Monday, July 16, 2012

WNU #1136: Foreign Banks Investigated in Mexican Money Laundering

Weekly News Update on the Americas
Issue #1136, July 15, 2012

1. Mexico: Foreign Banks Investigated in Drug Money Laundering
2. Mexico: Left Makes Moderate Gains in Elections
3. Mexico: Thousands Protest “Imposition” of PRI
4. Honduras: Three Die in Continuing Aguán Violence
5. Puerto Rico: Environmentalist Kayaks for Prisoner's Release
6. Links to alternative sources on: Argentina, Paraguay, Brazil, Bolivia, Peru, Colombia, Venezuela, Guyana, Honduras, Guatemala, Mexico, Haiti, 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  For a subscription, write to Follow us on Twitter at

*1. Mexico: Foreign Banks Investigated in Drug Money Laundering
The US Senate is expected to issue a report on July 17 about international money laundering through the London-based corporation HSBC, Europe’s largest bank; much of the focus is reportedly on the laundering of drug money through the group’s Mexican subsidiary, HSBC Mexico. The US Justice Department is also investigating, and the bank is expected to end up paying a fine of more than $1 billion, both for the Mexican operation and for HSBC’s business activities with parties in Iran, in violation of US trade sanctions against that country.

The Reuters wire service reports that it has reviewed documents showing that “US law-enforcement agencies have examined Mexican money that moved from [Mexican] exchange houses, known as casas de cambio, into the HSBC banking system” and that “[t]he transactions were tied to laundered drug proceeds.” The HSBC subsidiary is one of Mexico’s five largest banks. The country has 42 banking companies, but the top five hold 70% of the assets; four of them are owned by foreign companies, a result of neoliberal measures in the 1990s that opened Mexican banking up to foreign investment.

Mexico’s government has introduced measures to control money laundering, but according to the US State Department’s 2012 International Narcotics Control Strategy Report, drug money continues to flow back and forth between Mexico and the US, in part because of the “combination of a sophisticated financial sector and a large cash-based informal sector” in Mexico. In addition to laundering money into the US banking system through exchange houses in Mexico, the drug cartels also ship drug sale proceeds from the US into Mexico, mostly “via couriers, armored vehicles, and wire transfers,” the report says. US authorities estimate that “drug trafficking organizations send between $19 and $39 billion annually to Mexico from the United States.” The Mexican government disputes the number. (La Jornada (Mexico) 7/14/12 from Reuters, 7/15/12 from staff; Reuters 7/14/12 via Latinos Post)

[Much of the drug money remains in the US. A United Nations official reported in 2010 that the majority of the gross profits from cocaine sales never leave the US; see Update #1038]

Until now the largest case of money laundering by Mexican cartels through a foreign-owned bank involved the Wachovia Corporation of Charlotte, North Carolina, which was acquired in 2008 by Wells Fargo & Company. In 2010 Wachovia paid the US $160 million in penalties for allowing $378.3 billion to pass from Mexican exchange houses into its system from 2004 to 2007 without adequate safeguards against money laundering. As of 2011 investigators said about $20 billion of this money appeared to have “suspicious origins.” Some of the money that passed through Wachovia was used to buy a DC-9 airplane the Mexican military intercepted in April 2006 in Ciudad del Carmen, Campeche; it was carrying 5.7 tons of cocaine. (The Guardian (UK) 4/2/11)

*2. Mexico: Left Makes Moderate Gains in Elections
As of early on July 6, with 99.51% of polling places counted, Mexican officials said former México state governor Enrique Peña Nieto of the centrist Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) had been elected president with 38.22% of the valid votes cast on July 1. Center-left candidate Andrés Manuel López Obrador followed with 31.57% of the votes, and Josefina Vázquez Mota from the ruling center-right National Action Party (PAN) came in third with 25.42%. Gabriel Quadri, the candidate of the centrist New Alliance Party (Panal), trailed with 2.28%. The results--which matched a rapid count the Federal Electoral Institute (IFE) carried out the evening of July 1 [see Update #1135]—followed a substantial recount of the votes after charges of irregularities.

López Obrador’s showing this year was not as good as in 2006, when he lost by about 0.5% in a questionable official count. However, his total was much larger than most opinion polls had predicted, although some pollsters had suggested that he was gaining momentum towards the end of the race [see Update #1131]. The states he carried—Guerrero, Morelos, Oaxaca, Puebla, Quintana Roo, Tabasco and Tlaxcala, along with the Federal District (DF, Mexico City)—are the impoverished southern states that have tended to be the center of much of Mexico’s political activism. (La Jornada (Mexico) 7/6/12)

Like López Obrador, the center-left coalition that backed him performed well in the July 1 voting, although not as well as a similar coalition had done in 2006. The Progressive Movement regained the number-two position in the Chamber of Deputies of the federal Congress with 136 of the 500 seats—101 for the Party of the Democratic Revolution (PRD), 19 for the Labor Party (PT) and 16 for the Citizens’ Movement. The PRI and its ally, the small Ecological Green Party of Mexico (PVEM), got a combined total of 240 seats, 11 less than the absolute majority it needs to avoid compromises with other parties. The PAN slipped to third place with 114 seats. Panal won 10.

