Tuesday, November 1, 2011

WNU #1103: Are Mexican Officials “in the Dark” on US Drug War?

Weekly News Update on the Americas
Issue #1103, October 30, 2011

1. Mexico: Are Officials “Kept the Dark” About US Drug Operations?
2. Panama: Indigenous Groups Block Latest Mining Maneuver
3. Haiti: A Legislator Is Jailed on Martelly’s Orders
4. Links to alternative sources on: Climate Change, Argentina, Uruguay, Brazil, Peru, Ecuador, Colombia, Venezuela, El Salvador, Honduras, Guatemala, Mexico, Cuba

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: Are Officials “Kept the Dark” About US Drug Operations?
On Oct. 26 Mexican officials emphatically denied that US agencies were violating Mexican sovereignty by carrying out undercover operations aimed at Mexican drug cartels. The presence of agents from the US Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) in Mexico “isn’t something new, it’s been happening since a long time ago,” Foreign Relations Secretary Patricia Espinosa Cantellano said at a press conference in Mexico City that was meant to be about Mexico’s participation in a Group of 20 meeting in Cannes, France, and in the Iberian-American Summit in Asunción, Paraguay. Espinosa Cantellano said she couldn’t reveal the number and location of the agents for security reasons, “but of course the government knows about this presence and we are very strict in watching out that the legal framework is applied.”

President Felipe Calderón Hinojosa’s spokesperson, Alejandra Sota Mirafuentes, insisted at the press conference that cooperation and exchange of information between the two governments “is and has been fully respectful of the Mexican legal framework, including the so-called ’92 rules, the bilateral agreements currently in effect.” (La Jornada (Mexico) 10/27/11)

The official denials came in response to an Oct. 25 article in the New York Times about US infiltration of Mexican criminal organizations. According to reporter Ginger Thompson, “Mexico is kept in the dark about the United States’ contacts with its most secret informants--including Mexican law enforcement officers, elected officials and cartel operatives.” This is “partly because of laws prohibiting American security forces from operating on Mexican soil,” Thompson wrote. “The Mexicans sort of roll their eyes and say we know it’s happening,” Woodrow Wilson Center security expert Eric Olson told the Times, “even though it’s not supposed to be happening.”

Thompson also noted that “complicated ethical issues tend to arise” when the US government uses informants who work in criminal enterprises. (NYT 10/25/11)

The revelations come as many Mexicans are growing more disillusioned with President Calderón’s US-backed “war on drugs,” in which 40,000 Mexicans have died since the beginning of 2007; Mexicans are also angry about the US government’s bungled Operation Fast and Furious, which allowed some 2,000 weapons to go illegally from the US to Mexico [see Updates #1079, 1095]. Adding to the tensions, on Oct. 28 Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA) told an interviewer on the CNN cable news network that 200 Mexicans had been killed by weapons that entered Mexico as a result of the program. (Notimex 10/29/11 via LJ)

These developments are likely to hurt Calderón’s center-right National Action Party (PAN) in the 2012 presidential election. The centrist Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) is clearly hoping to benefit in its efforts to regain the presidency, which the party held from the 1930s until the PRI’s Francisco Labastida Ochoa lost to PAN candidate Vicente Fox Quesada in 2000. Labastida himself, now a senator from the northern state of Sinaloa, was quick to condemn Calderón for the reported death toll from Fast and Furious. It is “shameful,” he said in an interview, that Calderón hasn’t taken concrete legal actions against the US government. Calderón’s administration has a “sellout” attitude, an “absolutely servile” attitude, according to Labastidia, who said he had “thought carefully” about which adjectives to use. (LJ 10/30/11)

*2. Panama: Indigenous Groups Block Latest Mining Maneuver
A dispute between the government of rightwing Panamanian president Ricardo Martinelli and the Ngöbe-Buglé indigenous group flared up again the week of Oct. 24 as the National Assembly began to debate changes to the Mining Code. Militant protests by the Ngöbe-Buglé and others last February and March forced the Assembly to rescind a law which opponents said would encourage open-pit mining for metals by foreign companies and endanger the environment [see Update #1070].

An ad hoc commission of the Assembly and a coordinating committee of indigenous groups then negotiated a new bill incorporating indigenous demands for protection of their territory and the environment. But the bill that finally appeared before the Assembly in October, Law 394, retained objectionable features of the previous law, according to the indigenous groups, which blocked the Pan American highway in protest.

“The government isn’t complying with the accords, which is a clear sign that we have to start up our actions again,” Ngöbe-Buglé activist Rogelio Montezuma said on Oct. 24 as the National Front in Defense of Economic and Social Rights (Frenadeso) and the Traditional General Ngöbe-Buglé Congress demonstrated outside the National Assembly. “We, the original peoples, are telling the national government we don’t want mining.” (Adital (Brazil) 10/28/11; Prensa Latina 10/28/11)

As of Oct. 28, the government and the indigenous groups had come to an agreement about Law 394, according to Commerce and Industry Minister Ricardo Quijano, who said “the mining bill will not affect the [indigenous] territories” and won’t include the features the indigenous groups objected to. There were reports that the government would offer an additional bill including measures agreed to in the negotiations between the indigenous groups and the National Assembly’s ad hoc commission. (TVN Noticias (Panama) 10/28/11)

*3. Haiti: A Legislator Is Jailed on Martelly’s Orders
Haitian police arrested legislative deputy Arnel Bélizaire at Port-au-Prince’s international airport on Oct. 27 as he returned from an official visit to France; the agents then took him to the National Penitentiary in the capital. Chamber of Deputies president Sorel Jacynthe and a delegation of other legislators were kept from entering the airport to welcome Bélizaire, while several hundred demonstrators protested outside and chanted slogans against Haitian president Michel Martelly. The president himself left for the US the same day for unexplained health reasons. This was his second medical trip to the US since he took office in May; he was expected to return on Nov. 6.

