Torture in Mexico reaching catastrophic levels

La Jornada: According to Amnesty International, Mexico’s torture epidemic continues, reaching “catastrophic levels in the past year, with more than double the number of reports at the federal level of suffocation, rape and other sexual abuse, electric shocks and beatings.”

In the report, [.pdf full English text] AI stated that the number of complaints for torture more than doubled between 2013 and 2014, from 1,164 to 2,403, according to the Attorney General’s Office…

…It was asked why President Enrique Peña Nieto has not launched an initiative in Congress for a general law on torture, as a first step in addressing the crisis, when he said he would. The deadline for the Legislature to approve the initiative is in less than three months (January 2016) and it has not yet been delivered…

Erika Guevara-Rosas, Americas Director AI, said: “A strong general law against torture, which means more than words and ensures justice for the victims, would be a good first step for Mexico to recover from the deep crisis of human rights in which it is immersed.”

She added that it was hard to imagine a year ago that Mexico’s torture crisis could get any worse, and now we see that that is exactly what happened as the government continues to ignore a crisis it created.

AI noted in its report that the President’s commitment to the law is a major step forward, but these paper promises have not been accompanied by concrete results that would translate into a change in people’s lives.

Same as it ever was. Not just in Mexico, not just in Israel, not just in offshore prisons run by the United States. The mentality of many “freedom-loving” democracies often finds excuses for torture.

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Texas/Mexico pipeline opposition builds in Big Bend country

No pipeline
Click to enlargePhotograph/Tom Dart

Thorny mesquite branches scratched the sides of James Spriggs’ battered old Chevrolet truck as he drove the rutted pathway from his house towards other, less natural, spiky objects.

On his 4,400-acre ranch there are deer, quail, jackrabbits, roadrunners, dragonflies and even the occasional eagle or mountain lion. And there are wooden stakes indicating the route of a natural gas pipeline that will slice through his property against his wishes.

“They stand out, kind of out of the ordinary, when the light’s correct on them,” he said, picking up a stake that lay flat beneath a small tree. Since their discovery, Spriggs and others have made it their mission to protest a proposal that would be routine almost anywhere else in the state.

Many moved to Big Bend because it is spiritually and physically unlike much of the rest of Texas, which long ago kowtowed to the boom-and-bust thrust of Big Oil, with all its possibilities and problems.

Some 426,000 miles of pipelines already crisscross Texas, acting as the cardiovascular system of the state’s thriving economy. Only one large area is untouched, but that is about to change – unless a diverse group of citizens can prevail in an underdog fight against billionaires, anemic regulators and new economic realities…

The oil industry may be squirming because of the low price of crude, but natural gas pipelines are sprouting as a response to soaring demand in Mexico and legal changes there in 2014 that make it easier for foreign exporters to sell the fruits of the Texas fracking boom…

The Trans-Pecos pipeline is a partnership between companies controlled by billionaires: Mexico’s Carlos Slim, reportedly the world’s second-richest man, and Kelcy Warren, head of Dallas-based Energy Transfer Partners, which in February welcomed former Texas governor and failed Republican presidential hopeful Rick Perry to its board of directors.

They hope that construction will start in the first quarter of next year and in 2017 the 42-inch pipeline will transport 1.4bn cubic feet of natural gas per day from a processing plant near Fort Stockton to the border, where the line will go under the Rio Grande and connect with Mexican infrastructure.

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Crucial October 10 match: USA vs. Mexico

The Mexican view of the upcoming match is more fun than SPORTS ILLUSTRATED

Judgment day is coming on October 10 for the U.S. men’s soccer program, or at least the closest thing to judgment day not related to the World Cup. On that day, two important games will take place. One is the senior team’s showdown with Mexico at the Rose Bowl for a berth in the 2017 Confederations Cup. The other is a one-game decider for the Under-23 team with a spot in the 2016 Olympics on the line.

