Tuesday, November 12, 2013

WNU #1199: US Documents Blast Mexico’s “Drug War”

Weekly News Update on the Americas
Issue #1199, November 10, 2013

1. Mexico: US Documents Blast Calderón’s “Drug War”
2. Honduras: Pre-Election Repression Continues
3. Chile: Four Are Sentenced for Gay Youth's Death
4. Haiti: Anti-Martelly March Is Attacked
5. Links to alternative sources on: Latin America, Brazil, Chile, Paraguay, Bolivia, Peru, Ecuador, Colombia, Venezuela, Colombia, Panama, El Salvador, Honduras, Guatemala, Mexico, US/immigration

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. It is archived at http://weeklynewsupdate.blogspot.com. For a subscription, write to weeklynewsupdate@gmail.com. Follow us on Twitter at http://twitter.com/WeeklyNewsUpdat.

*1. Mexico: US Documents Blast Calderón’s “Drug War”
US officials were secretly critical of the militarized anti-narcotic policies of former Mexican president Felipe Calderón Hinojosa (2006-2012) at the same time that the US government was funding and publicly backing them, according to declassified documents that the Washington, DC-based research group National Security Archive posted on its website on Nov. 6. The documents are among 30 official reports and diplomatic cables, with dates from Aug. 25, 2007 to May 22, 2012, that the US government released as a result of a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request from the National Security Archive and other organizations in Mexico and the US.

Drug trafficking groups “have operated fairly openly and with freedom of movement and operations” in northeastern Mexico, the US embassy’s Narcotics Affairs Section reported in a “sensitive” but unclassified Apr. 16, 2010 cable. “In many cases they operated with near total impunity in the face of compromised local security forces.” For example, Mexican authorities arrested 16 members of the police force in Matamoros, in the northeastern state of Tamaulipas, in connection with the notorious August 2010 massacre of 72 Central and South American migrants by the Los Zetas gang in San Fernando municipality [see Update #1180]. According to an Apr. 15, 2011 unclassified cable from the US consulate in Matamoros, the police agents were accused of “protecting the Los Zetas TCO [transnational criminal organization] members responsible for the kidnapping and murder of bus passengers in the San Fernando area.” The Mexican authorities responded to the massive violence against migrants by trying to downplay it. The same cable reported that after an April 2011 military operation uncovered 36 mass graves with a total of 145 bodies around San Fernando, Mexican officials told consular staff off the record that “the bodies are being split up to make the total number less obvious and thus less alarming.”

President Calderón’s use of the military in the fight against trafficking was supposed to compensate for the local authorities’ failure to fight the cartels. But US officials concluded—as did many Mexicans--that the policy had backfired. Calderón's “crackdown…resulted in some unintended consequences,” the State Department’s Bureau of Intelligence and Research wrote in a secret Aug. 3, 2010 memo. “For example, the removal of DTO [drug trafficking organization] leadership has allowed less experienced and undisciplined personnel to fill the leadership vacuum, contributing to the spike of drug-related murders.” Some 50,000 to 60,000 Mexicans died in drug-related violence under the Calderón administration [see Update #1169].

The documents also discuss the relationship between Los Zetas and the Kaibiles, a Guatemalan special operations force accused of committing massacres during the country’s US-backed 1960-1996 counterinsurgency against leftist rebels [see World War 4 Report 10/23/13]. A heavily redacted “sensitive” US Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) cable from July 2009 noted that in 2005 an arrested Zeta member said his organization had recruited “former Guatemalan Kaibiles to work with the Zetas, and that the Kaibiles were procuring firearms and grenades from Guatemala on behalf of the Gulf Cartel.” The connection with the Kaibiles seems to have continued. Another heavily redacted DEA cable, from May 28, 2010, reports on a shootout between security forces and Los Zetas members on May 19. Several people were arrested. “[I]t was determined that some of them were members of the Zetas and the subjects from Guatemala were members of the Fuerzas Especiales de Guatemala (Kaibiles),” the report says. The next two sentences are redacted. (National Security Archive 11/6/13; Proceso (Mexico) 11/6/13; La Jornada (Mexico) 11/8/13)

In related news, on Nov. 5 the US State Department offered a $5 million reward for information leading to the capture of Rafael Caro Quintero, one of the founders of the Guadalajara drug cartel. A Mexican court convicted Caro Quintero in the 1985 torture murder of US DEA agent Enrique (“Kiki”) Camarena and sentenced him to 40 years in prison [see Update #1198, where we incorrectly gave the sentence as 60 years]. He was released on a technicality in August of this year, after serving 28 years of the sentence, and quickly disappeared. The US federal government has charged Caro Quintero separately with a number of felonies and considers him a fugitive from justice. On Nov. 6, the day after the US announced the reward, a panel of Mexico’s Supreme Court voted 4-1 to overturn the decision releasing Caro Quintero and to return the case to an appeals court. (NBC News 11/6/13, some from AP; Fox News Latino 11/6/13)