The center-left parties slipped in the Senate, whose members are elected every six years. The PRI and PVEM will have 61 of the 128 seats, followed by the PAN with 38, the Progressive Movement with 28 (22 for the PRD, four for the PT and two for the Citizens’ Movement). Panal won one seat. The PAN was the largest group in the previous Senate, followed by the PRI-PVEM and the center-left parties. (El Universal (Caracas) 7/10/12)

The center-left coalition did better in the DF and in the seven states that elected governors on July 1. Progressive Movement candidates won in Morelos and Tabasco, two states the left had never succeeded in winning before. The PRI held on to Yucatán and took Jalisco from the PAN, while the PVEM won Chiapas in alliance with the PRI and Panal. The PAN retained Guanajuato, its only win in the state races. The PRD continues to dominate politics in the DF, which it has governed since 1997; PRD candidate Miguel Ángel Mancera was elected the head of government (mayor) with 63.56% of the vote. (Informador (Guadalajara) 7/9/12; El Economista (Mexico) 7/3/12)

*3. Mexico: Thousands Protest “Imposition” of PRI
Mexico City residents responded to the country’s July 1 presidential and legislative elections with a massive and apparently spontaneous demonstration on July 7 repudiating the official results. Thousands marched from the Angel of Independence to the Zócalo plaza to protest what they called the “imposition” of Enrique Peña Nieto, the presidential candidate of the centrist Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI). They charged his electoral victory was the result of fraud, vote buying and biased publicity by the media.

The protesters’ targets included the giant television network Televisa, which reportedly has taken money over the years to promote Peña Nieto’s political career [see Update #1135], and Organización Soriana, Mexico’s second-largest retailer; the PRI reportedly gave out thousands of Soriana gift cards to voters if they agreed to mark their ballots for Peña Nieto.

Some of the marchers took their protest to the Regina Coeli church, where comedian Eugenio Derbez and actor and singer Alessandra Rosaldo were being married in a wedding transmitted by Televisa. “Peña didn’t win, Televisa helped him!” they chanted, and “Fraud, fraud, fraud, fraud.” “Turn around, the news is here,” they told news photographers, who had their cameras pointed toward the entrance to the church. “Sold-out press!” the protesters added.

Center-left candidate Andrés Manuel López Obrador, who came in second, has rejected the official results, but he hasn’t called on his supporters to protest, as he did after his very narrow loss in the official tally in 2006. Apparently there was no need. Opposition to Peña Nieto has been growing since May, when a student protest movement known as #YoSoy132 (“I’m number 132”) emerged. “This isn’t for López Obrador, it’s for the nation,” read one sign at the July 7 march, which reportedly was organized through social networks and by word of mouth. Student movement members supported the march but said they didn’t organize it. (La Jornada 7/8/12)

There have also been smaller local demonstrations. On July 14 a little group of people stood at the entrance to a Soriana store in Mexico City’s Tlalpan delegación (borough) with signs and leaflets charging that “five million votes were bought, and Soriana helped with half of them.” The group quickly grew larger, and when the number was around 100, the protesters pushed inside the store chanting: “From Chetumal to Tijuana, don’t buy in Soriana” and “If there’s imposition, there will be revolution.”

In another Soriana store in Tlalpan, protesters filled shopping carts with merchandise and then left them in the store, to symbolize “the purchases that would have been made if Soriana hadn’t participated in vote buying.” (LJ 7/15/12)

*4. Honduras: Three Die in Continuing Aguán Violence
Unidentified persons seized Gregorio Chávez, a 69-year-old campesino, on July 2 while he was working near the Paso Aguán estate in the Lower Aguán Valley in northern Honduras. Residents of the nearby Panamá community said they heard gunshots and found signs that someone had been dragged toward the estate. After searching for four days, on July 6 residents found Chávez’s body buried on the estate, with evidence that the campesino had been tortured, according to a communiqué by the Permanent Human Rights Monitoring Center for the Aguán.

Chávez’s murder indicates that the violence in the Aguán is not subsiding despite several agreements between the government and a number of campesino organizations aimed at ending the region’s longstanding agrarian conflict [see Update #1133]. The Paso Aguán estate is owned by cooking oil magnate Miguel Facussé Barjum, probably the richest man in Honduras and the focus of many of the land disputes. Panamá residents accused Facussé’s security guards of kidnapping and murdering Chávez, who was reportedly not a member of any campesino organization but supported the large Unified Campesino Movement of the Aguán (MUCA).

After giving Chávez a proper burial, local people occupied the entrance to the estate and held it until July 7, when police agents and soldiers from the 15th Infantry Battalion cleared a space so trucks could carry out African palm oil, the estate’s main product.

