The view from the hills around Iguala, Mexico, was stunning. But the more Christopher Gregory walked along the paths, the more his eye was drawn to the objects scattered along the way: scraps of clothing, beer bottles, trash. To him, these castoff items were possibly linked to the hundreds of people reported missing — presumably kidnapped, if not killed — by drug cartels that have long operated with impunity…
Little more than six months after 43 students were abducted and presumably killed in Iguala in Guerrero State, Mr. Gregory is wondering about all the other people who have vanished in that region. He had wanted to do a project on the missing students, but abruptly changed his mind when, during the early stages of the search, a mass grave was found with the remains of 28 people.
That became a flash point for him and Jeremy Relph, a writer with whom he had teamed up for the story. Once they got to Iguala, they discovered that disappearances had been going on for years, and on an alarming scale. While the government has put the tally of missing people in Guerrero State at about 120 from January to November of last year, local advocates working with families reported that some 400 people had been reported missing in Iguala alone in recent years.
“The photo is an evidentiary document,” he said. “There is no way to witness these kidnappings or document these violations of human rights, other than to point at the residue and try to have a conversation about what it means, how it looks like and how do we navigate these complex social and political issues, as well as the psychological issues. You can’t believe anybody or trust anybody in these areas because for all intents and purposes, they’re lawless.”
RTFA. Take a good look at what lawless means. You don’t need to go to the Arabian Peninsula or the Horn of Africa.
No – these are not Dick Cheney’s private personal bodyguards
A Kremlin spokesman reminded Russia’s republic of Chechnya that it is illegal for Russian regions to send weapons abroad, after the Chechen parliament threatened to supply arms to Mexico for it to fight the United States.
The Chechen parliament made the statement in response to a U.S. congressional resolution that called for sending lethal military aid to Ukraine…
U.S. arms supplies to Ukraine would be interpreted as a signal to send “the most modern weapons to Mexico” for the resumption of discussions on the legal status of “U.S.-annexed territories that now house … California, New Mexico, Arizona, Nevada, Utah, Colorado and a part of Wyoming,” Chechnya’s parliament speaker, Dukuvakha Abdurakhmanov, said Tuesday in an online statement.
Mexico ceded these territories to the U.S. under the 1848 Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo, a peace deal that ended the Mexican-American War. In exchange, the U.S. agreed to pay $15 million to Mexico and to assume another $3.25 million in debt owed by the Mexican government to American citizens.
The remaining parts of present-day New Mexico and Arizona were bought by the U.S. for $10 million under a separate purchase in 1853…
Abdurakhmanov was responding to a resolution overwhelmingly approved by the U.S. House of Representatives earlier this week that urged President Barack Obama to provide lethal military aid to Ukraine to help it protect its territorial integrity from pro-Russian separatists in the east.
They could even make a buck from selling arms to idjit secessionists in our Confederate states or scumbags in the Bundy militia.
There is no need to detail the NRA’s commitment to the equally amoral crew of profiteers in the US gun industry. They are as devoid of ethics as any European munitions producer in the 19th Century. With matching political puppets.
Which makes the Chechen threat laughable. Gun shops, the whole range of NRA flunkies along the Mexican border already run an efficient highway providing weapons to criminals in Mexico. They’re not about to let some furriner interfere with a profitable trade. Politicians ranging from Tea Party idjits to fascist-minded Confederate revivalists will move heaven and earth to keep the dollars flowing into the United States from drug gangs. Taking their own cut as usual.
Blogs – We don’t need no stinking blogs
A group of Mexican media outlets and civil society groups have launched MexicoLeaks, a digital platform to receive information leaks that could lead to corruption investigations.
Representatives of the effort said…that those wanting to leak information can do so anonymously. Information and tips will be investigated and confirmed before anything is published.
The effort includes two civil society organizations and six media outlets, including Mexico’s weekly magazine Proceso, the website Animal Politico and the investigative unit of journalist Carmen Aristegui.
The launch comes at a time when the Mexican government faces scandals of alleged corruption and conflict of interest, specifically in the purchase of real estate, that have come to light through journalistic investigations. Those involved have maintained that the transactions were legal.
“Overdue” is putting it mildly.
Mexican officials have reportedly offered millions in tax incentives for Sony and MGM to shoot the next James Bond installment in Mexico.