*2. Honduras: Pre-Election Repression Continues
Unknown assailants shot Honduras video journalist Manuel Murillo Varela dead on Oct. 23; his body was found the next day in Tegucigalpa’s Colonia Independencia. Murillo Varela had worked as a camera operator for Honduras’ Globo TV and for the state television, Canal 8, and was also the official camera operator for former president José Manuel (“Mel”) Zelaya Rosales (2006-2009), who was overthrown in a June 2009 military coup. Murillo Varela had been a victim of violence in the past: he and a colleague were abducted on Feb. 2, 2010, reportedly by police agents, and were tortured for over 24 hours. The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR, or CIDH in Spanish), an agency of the Organization of American States (OAS), responded to the incident by issuing a protection order for Murillo Varela. Both the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) and the Inter American Press Association (SIP) condemned the Oct. 23 murder. More than 30 journalists have been killed in Honduras since 2010.

Murillo Varela was active in the center-left Freedom and Refoundation Party (LIBRE), which grew out of resistance to the 2009 coup and which is now a leading force in the Nov. 24 presidential, legislative and municipal elections [see Update #1194]. Other party activists have faced threats and harassment as the voting approaches. On Oct. 23, masked police agents ransacked the residence of a local LIBRE leader, Edwin Robelo Espinal, in the capital’s Flor del Campo neighborhood, breaking down a total of 15 doors in the house, ostensibly to look for “weapons and a rocket-propelled launcher.” The raid on Espinal’s residence was carried out by members of a 5,000-member military police unit announced in August [see Update #1189] and put in operation in October. Like Murillo Varela, Espinal had an IACHR protection order; his partner, Wendy Avila, was killed in September 2009 during a protest demanding President Zelaya’s return, and Espinal himself was tortured by police agents in June 2010.

On Oct. 30, a week after the attack on Espinal’s home, Beatriz Valle, a LIBRE congressional candidate in the central department of Francisco Morazán and a deputy foreign minister during Zelaya’s administration, announced that she had received death threats. She decided to leave the country.

An Oct. 21 report by the Canadian-based organization Rights Action found that LIBRE political candidates, their families and campaign leaders have suffered more attacks and killings since May 2012 than all other political parties combined.

The harassment hasn’t been confined to LIBRE activists. On Oct. 10 military police raided the home of Marco Antonio Rodriguez, the vice president of the National Child Welfare Worker’s Trade Union (SITRAPANI), and in mid-October the police raided the home of Dassaev Aguilar, a former correspondent for the leftist Venezuelan-based TeleSUR television network. Meanwhile, government prosecutors continue to press their case against Berta Cáceres, general coordinator of the Civic Council of Grassroots and Indigenous Organizations of Honduras (COPINH), and two other of the organization’s leaders for their support of resistance to the Agua Zarca dam being constructed in territory claimed by the indigenous Lempa [see Update #1194]. (Europa Press 10/30/13; Rights Action 11/4/13; Minga Informativa ALAI 11/7/13)

*3. Chile: Four Are Sentenced for Gay Youth's Death
On Oct. 28 the Fourth Oral Criminal Court in Santiago, Chile, sentenced Patricio Ahumada Garay to life in prison for a brutal assault on Daniel Zamudio, a gay young man, on Mar. 3, 2012; Zamudio died of his injuries three weeks later [see Update #1123]. The court sentenced three other men to prison for participating in the assault: Alejandro Angulo and Raúl López were each given 15 years in prison, and Fabián Mora Mora seven years. The sentences were the same as those requested by the prosecutor, Ernesto Vásquez, and by Jaime Silva, the attorney for the Homosexual Integration and Liberation Movement (Movilh), except in the case of Fabián Mora; the lawyers had asked for an eight-year sentence.

