Tuesday, December 7, 2010

WNU #1059: US Leaks Hit Mexican Military, “Drug War”

Weekly News Update on the Americas
Issue #1059, December 5, 2010

1. Mexico: US Leaks Hit Military, “Drug War”
2. Mexico: Calderón Tries to “Isolate” Venezuela
3. Mexico: Violence Against Women and Activists Continues
4. Honduras: Campesinos March for Land Rights
5. Guatemala: Canadian Mine Sued in Activist’s Death
6. Links to alternative sources on: Argentina, Chile, Paraguay, Bolivia, Ecuador, Colombia, Venezuela, Honduras, Mexico, Haiti, US

ISSN#: 1084 922X. Weekly News Update on the Americas covers news from Latin America and the Caribbean, compiled and written from a progressive perspective. It has been published weekly by the Nicaragua Solidarity Network of Greater New York since 1990. For a subscription, write to weeklynewsupdate@gmail.com . It is archived at http://weeklynewsupdate.blogspot.com/

*1. Mexico: US Leaks Hit Military, “Drug War”
The US government hopes to develop a closer relationship with the Mexican military as a result of Mexico’s “war on drugs” and international humanitarian operations, according to US diplomatic cables obtained by the WikiLeaks group and posted on Dec. 2 by the Spanish daily El País. The cables also show that US and Mexican officials know the “drug war” itself is going badly, despite their public expressions of optimism.

The Mexican military has traditionally been suspicious of the US, which invaded Mexico on several occasions and seized one half of its territory in the 1840s, but Mexican attitudes are changing, according to a secret Jan. 29, 2010 assessment by the US embassy. Mexico and the US are now collaborating closely in the fight against drug trafficking, with the US funding Mexican military operations through the Mérida Initiative [see Update #952]. The Mexican navy has been receiving special operations forces (SOF) training from the US military, according to the cable, and by January the army too was asking for training. The Jan. 12 earthquake in Haiti also provided an opportunity for closer collaboration: there were “[i]ncipient steps towards logistical interoperability with US forces…ongoing related to Haiti relief,” the embassy wrote. “We need to capitalize on these cracks in the door.”

The cable recommended “[e]ncouraging the Mexican military to participate more actively in the international arena, such as through greater security cooperation outreach to Central America and Colombia, and even with limited participation in regional humanitarian ops to possibly peacekeeping.” This will help “the military transition from a mentality of ‘Protecting the Revolution’”—the 1910 Mexican Revolution—“to a more active, dynamic, and flexible force.”

But the “drug war” has also created problems. More than 30,000 Mexicans have been killed since President Felipe Calderón Hinojosa stepped up the militarization of drug law enforcement when he took office four years ago, and this has increasing the armed forces’ involvement in human rights violations [see Update #1049]. The military “has taken a serious beating on human rights issues from international and domestic human rights organizations, who argue with considerable basis in fact that the military is ill-equipped for a domestic policing role,” the embassy warned.

Another problem is the perception that the militarization policy isn’t working. A confidential Oct. 5, 2009 cable reported that two officials of the Attorney General’s Office (PRG) advised a visiting delegation from the US Justice Department to explore “focusing our joint efforts on two or three key cities to reverse the current wave of violence and instability and show success in the fight against the DTOs [drug trafficking organizations] in the next 18 months.” They “believe the symbolism of turning several of the most violent cities would be potent, sending a signal to the rest of the country that the fight against organized crime can be won, and combating the current sense of impotence felt by many Mexicans.”

The two officials, Jorge Tello Peón and Gerómino Gutiérrez Fernández, suggested Ciudad Juárez in the state of Chihuahua and Tijuana in Baja California Norte as the cities to focus on. (El País (Madrid) 12/2/10; La Jornada (Mexico) 12/3/10)

US officials continue to promote the Calderón policy publicly. This year on Nov. 24, a little more than a week before the cables were released, US ambassador to Mexico Carlos Pascual told an academic conference in Mexico City that the escalation of violence over the past four years wasn’t a result of President Calderón’s policies but a matter of “cartels against cartels, gangs against gangs.” At another event earlier that day, Pascual announced that the US was supplying Mexico with training and equipment worth $600 million by the end of 2011 under the Mérida Initative. (LJ 11/25/10)

Meanwhile, Mexican students have continued their protests against the militarization policy [see Update #1057]. On Nov. 20, the holiday marking the anniversary of the start of the 1910 Revolution, students marched in Ciudad Juárez to demand the removal of the army and the federal police from the area, where 2,800 people have been killed this year. The protesters were mostly from the Autonomous University of Ciudad Juárez (UACJ) and the Autonomous University of Chihuahua; a group of Catholic youths held a separate march for peace at the same time.