A report posted on the American website Tax Analysts, shows emails of Mexico offering up to $20 million in tax incentives for filmmakers to change their script, cast “a known Mexican actress” and shoot Mexico in a positive light to combat the country’s negative image…
The original script included an assassin named Sciarra, who had his sights on the mayor of Mexico City, however, Mexican officials insisted that the villain “cannot be Mexican” and requested his target be changed to an international leader instead.
In exchange for their financial incentives, Mexican officials also reportedly demanded that Stephanie Sigman be given a Bond role, which seems to have been secured with the announcement last week. Sigman will be playing the character of Estrella.
The studio admits Mexico’s changes to the script went beyond what governments typically allow in film deals, however, they apparently allowed Mexico to “make casting decisions, dictate characters’ ethnicities, and even change the occupation of an unnamed character that never appears on-screen or figures into the story outside of the opening scene.”
I’m not certain how lasting the script changes will be in pop culture. The fact remains that most of the news finding its way out of Mexico remains couched in terms of which innocent citizens were killed by drug gangs, which innocent citizens were killed by drug gangs in cahoots with local police – or which drug gangs were killing each other while the police stood by waiting to see who was left alive to pick up the tab for their cooperation in killing innocent citizens.
“I didn’t notice anyone missing. Did you?”
A U.N. committee accused Mexico of failing to adequately prosecute and convict individuals responsible for enforced disappearances.
The United Nations Committee on Enforced Disappearances has published its concluding observations…about Mexico’s efforts to combat enforced disappearances at the request of the relatives of the 43 disappeared Ayotzinapa students…
The experts voiced concern at “impunity regarding numerous cases of enforced disappearances.”
The recommendations from the U.N. panel calls on the Mexican government to adhere to the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance (ICCPED), under which all signatory parties are required to fully investigate enforced disappearances and bring all those responsible to justice…
The Mexican government ratified the ICCPED in 2010, which stipulates that all signatory parties’ allow the U.N. Committee on Enforced Disappearances authorization to hear individual cases of alleged disappearances and issue recommendations…
According to official figures, almost 50 percent of the 22,322 disappeared people went missing between 2012 and 2014 under the current administration of President Enrique Peña Nieto.
I’ve said it before. Let me say it, again.
Corruption, the absence of rule by law, the dominance of neighborhood by neighborhood, provincial, regional rule by gangsters, vicious killers wholly insulated from justice by bought-and-paid-for coppers – this is the stuff of daily life in Mexico. It lies at the core of my personal boycott of our southern neighbor. And, yes, it is also key to my contempt for jingoist, Amerika First Republicans, cruel conservatives who don’t understand commerce and base their definition of economic justice on bigotry.
A mesmerizing time-lapse video shows a Mexican volcano’s explosive eruption — spewing ash high into the sky.
The Colima volcano exploded around 9:15 a.m. Wednesday and sent an ash column about 29,000 feet into the air.
More than five minutes of the vulcanian eruption, which ejects lava fragments and lots of volcanic ash, were condensed into 30 seconds for the clip…
Experts say Colima is one of Mexico’s most active volcanoes, with multiple eruptions in recent weeks alone.
A Mexican startup has developed a new method of recycling plastic that does away with water and only consumes half the energy of previous systems. At the same time, it produces plastic pellets of equal or better quality, resulting in an environmentally friendlier process that also promises to be significantly cheaper.
Plastic recycling can turn discarded bottles and other scrap into a myriad of useful objects, helping produce anything from polyester clothes to 3D printing filaments and even diesel. However, it is a long, laborious affair that consumes plenty of resources – especially water. Among other things, the plastic needs to be thoroughly washed to get rid of impurities, carefully dehydrated inside an oven, and then water-cooled once again as the newly-formed plastic filaments are cut into small pellets.
According to Marco Adame, the new method that his startup has come up with can produce pellets of equal or better quality using just half of the energy by getting rid of the need for these temperature extremes, while also doing away with the need for water altogether. The system uses special walls that, on contact, are able to both mold the plastic into the desired pellet shape and cool those pellets at the same time…
Adame says that using his technique, the same machines are able to process styrofoam, polystyrene and ABS, which together make up about 90 percent of all plastics. The improved versatility would mean less space would be needed for operation.
Bravo! One industry that has always availed itself of recycling capabilities is the plastics industry. A lot of the tech translated over from both the tradition of physical re-use of rubber goods and the comparatively easy chemistry that touched the physical properties of recycling plastic.