Zamudio’s death brought public attention to violence against LGBT people in Chile and resulted in the passage of the Zamudio Law, an anti-discrimination law that had languished in Congress for seven years [see Update #1124]. But hate crimes appear to be continuing. Wladimir Sepúlveda, a 21-year-old youth, was severely beaten on Oct. 20 on the Avenida Independencia in San Francisco de Mostazal, a city in the central O’Higgins region. He was hospitalized with cranial injuries, and as of Oct. 29 his life was thought to be at risk. LGBT rights activists suspect that the beating was a homophobic assault. (Adital (Brazil) 10/29/13)

*4. Haiti: Anti-Martelly March Is Attacked
Several thousand Haitians marched for four hours through much of the Port-au-Prince metropolitan area on Nov. 7 to protest the government of President Joseph Michel Martelly (“Sweet Micky”) and Prime Minister Laurent Salvador Lamothe. The march, which riot police dispersed on two occasions with tear gas, was sponsored by several groups, including the Patriotic Force for Respect for the Constitution (Fopak), a base organization close to the populist Lavalas Family (FL) party of former president Jean-Bertrand Aristide (1991-1996, 2001-2004).

The march began in northeastern Port-au-Prince in the impoverished neighborhood of Bel-Air, a stronghold of opposition to Martelly. The demonstrators proceeded east through the commune of Delmas and then southeast into Pétionville, a suburb in the hills where many of the elite live, including President Martelly, although several impoverished neighborhoods--such as Jalousie, where residents live precariously on a hillside--are also in the Pétionville commune. Some people presumed to be Martelly supporters fired into the air when the march entered Pétionville, and other counter-demonstrators threw stones at the marchers from rooftops, scattering street vendors and passersby along with the protesters. The Corps for Intervention and the Maintenance of Order (CIMO) of the Haitian National Police (PNH) then used tear gas to disperse the march.

The demonstration regrouped and headed back into Port-au-Prince, attempting to gather in the city center at the Champ de Mars park and the ruins of the National Palace, which was destroyed in a January 2010 earthquake. CIMO agents again used tear gas to break up the demonstration. (New York Times 11/7/13 from AP; AlterPresse (Haiti) 11/8/13)

Earlier in the week, about 100 protesters, mostly university students, burned tires and hurled stones at police outside the presidential offices on Nov. 4 as US education secretary Arne Duncan met with President Martelly. The students were protesting classroom conditions. One told the Associated Press wire service that his school had no library, classrooms had no lights and teachers rarely arrived at their classes. (NYT 11/4/13 from AP) Also on Nov. 4, professors ended a strike at the State University of Haiti (UEH), whose various schools are scattered around downtown Port-au-Prince. The professors began their job action on Oct. 15 to demand a salary increase; they are also seeking a more modern structure for the UEH’s administration. “The professors have other forms of struggle, even if the strike has ended,” Professor Luné Roc Pierre Louis told reporters. (AlterPresse 11/5/13)

*5. Links to alternative sources on: Latin America, Brazil, Chile, Paraguay, Bolivia, Peru, Ecuador, Colombia, Venezuela, Colombia, Panama, El Salvador, Honduras, Guatemala, Mexico, US/immigration

South of the Border, Mining Is King (Latin America)

Chile torture survivor in landmark legal victory

Paraguay pressed on indigenous land restitution

Brazil judge suspends construction on Amazon dam

Brazil-Venezuela: Yanomami Denounce Illegal Miners and Lack of Health Care

Bolivia ready for nuclear power: Evo Morales

Peru: government ultimatum to illegal miners

Cajamarca: Conga occupation not moved (Peru)

Cuzco: unrest over water mega-diversion (Peru)

Ecuador mineral zone militarized

Bogotá and FARC sign deal on political guarantees (Colombia)

Colombia court strikes down military justice law

Colombia: mine opponents assassinated

Colombia: Black Communities in Cauca Peacefully Occupy Government Offices

New Documents Show Venezuela Has Been Key US Spying Target

Panama ups ante in Nicaragua canal race

US Lawmakers Lobby for Right-wing and US Intervention in Honduran, Salvadoran Elections

Honduras Votes

New Report Highlights Rising Poverty and Inequality in Honduras

Where Will the Children Play? Neoliberal Militarization in Pre-Election Honduras

Nueva Esperanza, Honduras: Against the Same Old Neoliberal Agenda

Study Finds Link Between Land Grabs and Sexual Violence Against Q´eqchís Women (Guatemala)

“There is No Amnesty for These Crimes”: Guatemalan Massacre Survivor Anselmo Roldán Kicks Off U.S. Speaking Tour

Guatemala: Ríos Montt Trial Delay is a Letdown to Genocide Victims

Mexico Forced Displacement on OAS Agenda (Mexico)

Mexico judge suspends Wirikuta mineral leases

New GMO Crops Temporarily Blocked in Mexico

Who Killed the Capo? (Mexico)

Remembering Brad Will in Mexico

In Bed with the Bully—Consensual U.S. Surveillance in Mexico

The Border Patrol’s Out-of-Control Growth (US/immigration)

Book Review: History's Sinkhole (US/immigration)

For more Latin America news stories from mainstream and alternative sources:

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