Martelly’s government charged that Bélizaire, who represents the Delmas and Tabarre districts of the Port-au-Prince metropolitan area, had taken advantage of the January 2010 earthquake to escape from the penitentiary, where he had been imprisoned on a weapons charge since 2004. Martelly and Bélizaire had had a shouting match in the National Palace on Oct. 12, and on Oct. 14 and 16 Martelly made a request for the justice system to arrest fugitives from justice who were in the Parliament.

Bélizaire was released on Oct. 28, but the arrest resulted in strong protests from legislators, who noted that their immunity from prosecution could only be suspended by the Parliament itself. There were also questions about the claim that Bélizaire was a fugitive from justice, since the Provisional Electoral Council (CEP) had cleared him to run for the deputy post in the November 2010 elections; he won the seat in a March 2011 runoff. Right after the arrest, 71 of the 99 members of the Chamber of Deputies signed a resolution demanding the resignation of Justice Minister Josué Pierre-Louis, Interior Minister Thierry Mayard-Paul and other officials, while 16 of the 30 senators signed a resolution charging that Martelly harbored a “desire…to restore dictatorship.” (AlterPresse (Haiti) 10/27/11, 10/28/11; AP 10/28/11 via CBS News)

Security employees at the Toussaint Louverture International Airport held a brief strike on Oct. 28 to protest actions by Interior Minister Mayard-Paul and his bodyguards during Bélizaire’s arrest. Employees charged that in addition to violating the airport security zone, Mayard-Paul had personally hit several of the airport guards. (Radio Kiskeya (Haiti) 10/29/11)

Arnel Bélizaire—whose first name is also given as “Anel,” following the pronunciation in Haitian Creole—seems to have an interesting and contradictory record. According to Pierre Espérance, executive director of the National Human Rights Defense Network (RNDDH), Bélizaire was arrested on Sept. 14, 1995, for abus de confiance (breach of trust or embezzlement) but was freed four days later. He was arrested again on Oct. 14, 2004, for possession of automatic weapons, Espérance says, but escaped from the National Penitentiary during a mysterious mass jailbreak on Feb. 19, 2005. Dominican authorities arrested Bélizaire on charges of auto theft and weapons possession on July 2, 2005; he was quickly extradited to Haiti and returned to the National Penitentiary on July 4. (Haïti Libre (Haiti) 10/24/11)

Currently Bélizaire seems to have some connection to the Lavalas Family (FL) party of former president Jean-Bertrand Aristide (1991-1996, 2001-2004), since he ran for deputy as a candidate of the Veye Yo (“Watch Them”) party, which ran FL politicians when the FL itself was denied ballot status [see Update #1039]. But when he escaped from prison in 2005 Bélizaire was described as a leader of the ex-soldiers who helped overthrow Aristide in February 2004 [see Update #786]. He even claimed that while he was in prison in February 2005 the de facto government of Gérard Latortue offered him $10,000 to murder Aristide’s prime minister, Yvon Neptune, who was also in the National Penitentiary. But he said he decided instead to protect Neptune during the chaos of the Feb. 19 jailbreak. (People’s World 5/13/05)

It is not clear whether Deputy Bélizaire is the Anel Bélizaire who was held in US immigration detention at the Krome center in Florida starting in 1998; the detainee carried out a hunger strike there in 1999 and 2000. (Immigration News Briefs January 2000)

*4. Links to alternative sources on: Climate Change, Argentina, Uruguay, Brazil, Peru, Ecuador, Colombia, Venezuela, El Salvador, Honduras, Guatemala, Mexico, Cuba

Climate Change Vulnerability Index released as floods clobber listed nations (Central America, Mexico, Haiti)

Argentina: ex-military officers sentenced to life for crimes against humanity

Cristina Kirchner and Argentina's Good Fortune

Uruguay scraps 'dirty war' amnesty

Brazilians Get Ready to Dig Up the Truth

Brazil and Colombia: An Unexpected Alliance

Peru: government fires new indigenous affairs official after she blocks gas project

Unrest threatens Ecuador development projects

Is the FARC Retaking the Military Offensive in Colombia?

Colombia: ex-guerilla to be Bogotá mayor

Venezuela Passes New Leasing Law Proposed by Popular Initiative

El Salvador: Water Bill Stagnates in Congress

WikiLeaks Honduras: US Linked to Brutal Businessman

Justice and Jacobo Árbenz in Guatemala: 1954 Revisited

As Firm as a Tree: Portraits of Diodora, a Guatemalan Anti-Mining Activist

"Anonymous" hackstivists threaten to expose Zeta secrets (Mexico)

Mexico's ex-prez Fox again speaks out for drug legalization

Mexico Goverment-Drug Cartel Collusion: The Hybrid Threat

Double Speak and Intervention in Mexico

Mexico: Café sin Carbono?

The UN and Human Rights: Condemning the U.S. Embargo of Cuba

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