Removing water requirements and using less energy in the process is an unexpected twofer.
Meanwhile – Relatives of 43 missing students protest at the presidential residence in Mexico City –
– victims of the same interlocking directorate of government and gangsters in Mexico
With the Mexican government facing widespread public outrage over the alleged role of police and other officials in the September forced disappearance of 43 students, and the killings of at least six others, from Ayotzinapa Normal School, the country’s federal prosecutor (PGR) has for the first time declassified a document on the suspected participation of police in the kidnapping and massacre of hundreds of migrants in San Fernando massacres of 2010-11.
The new revelations, along with key U.S. documents on how violent drug cartels gained control of local police forces in parts of Mexico during the last decade, are the subject of “San Fernando-Ayotzinapa: las similitudes” (“San Fernando-Ayotzinapa: the similarities”), an article published online…in Mexico’s Proceso magazine in collaboration with Michael Evans and Jesse Franzblau of the National Security Archive.
According to declarations from members of the Los Zetas drug cartel named in the newly-declassified “Tarjeta Informativa” (“informative note” or “information memo”), the police acted as “lookouts” [“halconeo”] for the group, helped with “the interception of persons,” and otherwise turned a blind eye to the Zetas’ illegal activities.
Those crimes included the summary execution of 72 migrants pulled from intercity buses in San Fernando in August 2010 and an untold number of similar killings that culminated in the discovery, in April 2011, of hundreds more bodies in mass graves in the same part of the Mexican state of Tamaulipas. The victims were mainly Central American migrants making their way to Texas, which borders Tamaulipas to the north. The state’s highways are at once primary avenues for migrants and highly-contested narcotrafficking corridors.
One of the police detainees cited in the memo, Álvaro Alba Terrazas, told investigators that San Fernando police and transit officials were paid to deliver prisoners to the Zetas…
If the facts surrounding the San Fernando case seem eerily familiar, it is beacuse they follow pattern seen over and over again in recent years. Like the Ayotzinapa case, the San Fernando massacres are symptomatic of the dirty war of corruption and narcopolitics that has consumed parts of Mexico over the last decade. Killings like these are disturbingly common, and the forces behind the mayhem—usually drug cartels counting on the collaboration of, at a minimum, local police—are remarkably consistent.
RTFA for more details of government corruption than the most cynical might imagine.
The task of decriminalizing the Mexican government is Herculean. It feels like that nation and the government should take a year or two off from every other activity and simply focus on jailing all the politicians and their gangster compadres. Only then might Mexico start all over again as a free and democratic nation.
The tomatoes, peppers and cucumbers arrive year-round by the ton, with peel-off stickers proclaiming “Product of Mexico.”
Farm exports to the U.S. from Mexico have tripled to $7.6 billion in the last decade, enriching agribusinesses, distributors and retailers.
American consumers get all the salsa, squash and melons they can eat at affordable prices. And top U.S. brands — Wal-Mart, Whole Foods, Subway and Safeway, among many others — profit from produce they have come to depend on.
These corporations say their Mexican suppliers have committed to decent treatment and living conditions for workers.
But a Los Angeles Times investigation found that for thousands of farm laborers south of the border, the export boom is a story of exploitation and extreme hardship.
Many farm laborers are essentially trapped for months at a time in rat-infested camps, often without beds and sometimes without functioning toilets or a reliable water supply.
Some camp bosses illegally withhold wages to prevent workers from leaving during peak harvest periods.
Laborers often go deep in debt paying inflated prices for necessities at company stores. Some are reduced to scavenging for food when their credit is cut off. It’s common for laborers to head home penniless at the end of a harvest.
Those who seek to escape their debts and miserable living conditions have to contend with guards, barbed-wire fences and sometimes threats of violence from camp supervisors.
Major U.S. companies have done little to enforce social responsibility guidelines that call for basic worker protections such as clean housing and fair pay practices.
The farm laborers are mostly indigenous people from Mexico’s poorest regions. Bused hundreds of miles to vast agricultural complexes, they work six days a week for the equivalent of $8 to $12 a day.
The squalid camps where they live, sometimes sleeping on scraps of cardboard on concrete floors, are operated by the same agribusinesses that employ advanced growing techniques and sanitary measures in their fields and greenhouses.
One of ~100,000 Mexican children under 14 who pick crops…He is 9 years old.
