Monday, December 29, 2014

WNU #1248: Honduran News Anchor Murdered

Issue #1248, December 28, 2014

1. Honduras: Left-Leaning TV News Anchor Murdered
2. Mexico: Raúl Salinas Cleared in Corruption Case
3. Mexico: San Fernando Massacre Document Released
4. Ecuador: CIA Justifies Reyes “Targeting” in 2008
5. Links to alternative sources on: Brazil, Bolivia, Peru, Ecuador, Venezuela, Panama, Nicaragua, 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. It is archived at For a subscription, write to Follow us on Twitter at

*1. Honduras: Left-Leaning TV News Anchor Murdered
Unknown assailants shot and killed TV news presenter Reynaldo Paz Mayes on the morning of Dec. 15 as he was exercising at an outdoor sports centers in Comayagua, capital of the central Honduran department of Comayagua. A supporter of the center-left opposition Freedom and Refoundation Party (LIBRE), Paz owned a small local television station, RPM TV Canal 28, where he hosted a news program known for its criticism of President Juan Orlando Hernández’s rightwing government and the June 2009 military coup that removed then-president José Manuel Zelaya Rosales (2006-2009) from office. Another station owner, Juan Ramón Flores, said Paz had received various threats, including an anonymous phone call the week before, because of his political views.

Police spokespeople said they were working on the assumption that the assailants were after the victim’s pistol, which was missing. They said the area where Paz died is dangerous, even though the sports center is located just 200 meters from a transit police post.

Paz was at least the ninth Honduran media worker murdered this year [see Update #1231], and the second TV station owner killed since August. Dagoberto Díaz, who owned Canal 20 in the southeastern department of El Paraíso, was killed by unknown attackers in Danlí on Aug. 24. Based on a count earlier in the year by the National Human Rights Commission (CONADEH), Paz’s death would bring the total of Honduran media workers killed since November 2003 to 49. The French-based Reporters Without Borders (RSF) organization holds that at least 27 of the media deaths since 2000 are “possibly or clearly related” to the journalists’ work. The authorities “must end the unacceptable impunity for crimes of violence against journalists in Honduras,” Claire San Filippo, who heads RSF’s Americas desk, said in a statement on Dec. 18. According to the group, “[f]reedom of information has declined dramatically” since the 2009 coup. Honduras ranks 129 out of 180 countries in RSF’s 2014 World Press Freedom Index. (La Prensa (San Pedro Sula) 8/25/14; El Heraldo (Tegucigalpa) 12/15/14; The Guardian (UK) 12/17/14; Terra (Peru) 12/18/14 from EFE; RSF statement 12/18/14)

*2. Mexico: Raúl Salinas Cleared in Corruption Case
On Dec. 12 a federal judge in Mexico City acquitted Raúl Salinas de Gortari, brother of former president Carlos Salinas de Gortari (1988-1994), of corruption charges in a case that has been argued in the courts since 1996. The Federal Attorney General’s Office (PGR) charged Raúl Salinas with unlawful enrichment involving some 224 million pesos--about US$14.7 million at the time—that had gone missing from a secret presidential discretionary fund between 1990 and 1994. Salinas was cleared by a federal court on July 31, 2013, but the PGR appealed that decision. The Dec. 12 ruling, which is final, concludes that the PGR failed to prove the charges, bringing the high-profile case to a conclusion after nearly 19 years. Once he had delivered his verdict, the judge left for a vacation.

Raúl Salinas’ controversial acquittal came in the midst of a political crisis set off by a Sept. 26-27 police attack on a group of teachers’ college students in the southwestern state of Guerrero [see Update #1246]. For many Mexicans the decision confirmed a widespread belief that the country’s rich and powerful enjoy total immunity however flagrantly they break the law. In addition to the unlawful enrichment charge, over the years Raúl Salinas has faced federal charges for tax evasion, money laundering, embezzlement and drug trafficking. He spent 10 years in prison after a murder conviction, but the conviction was overturned and all the other charges were eventually dropped.