Murders continued in the region over the next two days. On July 7 campesino Jacobo López Erazo was shot dead near his home in the community of Quebrada de Arena. He had worked with MUCA organizations. On July 8 campesino José Luis Dubón, a member of the National Popular Resistance Front (FNRP), was shot and killed near the La Lempira settlement. Another campesino, Francis Bueso, was wounded; he received emergency surgery in a hospital in Tocoa, Colón department. Local people responded to the new killings with a second demonstration at the Paso Aguán estate on July 8. The protesters demanded an end to the killing of campesinos, the immediate withdrawal of troops from the Aguán, a definitive solution to the agrarian conflict and the approval of a Law of Agrarian Transformation.

The Permanent Human Rights Monitoring Center for the Aguán suggested that the latest outbreak of violence was a reaction to a court ruling upholding a claim by another campesino group, the Authentic Claimant Movement of Aguán Campesinos (MARCA), to land held by Facussé. According to Facussé, an appellate court has now overturned the lower court's ruling. (Adital (Brazil) 7/11/12; Vos el Soberano (Honduras) 7/12/12)

*5. Puerto Rico: Environmentalist Kayaks for Prisoner's Release
On July 12 Puerto Rican environmentalist Alberto de Jesús arrived at Fort de France, capital of the French overseas department of Martinique, the latest stop in a 1,100 journey from Venezuela to Puerto Rico by kayak that the activist has undertaken to publicize the situation of Oscar López Rivera, an independence fighter who has been imprisoned in the US for 31 years. De Jesús, who is widely known as “Tito Kayak,” began his trip on June 20 at the Venezuelan town of Macuro, on the Paria peninsula. Despite an injury to his wrist and damage to the kayak during the first days of the journey, De Jesús was determined to continue to Puerto Rico; afterwards he may go on to the US East Coast.

López Rivera was arrested in 1981 and accused of conspiracy to overthrow the US government in Puerto Rico. The US government said he was linked to the Armed Forces of National Liberation (FALN), which carried out bombings in New York City and Chicago in the 1970s and 1980s that caused several deaths, but US prosecutors never connected him directly to any bombings. He was sentenced to 70 years in prison.

De Jesús is known for a number of daring protests, especially during the campaign that led to the withdrawal of the US Navy from the Puerto Rican island of Vieques in 2003. In 2000 he placed a Puerto Rican flag on the crown of the Statue of Liberty in New York Harbor, and in 2007 he was imprisoned in Israel for flying a Palestinian flag on a tower in the wall that separates that country from the Palestinian territories. (El Nuevo Día (Guaynabo) 6/27/12; InterNews Service 7/12/12 via Claridad (Puerto Rico); Primera Hora (Guaynabo) 7/12/12)

*6. Links to alternative sources on: Argentina, Paraguay, Brazil, Bolivia, Peru, Colombia, Venezuela, Guayana, Honduras, Guatemala, Mexico, Haiti, US/immigration

Student Forum in Rosario: From the University to the Territory (Argentina)

Argentina: A Decade Without Dario and Maxi (Argentina)

Argentina: ex-dictators sentenced in baby thefts

Express Coup Rattles Paraguay

Brazil: indigenous tribes occupy Belo Monte dam site

Domitila Chungara, Revolutionary Heroine of Bolivia: An Interview

Bolivia: TIPNIS Marchers Return Home, Pledge to Resist Government Consulta

Bolivia: police attack indigenous protest camp in La Paz

Peru: three dead in Cajamarca anti-mining protests

Peru: one more dead in Cajamarca; protest leader detained

Peru: Sendero Luminoso attacks spread

Peru: Cajamarca martyrs put to rest amid ongoing civil strike

Peru: national solidarity builds with Cajamarca struggle

Peruvian Government Urged to Halt Violence against Citizens Opposed to Mining Projects

Colombia: Embera people strike deal for return of usurped lands —as terror continues

Sao Paulo Leftists Debate Alternatives to Neoliberalism in Caracas (Venezuela)

Everything That Glitters Isn’t Green in Guyana

Botched DEA Raid in Honduras Exposes How Militarization Terrorizes Communities Around the World

We want Pencils, not Weapons: San Juan Sacatepéquez rejects new Military Brigade in Guatemala

Student eviction does not stop Guatemalan movement against privatization

Guatemalan Femicide: The Legacy of Repression and Injustice

Stranded Central American Migrants Await Aid in Mexico

Observing in Ecatepec–Who’s in Charge Here? (Mexico)

From the “Perfect Dictatorship” to the Imperfect Democracy (Mexico)

The Mexican Election: Not Yet a Done Deal

Mexico’s hot political summer

Denied the Right to Vote in Mexico’s Presidential Election

Photo essay: Yo Soy 132 in New York City

The Cause of Drug War Violence: Interview with Author Peter Watt

Colombia and Mexico: Drug War Capitalism

Mexico Fails to Tackle Increased Levels of Violence Against Women

Outlook Dim for Mexican Workers

The Morne à Cabri mystery houses (Haiti)

In MINUSTAH Abuse Case, Cover-Up Goes Unpunished (Haiti)

Haiti’s Military Monster Makes a Creeping Comeback

Under Tents: Taking Action for Haiti’s Homeless

'Secure Communities' and the U.S. Immigrant Rights Movement: Lessons from New York State (US/immigration)

Guest Workers Take On Wal-Mart in Lower Manhattan (US/immigration)

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