The U.S.-Mexico game is a mid-term referendum on Jurgen Klinsmann the U.S. men’s national team coach, while the Olympic berth is a referendum on Klinsmann the U.S. technical director. It’s a results-based business, so the takeaways will be relatively easy to make: Elation with two wins. Disaster with two losses. And something in between if there’s a mix.

The senior match is one of those where I will use the 4K upscaling critter in my living room to sit 5 feet away from the screen to watch. Hopefully, all the way through to the end. 🙂

25,000 disappeared in Mexico since 2007 – half in 3 years under Peña Nieto


Click to enlargeYuri Cortez/AFP

Like Gambia, Syria, Sri Lanka and Bosnia and Herzegovina, Mexico is a country whose government uses enforced disappearance to silence their critics and instil fear…

On August 27, Salil Shetty, Secretary General of Amnesty International, presented a report to mark International Day of the Disappeared, which reveals that since 2007 — i.e., during the administrations of Felipe Calderón [2006-2012] and Enrique Peña Nieto [2012- ] — almost 25,000 people have disappeared in Mexico.

AI reported that almost half the disappearances, 12,500, have occurred during the current administration

In listing emblematic cases of enforced disappearance, Amnesty International cited the disappearance of the 43 Ayotzinapa students as a case with great impact worldwide. The AI report states…”Even with the world’s attention on the case, Mexican authorities have failed to properly investigate all aspects of the case, especially the disturbing criticism regarding complicity of the armed forces.”

AI is organizing a campaign of letters urging the president of Mexico, Enrique Peña Nieto, to investigate these disappearances. The end of this article has a sample of the letter in English and a link to the same in Spanish.

Here’s how to contact him online.

Journalist’s death points out danger of telling the truth in Mexico


Ruben Espinosa interview just days before his murder

The young photographer had fled the state of Veracruz in fear for his life to seek security in Mexico City. On Sunday the 2nd, his fellow journalists mourned the loss of Ruben Espinosa, shot to death two days earlier in a middle-class neighborhood in the capital…

“We’re really surprised that it happened here,” said Sashenka Gutierrez, 35, a Mexican photojournalist who knew Espinosa. “He came here to feel safe.”

But she said the idea that Mexico City could be a haven for journalists fleeing violence in other states had been shattered. Asked what response she expected from Mexican authorities, she shrugged.

“We fear that Ruben’s case will be just another name on the list.”

Espinosa, 31, was the 12th journalist who worked in the state of Veracruz to be killed since 2011. Three more are missing…

The Mexico branch of the international advocacy group Article 19 said that Espinosa’s death marked a new level in violence against journalists in Mexico…

“The threats that Espinosa had suffered were public, and his murder happened because the authorities charged with protecting journalists in this country didn’t lift a finger for him,” said a statement from the group.

A significant change in the violence committed upon those we rely on to bring us news and truth has grown – and continues to grow throughout the world. From warzones in the Middle east to unofficial warzones in the Americas, journalists are in danger of torture and death for simply doing their job.

Authorities charged with protecting all citizens, oftimes with a special constitutional mandate to protect a free press – refuse to do their job.

TPP talks crash and burn — not every nation willing to rollover for Obama

Pacific Rim trade ministers have failed to clinch a deal to free up trade between a dozen nations after a dispute flared between Japan and North America over cars, New Zealand dug in over dairy trade and no agreement was reached on monopoly periods for next-generation drugs.

Trade ministers from the 12 nations negotiating the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), which would stretch from Japan to Chile and cover 40 percent of the world economy, fell just short of a deal on Friday at talks on the Hawaiian island of Maui…

The result frustrated negotiators who had toiled to cross off outstanding issues and made significant progress on many controversial issues.

Three sources involved in the talks told the Reuters news agency that a last-minute breakthrough had been viewed as unlikely due to issues with dairy and auto trade and a standoff over biologic drugs made from living cells.