The circumstantial evidence for corruption seemed overwhelming. During the early 1990s Salinas bought a total of 41 properties in nine states, valued at about $15 million, while he was working for a modest salary in a now-defunct federal program, the Basic Commodities Distribution Company (CONASUPO). Salinas also moved tens of millions of dollars into foreign bank accounts during the period, including some $100 million he reportedly transferred from 1992 to 1994 through New York-based Citibank to the Cayman Islands and London and ultimately to bank accounts in Switzerland [see Update #463]. Salinas has never adequately explained how he acquired all this money. (Reforma (Mexico) 12/16/14; CNN Expansion 12/16/14; New York Times 12/17/14 from correspondent; Vanguardia (Mexico) 12/22/14 from El País (Madrid))

Salinas’ murder conviction was for allegedly masterminding the Sept. 28, 1994 murder of his former brother-in-law, José Francisco Ruiz Massieu. The victim was the general secretary of the centrist Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI), and his killing was the second of two bizarre murders that year involving officials of the party, which had ruled Mexico virtually unchallenged since 1929; PRI presidential candidate Luis Donaldo Colosio Murrieta had been gunned down at a campaign rally in Tijuana on Mar. 23 [see “Mexican Murder Mysteries, Part 2”]. The case against Salinas grew more bizarre as it progressed. The first prosecutor was the victim's brother, Mario Ruiz Massieu, who resigned from the investigation and ended up committing suicide in New Jersey in 1999 while under house arrest on US federal drug trafficking and money laundering charges [see Update #503]. The second special prosecutor, Pablo Chapa Bezanilla, employed a psychic and was implicated in the October 1996 planting of a body on Salinas’ ranch; he fled to Spain, was extradited but was cleared of all charges [see Update #469]. Salinas was finally convicted of Ruiz Massieu’s murder on Jan. 21, 1999; he received a sentence of 50 years in prison.

A court overturned the conviction in 2005, and Salinas was released from the Santiaguito prison in Almoloya de Juárez, México state, on June 14 of that year. According to the left-leaning newsweekly Proceso, all three judges involved in his release--José Nieves Luna Castro, Adalid Ambriz Landa and Manuel Baráibar Constantino—have found their judicial careers advancing smoothly since 2005. (Proceso 12/20/14)

*3. Mexico: San Fernando Massacre Document Released
Police agents in San Fernando in the northeastern Mexican state of Tamaulipas aided the Los Zetas drug gang in carrying out massacres of hundreds of Central American migrants and others in 2010 and 2011, according to a partially redacted document declassified by Mexico’s Federal Attorney General’s Office (PGR). Although collusion between local Tamaulipas police and criminal gangs was already well known--US diplomatic cables released by the US government in 2013 discussed it [see Update #1199], and local people referred to the police as “polizetas”—this is first time that the PGR has been required to release a document from an ongoing criminal investigation. Previously federal prosecutors had insisted that Mexican freedom of information laws didn’t apply to open investigations. The document is now available on the website of the Washington, DC-based National Security Archive, along with other relevant documents, including reports from US government agencies and US diplomatic cables released by the Wikileaks group.

The undated PGR document is based on testimony from some of the 17 San Fernando police agents who were detained in connection with mass killings in the area; the most famous, often called the San Fernando massacre, involved the discovery of 72 bodies of migrants in a mass grave in August 2010. “I know that police and transit officials in San Fernando help the Zetas organization,” Alvaro Alba Terrazas, one of the detainees, told investigators, “because rather than take detainees to the ‘pentagon,’ which is to say the municipal jail, they would deliver them to the Zetas.”

Michael Evans, the director of the National Security Archives Mexico Migration Project, noted the similarity to the Sept. 26-27 abduction of 43 students from Raúl Isidro Burgos Rural Teachers’ College, located in Ayotzinapa in the southwestern state of Guerrero [see Update #1246]. According to federal investigators, the Iguala municipal police detained the students and then turned them over to a local drug gang. “If all this sounds eerily familiar,” Evans told the Mexican newsweekly Proceso, “it’s because we’ve seen it before. Murders like this are disturbingly common in Mexico, and the forces behind the chaos—generally drug cartels counting on the collaboration of, at a minimum, the local police—have been remarkably consistent over time.”