The comparison with Edward R Murrow’s “Harvest of Shame” about migrant labor on US farms in 1960 is appropriate. Some of the poor buggers in that documentary probably were the fathers and mothers, grandfathers and grandmothers of folks revealed in this series of articles.
This is the kind of long-form journalism still popular outside the United States. Sometimes, I feel our Establishment deliberately encourages Americans to develop the attention span of a cricket. It would be an injustice for me to use my usual editor’s X-Acto knife on the wealth of information inside these articles. Richard Marosi and Don Bartletti are to be congratulated much for their work undercover – and cold-call walk-ins. I hope the journalism craft recognizes their work appropriately.
Please, please, RTFA. There’s a link above to this the first in the series.
Here are the links to:
Part 2: A raid exposes brutal conditions at Bioparques, one of Mexico’s biggest tomato exporters, which was a Wal-Mart supplier. But the effort to hold the grower accountable is looking more like a tale of impunity.
Part 3: The company store is supposed to be a lifeline for migrant farm laborers. But inflated prices drive people deep into debt. Many go home penniless, obliged to work off their debts at the next harvest.
Part 4: About 100,000 children under 14 pick crops for pay at small- and mid-size farms across Mexico, where child labor is illegal. Some of the produce they harvest reaches American consumers, helping to power an export boom.
Kudos for finding us one of the best pieces of American journalism in quite a while
Christy Thornton is earning a doctorate in Latin American history at New York University and is a board member of the North American Congress on Latin America.
In early October, I attended a rally outside the Mexican consulate in New York City to protest the disappearance of a group of students taken by police in the state of Guerrero two weeks earlier. On a busy midtown Manhattan street, a dozen people gathered to call attention to the missing students and demand their return. A passerby, puzzled by the commotion, stopped a protester to ask what they were shouting about. When he was told what had happened, he asked incredulously, “But they were Mexican students? Killed in Mexico? Why should we care here?”
Indeed, why should ordinary Americans care about the rampant corruption, extrajudicial violence and culture of impunity that has overtaken Mexico in the eight years since then-President Felipe Calderón declared war on the drug cartels? Why should they care about 100,000 dead and at least 20,000 disappeared, some of whose remains are being uncovered in a quickly metastasizing map of mass graves? Why should they care about the 43 teachers in training, rounded up by police and turned over to a gang of killers who, it is alleged, burned their bodies and dumped what remained in a local river? Why should they care about the surging protests, the tens of thousands marching in the streets of Mexico’s cities and towns, calling for the renunciation of President Enrique Peña Nieto and declaring “Fue el estado” (It was the state)?
Here’s why Americans should care: We are collectively funding this war. Our tax dollars, in the form of security aid, provide the equipment, weapons and training to state security forces responsible for an ever-lengthening rap sheet of human rights abuses. U.S. drug habits, in the form of an insatiable market for narcotics, marijuana and amphetamines, provide the liquid cash that has proved so corrosive when it has come into contact with every level of the Mexican state.
This is our war, on our drugs. We have created the Mexico from which we now distance ourselves — but we can’t afford to turn our backs any longer.
Since 2007, the U.S. government has spent roughly $3 billion on security aid to Mexico, through the George W. Bush–era Mérida Initiative, which was extended indefinitely by President Barack Obama, and through counternarcotics programs run by the Defense and Justice departments. Those funds served to militarize the war on drugs and contributed to the extraordinary increase in violence under Calderón…
The aid provided by the U.S. government pales compared with the estimated $30 billion a year that the sale of drugs in the United States sends to Mexico. And it is that money that is coursing through Mexico’s political veins, infecting everyone from small town mayors and state governors to federal security officials, rotting the Mexican state from within and leaving the protesters without recourse. Small wonder that many in Mexico have taken up the slogan that brought down the Argentine government in 2001: Que se vayan todos (Throw them all out).
The U.S. government’s response to the demands of the Mexican people for respect, answers and justice has been tellingly quiet. No word from Obama or Secretary of State John Kerry. So far, we have only the pleas of a State Department spokeswoman for “all parties to remain calm.” This statement was triggered by fears that the protests will turn violent, an outrageous worry, given the scale and brutality of state violence that provoked them.
The White House continues the great American tradition of deciding for the rest of the world whose violence counts and whose doesn’t. If people rise up to strike out against corruption that has nothing to do with the management of official America’s response. As usual, money talks. Policy set in motion decades ago by some of the most useless politicians in our history – are accepted as holy writ.