In Mexico City about 80 youths did street theater and passed out information to bystanders as army troops marched in the traditional Nov. 20 parade. Riot police broke up a student march later in the day and beat some protesters; the Federal District’s center-left government apologized to students for the incident, blaming it on lack of coordination. About 20 youths held a peace rally in Tlaxcala, capital of the central state of Tlaxcala. (LJ 11/21/10)

*2. Mexico: Calderón Tries to “Isolate” Venezuela
Mexican president Felipe Calderón has been advising the US on how to fight the influence of leftist Venezuelan president Hugo Chávez, according to a secret Oct. 23, 2009 US embassy cable that was made public by WikiLeaks on Dec. 2, 2010. During a meeting on Oct. 19, 2009 with US national intelligence director Dennis Blair, Calderón “emphasized that…Hugo Chávez is active everywhere, including Mexico,” the embassy reported. “Calderon also commented that he is particularly concerned about Venezuela's relations with Iran, and that the Iranian embassy in Mexico is very active.”

“The region needs a visible US presence, [Calderón] noted.” The most important thing was for the US to be “ready to engage the next Brazilian president,” who takes office in 2011. According to Calderón, Brazil “is key to restraining Chávez, but he lamented that President [Luiz Inácio] Lula [da Silva] has been reluctant to do so. The US needs to engage Brazil more and influence its outlook.” Calderón has been trying to do his part in countering Chávez: according to the cable, he “said that Mexico is trying to isolate Venezuela through the Rio Group,” an organization of 23 Latin American and Caribbean nations.

Calderón said he believed Chávez funded the 2006 presidential campaign of Andrés Manuel López Obrador, the left-center candidate who narrowly missed beating Calderón according to the official results, which many Mexicans consider fraudulent. (El País (Madrid) 12/2/10; La Jornada (Mexico) 12/3/10) Shortly after the cable was made public on Dec. 2, López Obrador wrote in his Twitter account: “I demand that this compulsive liar Calderón demonstrate that Chávez financed our 2006 campaign.” (El Universal (Mexico City) 12/2/10)

*3. Mexico: Violence Against Women and Activists Continues
Mexico has the highest rate of violent deaths for women among countries not at war, the regional director of the United Nations Development Fund for Women (UNIFEM), Ana Güezmes, said in Mexico City on Nov. 23, citing a study of 135 countries by the Queen Sofia Center in Spain. A Mexican organization, the Origin Foundation, announced on the same day that between the ages of 15 and 44 Mexican women are in greater danger of rape or abuse at home than of cancer or accidents. “Every day six women die violently: four by homicide and two by suicide,” the group said, “and 30-50% of abuse victims are under 15 years of age; 20% are under 10.” (La Jornada (Mexico) 11/24/10)

On Nov. 24 Javier Hernández Valencia, Mexican representative of the United Nations’ Office of the High Commissioner on Human Rights (OHCHR), said the number of attacks on human rights defenders in Mexico had increased since last year. In 2009 the office reported 128 attacks, while for the one-year period from October 2009 through September 2010 the number of attacks has risen to 165. According to Hernández Valencia’s statistics, 51% of the attacks are by unidentified aggressors; 22% by private individuals; 14% by people in the justice system; 8% by municipal authorities; and 5% by the military. Chihuahua, Chiapas, Oaxaca and Guerrero were the states with the highest number of complaints. (LJ 11/25/10)

On Nov. 30 Disability Rights International (DRI) and the Mexican Commission for the Defense and Promotion of Human Rights (CMDPDH) released a report charging that thousands of Mexican children and adults with mental or physical disabilities are locked away in treatment centers where they experience inhuman conditions and are subjected to dangerous medical practices, including lobotomies and incorrect drug prescriptions. After a similar report 10 years ago, the Mexican government promised to improve the situation in six months; it also promoted an international convention on rights of people with disabilities, which was ratified in 2006. But according to the new report, Abandoned & Disappeared: Mexico’s Segregation and Abuse of Children and Adults with Disabilities, nothing has changed. (LJ 12/1/10)

*4. Honduras: Campesinos March for Land Rights
Hundreds of campesinos marched in Tegucigalpa on Dec. 2 to demand that the Honduran government resolve longstanding land conflicts in the Lower Aguán River Valley in the north of the country. The march, from the National Pedagogic University to the National Congress, was organized by various campesino groups and by the local section of Vía Campesina, an international federation of campesino organizations.

