revolution” in Mexico
Milenio: “The Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD) meeting today in Geneva, recognized the impact of the “judicial revolution” which has been carried out in Mexico and which promotes human rights and the fight against discrimination. “The qualitative leap that has been made by the Mexican state in the past decade is a very important fact which marks a substantive advance in the fight against racism and all types of discrimination,”said the CERD rapporteur for Mexico, Pastor Murillo." read more

US Trains Mexico Officials to Carry Out Oral Trials
InSight Crime: "The US Justice Department will train thousands of Mexican public servants to carry out oral trials, as Mexico rushes to implement a series of sweeping judicial reforms in time for a 2016 deadline. Up to 8,000 agents from Mexico's Ministry of Public Security, the Federal Police and the Attorney General's Office will be trained to hold oral, public trials. The initiative will be funded under the terms of the US's primary security program for Mexico, the Merida Initiative. read more

Globalization

Mexico at the Helm of the G20
MexicoBlog: "In a few days Hillary Clinton will be coming to Los Cabos, in Baja California, to take part in an unusual meeting of foreign ministers. Los Cabos is hosting the ministers of G20 countries ... as part of the run-up to the G20 summit to be held in the same resort in June. Mexico took over the presidency of the G20 last December. ... Foreign minister meetings don't normally form part of the Group of 20 process. But the Mexican government seems to have decided on a strategy of multiple and frequent preparatory meetings as the best guarantee for a successful summit...." read more