Australian Trade Minister Andrew Robb said the problem lay with the “big four” economies of the United States, Canada, Japan, and Mexico. “The sad thing is, 98 percent is concluded,” he said.

Failure to seal the agreement is a setback for US President Barack Obama, given the trade pact’s stance as the economic arm of the administration’s pivot to Asia and an opportunity to balance out China’s influence in the region…

Obama promised oil income to Canada and Mexico, agricultural income to Canada and Mexico, monopoly power to US Pharmaceutical giants and American Tech firms. Japan as our pet stalking horse on the Asian side of negotiations was promised continued niche protections which would help keep Abe’s political party in power. Everyone else was supposed to line up in tidy little rows and nod their bobbleheads. Especially those nations like Australia with Conservatives holding power.

Didn’t happen.

If this doesn’t happen before the end of the year, the TPP is probably dead. An election year in the United States guarantees no legislative approvals more radical than Congress voting for baseball, motherhood and apple pie.

Prepare for five months of carrots, sticks, butt-kissing and bribes.

Cilantro imports banned from Mexican farms littered with feces and toilet paper

The US has banned imports of cilantro from several farms in the Mexican state of Puebla after an investigation found growing fields littered with human feces and toilet paper.

A joint investigation by the US Food and Drug Administration and Mexican authorities found “objectionable” hygiene conditions in eight of 11 cilantro farms inspected in Puebla, Mexico’s fourth-biggest state, 130km (80 miles) south-east of the capital.

Five of the eight Puebla farms have been linked to recurrent outbreaks of the serious gastric disease cyclosporiasis in the US since 2012. The herb is thought to be at least partially responsible for a current outbreak which has so far sickened 200 people in Texas.

The disease, which is caused by a parasite that lives in human faeces, can lead to severe diarrhea, stomach cramps, weight loss, nauseas, vomiting, fever, extreme tiredness and other flulike symptoms. It can last from a few days to more than a month, and even after the symptoms disappear, some people will suffer recurrent relapses. In rare cases, people can suffer long-term muscle weakness and tiredness.

The parasite is spread by people ingesting contaminated food or water, but is not transmitted person to person…

In Puebla they found that some farms had no toilet or handwashing facilities for workers, while others had bathrooms but no running water, soap or paper towels. They also found visibly dirty surfaces where the herb was cut, bundled and stored, including the crates used for transportation. The water used to wash coriander in some farms may have been contaminated by sewage.

At one firm, the storage tank which supplied workers with water for handwashing tested positive for the cyclospora parasite that causes the illness…

The summer ban will continue in future years unless a company can prove to health authorities that its product is safe.

The FDA said it is tightening documentation requirements after it found firms producing coriander in Puebla often do business under multiple names and addresses, and some falsely claimed their suppliers are located outside of the state.

Cripes. Grow your own, folks. Easy-peasy as having a basil plant, Italian parsley or some rosemary in your kitchen window.

We planted it once in our courtyard kitchen garden and it came back for years.

Mexico latest Latin nation to pass USA on legalizing same-sex marriage


Hiram Gonzalez married Severiano Chavez in ChihuahuaCheros/AC

His church turned him away, his family discouraged him from a public fight and the government of the state where he lives vowed it would never happen.

But it did. Hiram Gonzalez married his boyfriend, Severiano Chavez, last year in the northern state of Chihuahua, which, like most Mexican states, technically allows marriage only between a man and a woman.

Mr. Gonzalez and dozens of other gay couples in recent months have, however, found a powerful ally: Mexico’s Supreme Court.

In ruling after ruling, the court has said that state laws restricting marriage to heterosexuals are discriminatory. Though the decisions have been made to little public fanfare, they have had the effect of legalizing gay marriage in Mexico without enshrining it in law…

As the United States awaits a landmark decision on gay marriage by the Supreme Court, the Mexican court’s rulings have added the country to a slowly growing list of Latin American nations permitting same-sex unions.