The majority of the Aguán Valley land disputes were supposed to be resolved by a pact that President Porfirio (“Pepe”) Lobo Sosa signed with the Unified Campesino Movement of the Aguán (MUCA) on Apr. 18 to distribute a total of 8,000 hectares of farmland to campesino families if they ended their occupations of estates claimed by wealthy landowners [see Update #1029]. It is not clear how well the planned distribution has been progressing. The situation heated up again after Nov. 15, when five campesinos were killed by private guards in a separate dispute with landowner and industrialist Miguel Facussé Barjum [see Update #1058].

Campesino groups responded to the Nov. 15 killings by occupying some nine estates in the Aguán region. Meanwhile, the government deployed hundreds of troops into the area, claiming they were searching for 1,000 AK-47 and M-16 rifles allegedly hidden in the valley by groups being trained to attack the government. On Dec. 1 Security Minister Oscar Alvarez told a press conference that the army had “evidence of the entry of military weapons like AK-47s, M-16s and possibly other, more powerful arms which could be being used by groups that want to destabilize democracy in our country.” “We’ve been informed that they entered through Nicaragua,” he said.

The main military activity in the region seemed to be aimed at ending the land occupations, not at finding rebels and weapons. As of Dec. 3, the military and police had removed some 100 campesinos from the Bolero 1 and 2 estates, with plans to end the occupations at the others. The military was leaving the estates in the control of heavily armed guards contracted by the landowners. Asked why the guards were allowed to carry military weapons, Commissioner Alfredo Villatoro, who headed up the government’s operation, and Commissar Alex Madrid answered simply that the guards’ weapons were registered. According to Rigoberto Rodríguez, one of the leaders of the guards, each estate will now have a private security force of 25 men.

On Dec. 4 President Lobo acknowledged that "[t]here is no evidence of any participation [of] “the government of Nicaragua” in training rebels to destabilize the Honduran government. (EFE 12/2/10 via Terra.com; Prensa Latina 12/3/10, ___ ; AFP 12/4/10 via MSN)

*5. Guatemala: Canadian Mine Sued in Activist’s Death
On Dec. 1 indigenous Guatemalan Angelica Choc and her lawyers, Klippensteins Barristers & Solicitors, announced a lawsuit in Ontario, Canada, against the Canadian mining company HudBay Minerals Inc. for the murder of Choc’s husband, Adolfo Ich Chamán, in the community of El Estor in the eastern department of Izabal on Sept. 27, 2009. Choc charges that security guards working for HudBay, HMI Nickel Inc., and their Guatemalan subsidiary, Compañía Guatemalteca de Níquel, murdered Ich, a leader in the local Q'eqchi' community, because of his opposition to violations by the mining companies.

The lawsuit seeks $2 million in general damages and $10 million in punitive damages. Choc is taking the case to Canadian civil courts because of the high level of impunity in criminal cases in Guatemala. The Canadian organization Rights Action has expressed hope that the suit will set a precedent for such actions. According to HudBay official John Vincic, the company’s own investigation found that none of its employees were involved in the killing. He called the suit "misconceived" and "without merit." (Rights Action 12/2/10; CBC News (Canada) 12/2/10; Prensa Libre (Guatemala) 12/3/10)

*6. Links to alternative sources on: Argentina, Chile, Paraguay, Bolivia, Ecuador, Colombia, Venezuela, Honduras, Mexico, Haiti, US

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WikiLeaks Honduras: State Department Busted on Support of Coup

A State of Siege in Northern Honduras: Land, Palm Oil and Media

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WikiLeaks Cables Reveal Authorities’ Uncertainty In Mexican Drug War

Calderon’s Drug War Wreaks Havoc on Mexican Workers, Unions

The Historic End to the Institutional Revolutionary Party’s Rule in Oaxaca

Texas Gov. Rick Perry Suggests U.S. Invasion of Mexico

Haiti election a 'massive fraud'--CBC News witnesses blatant ballot-box stuffing

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Wikileaks and Latin America: Same Old Imperious U.S. Diplomats

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