Evans and another National Security Archive analyst, Jesse Franzblau, noted that the document raises a number of questions: why it lists 17 detainees when the media reported 16 at the time of their arrests, why two of the detained agents are described in later media reports as actual members of the Zetas, whether the detainees are still detained, and where they are now. (Expresión Libre (Cancún) 12/21/14 from Proceso; National Security Archive 12/22/14)

*4. Ecuador: CIA Justifies Reyes “Targeting” in 2008
According to a secret study released by the Wikileaks group on Dec. 18, the US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) considers the killing of Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) second-in-command Raúl Reyes by Colombian forces in Ecuadorian territory on Mar. 1, 2008 [see Update #937] an example of ways that assassinations of rebel leaders “can play a useful role.” In addition to the Reyes case, the paper reviews the use of “high-value targeting (HVT)”—the killing or capture of top leaders—in fighting rebels in Afghanistan, Algeria, Colombia, Iraq, Israel, Peru, Northern Ireland and Sri Lanka. HTV can have “negative effects,” the study concludes, but the practice can “contribute to successful counterinsurgency outcomes” if used strategically. The July 9, 2009 study, marked “secret” and “NOFORN” (“no foreign nationals”), is entitled “Making High-Value Targeting Operations an Effective Counterinsurgency Tool”; it apparently forms part of a “Best Practices in Counterinsurgency” series.

Reyes, the FARC’s chief spokesperson and negotiator, was killed when the Colombian military launched a nighttime air raid and then an incursion against a rebel encampment in Ecuador’s northeastern Sucumbíos province about three kilometers from the Colombian border. Some 19 FARC members were killed in the operation, as were four Mexican students who had been visiting the encampment while in Ecuador to attend a leftist conference. Although the Colombian government and the media treated the attack as a simple raid against a group of rebels, the CIA study refers to it as part of a number of “successful HVT strikes against top insurgent leaders in early 2008, in conjunction with earlier strikes against second and third-tier leaders and finance and logistics specialists.” Reyes’ death “is likely to have seriously damaged FARC discipline and morale, even among its leadership, according to a CIA field commentary.” As an example of the operation’s success, the CIA noted that “[p]ublic support for the Colombian government solidified in the wake of the killing…with President Alvaro Uribe’s approval rating increasing from the mid-70% range to as high as 84%.”

The study treats the Reyes killing as a strictly Colombian operation, although there have been reports that in fact the Colombians dropped US “smart bombs” and that an HC-130 airplane, used for refueling helicopters, took off from the US base then at Manta, Ecuador, just hours before the attack. The FARC itself claimed in a Mar. 14 communiqué that the US Southern Command had led the operation [see Update #940]. Theoretically US agencies are not allowed to participate in targeted assassinations. Executive Order 12333, signed by US president Ronald Reagan on Dec. 4, 1981, states that “[n]o person employed by or acting on behalf of the United States Government shall engage in, or conspire to engage in, assassination.” (La Jornada (Mexico) 12/19/14)

*5. Links to alternative sources on: Brazil, Bolivia, Peru, Ecuador, Venezuela, Panama, Nicaragua, Guatemala, Mexico, Cuba

Brazil: victory for indigenous land struggle

Bolivia Revolutionizes Urban Mass Transit: From the Streets to the Sky

How One Indigenous Woman Took on a Multinational Mining Corporation... and Won (Peru)

Peru to evacuate village in Amazon conflict

Against Judicial Attacks, International Support for Venezuela’s Communes

December 20, 1989: The Day that Black Lives Did Not Matter in Panama

Panama Canal Workers Continue Labor Strike

Nicaragua: protests as canal construction begins

Guatemalan Genocide Trial Set to Resume Amid Amnesty Battles

Ayotzinapa Protesters Urge Boycott of 2015 Mexican Elections

Zapatistas Host World Festival of Resistance and Rebellion (Mexico)

Sentencing in Sinaloa Cartel's Chicago connection (Mexico)

Former Ambassador Says Mexico Provoked Cuba to Appease Bush White House

Freedom fighter, journalist and political prisoner Mumia Abu-Jamal speaks out on behalf of Nestora Salgado (Mexico)

Cuba and the United States: A triumph of political realism

Reflections from Former Chief of U.S. Interests Section (Cuba)

Assata Shakur as political football (Cuba)

John Conyers and 76 Other Members of Congress Urge UN to Provide Settlement Mechanism for Cholera Victims and their Families (Haiti)

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