Argentina, Uruguay and Brazil already allow same-sex marriage. Chile plans to recognize same-sex civil unions this year; Ecuador approved civil unions in April; and Colombia grants same-sex couples many of the same rights extended to heterosexual married couples…

The shift in Mexico, the second largest country in Latin America after Brazil, is the product of a legal strategy that advocates used to bypass state legislatures, which have shown little inclination, and often hostility, to legalizing gay marriage.

In 2009, Mexico City, a large liberal island in this socially conservative country, legalized gay marriage — a first in Latin America. There have been 5,297 same-sex weddings there since then, some of them couples coming to the city from other states…

The Supreme Court upheld Mexico City’s law in 2010, adding that other states had to recognize marriages performed there.

Alex Ali Mendez, the lawyer pressing these cases, said the next step in the legal process was compiling enough injunctions in each state to reach a threshold under which the court could formally order state legislatures to rewrite their laws.

But experts said that Mexico had already reached a watershed.

A similar watershed exists among ordinary American citizens. Meaningless to Congress.

There are a fair number of judges in Mexico who hold to the traditions of law aiding the progress of their nation. Completely at odds with the philosophy of American conservatives and their pet judges on the Supreme Court. Progress for our nation, our people, means nothing to their theocratic minds. Preserving a backwards view of the past, as distorted as that may be, is their cardinal waypoint.

With politicians as corrupt as any in the hemisphere, Americans see the only exceptions being political action in blue states and the majority of federal courts. Still, when you get to the ultimate federal court in the nation, progress is held hostage to liars, frauds appointed by reactionary and cowardly hacks under Republican administrations.

Everything you hear about the Mexican Drug War is crap!

An interview with Mexican investigative journalist Anabel Hernández

What are the biggest misconceptions that you see in the media about the drug war?

When I started to work on that book about Chapo Guzmán back in 2005, I had the same misconceptions that most of the media and journalists had in Mexico, the U.S. and the rest of the world. I had swallowed the story that Chapo Guzmán was just a brilliant criminal — a man so intelligent that he was capable of subjecting the governments of Mexico and the United States to his will. The Mexican government constantly said they couldn’t catch him because he lived in a cave in a mountain in the Sierra Sinaloa surrounded by people who protected him.

And those of us in the media had only concentrated on the legend of Chapo Guzmán, based on his violence, on the tons of drugs he trafficked, without asking ourselves, “How does he do it? How can this man be so powerful?” And the only way of explaining how the Sinaloa cartel and Chapo Guzmán became so powerful is with the complicity of the government…

I starting doing public information requests in Mexico to see if these things being said in [the U.S.] courts were true. What I found was that during Felipe Calderón’s so-called drug war, the cartel that was attacked the least, that had the fewest arrests, was the Sinaloa cartel. And in government statistics, throughout the Felipe Calderón administration’s six years, there were increases in marijuana production, increases in opium production, increases in amphetamine production, increases in drug consumption in Mexico. What kind of drug war is this where a cartel gets stronger, becomes the most powerful cartel in the world, and on the other hand, drug production reaches historic levels in Mexico?…

What’s the United States’ role in all of this?

For me, one of the truly pressing questions is: What does the government of the United States want? What is really its objective? To end drug production in Mexico? To destroy the drug cartels? Or to control them and administer the business? I’ve found, for example, that in the case of the Sinaloa cartel, there have been agreements between the DEA [U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency] and the Sinaloa cartel where they gave the cartel immunity — You guys traffic what you want, and in exchange, give me the names of the leaders of your enemy cartels. And that was how the DEA and the Mexican government went about capturing many of Chapo Guzmán’s enemies during the Felipe Calderón administration.

RTFA for more details – including Hernandez’ opinion about the abduction and murder of 43 students in Iguala.

What comes home to me is the failed War on Drugs continues a death spiral throughout every nation we infect with this stupidity, this incompetent, moralistic, absolutely backwards approach to the question of drug abuse.