‘Dirty War’ Tactic of Disappearances Reappears in Mexico

by Cyril Mychalejko

This article appeared at Toward Freedom.

The War on Drugs is becoming another “Dirty War” in Mexico, with the tactic of enforced disappearances reappearing as a commonplace occurrence in the country.

“Enforced disappearances in Mexico have happened in the past and continue to happen today,” the UN Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances stated during a presentation of its findings in March.

The UN Group noted that during the country’s first “Dirty War”, which lasted from the late 1960’s to the early 1980’s, enforced disappearances was a systematic State practice used against students, indigenous peoples, peasants, activists and anyone suspected of being a critic or opponent of the government.

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Casual racism on BBC’s Top Gear

Fresh from his scrimmage with the Murdoch press, Steve Coogan, creator of the comedy classic ‘I’m Alan Partridge’, takes on the casual racism of the BBC’s Top Gear. (via The Guardian)

The trio of jackasses that hosts BBC's Top Gear

As a huge fan of Top Gear, I normally regard the presenters’ brand of irreverence as a part of the rough and tumble that goes with having a sense of humour. I’ve been on the show three times and had a go at their celebrity-lap challenge, and I would love to receive a fourth invite. But I think that’s unlikely once they have read this. If, however, it makes the Lads question their behaviour for a second – ambitious, I know – it will be worth it.

I normally remain below the parapet when these frenetic arguments about comedy and taste break out. But this time, I’ve had enough of the regular defence you tend to hear – the tired line that it’s “just a laugh”, a bit of “harmless fun”.

Some of the Lads’ comments again, in case you missed them. “Mexican cars are just going to be lazy, feckless, flatulent, overweight, leaning against a fence asleep looking at a cactus, with a blanket with a hole in the middle on as a coat” (Richard Hammond). Mexican food is “sick with cheese on it” (James May).

Jeremy Clarkson added to the mirth by suggesting that the Mexican ambassador (a certain Eduardo Medina-Mora Icaza) would be so busy sleeping he wouldn’t register any outrage. (He wasn’t and he did.)

OK, guys, I’ve got some great ideas for your next show. Jeremy, why not have James describe some kosher food as looking like “sick with cheese on it”? No? Thought not. Even better, why not describe some Islamic fundamentalists as lazy and feckless?

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The Andean Connection: Tracking the Drug War’s Coca Leaves and Failed Policies

(Credit: Flickr/whertha)

by Benjamin Dangl

This article first appeared in The Indypendent.

Cocaine, the drug fueling the trade that’s left thousands dead in Mexico and Central America since 2007 and which 1.4 million Americans are addicted to, originates with two species of the coca plant grown in the South American Andes. Ninety percent of the U.S. market for cocaine is fed by Colombia, with the rest largely provided by Peru and Bolivia.

An estimated 310 to 350 tons of refined cocaine were trafficked out of Colombia last year, enough to make a rail of nose candy that would encircle the earth twice. Along with exporting cocaine northward, Colombia has become a laboratory for failed drug war policies that are finding their way to Central America and Mexico.

In July 2000 President Bill Clinton signed Plan Colombia (see note following article for more information) into law, initiating the anti-drug-producing and trafficking operation that has cost U.S. taxpayers more than $7.3 billion to date. U.S. military bases have been established in Colombia under the plan, as have extensive air patrols, pesticide spraying and surveillance. Because of the violence, some 2.5 million Colombians have been displaced.

“The lessons of Colombia are being ignored in many ways. You’ll have mainstream analysts saying Colombia is the model to win the drug war. If Colombia is winning then what are the Colombians trafficking?” drug war expert Sanho Tree, a fellow of the Institute for Policy Studies in Washington, D.C., told The Indypendent.

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Photo Chronicle of Mexico’s Caravan for Peace with Justice and Dignity

by Kristin Bricker and Santiago Navarro

This article first appeared at Upside Down World.

On June 4, poet Javier Sicilia and farmer Julian LeBaron led a 500-person caravan through what one major Mexican magazine referred to as the country’s “route of blood.” Over the following week, the caravan passed through some of the most dangerous places in Mexico: Michoacan, San Luis Potosí, Zacatecas, Durango, Coahuila, Nuevo Leon, and Chihuahua. The caravan ended on June 10 in Ciudad Juarez, which Sicilia dubbed Mexico’s “epicenter of pain” because just over one-fifth of the country’s homicides occurred in that city in 2010.

One of the caravan’s principle goals was for drug war victims to network and organize. The caravan collected victims’ stories and contact information in every town it visited.

Dozens of drug war victims from across the country, such as Nepomuceno Moreno Nuñez from Ciudad Obregón, Sonora, travelled with the caravan to meet other victims and share their stories.

Moreno Nuñez (above, right, shown hugging Javier Sicilia) wants to find his son, 18-year-old Jorge Mario Moreno León, who was kidnapped and disappeared along with five friends on July 1, 2010.

Moreno Nuñez spoke with the kidnappers when they answered Jorge Mario’s cell phone. They told him that the young men were kidnapped because they collaborated with the Beltran Leyva criminal organization. “They made a mistake,” laments Moreno Nuñez. “They said that one of the boys [Mario Enrique Diaz Islas] was the son of an accomplice to the Beltran Leyvas. It’s not true.” In reality, Mario Enrique’s father, Mario Diaz Garduño, was the director of the Hermosillo municipal Health Department.

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Private Contractors Making a Killing off the Drug War

by Cyril Mychalejko

As tens of thousands of corpses continue to pile up as a result of the US-led “War on Drugs” in Latin America, private contractors are benefiting from lucrative federal counternarcotics contracts amounting to billions of dollars, without worry of oversight or accountability.U.S. contractors in Latin America are paid by the Defense and State Departments to supply countries with services that include intelligence, surveillance, reconnaissance, training, and equipment.

“It’s becoming increasingly clear that our efforts to rein in the narcotics trade in Latin America, especially as it relates to the government’s use of contractors, have largely failed,”said U.S. Senator Claire McCaskill, chair of the Subcommittee on Contracting Oversight which released a report on counternarcotics contracts in Latin America this month. “Without adequate oversight and management we are wasting tax dollars and throwing money at a problem without even knowing what we’re getting in return.”

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Peace Caravan Encounters Massacres, Military Abuses and Disappearances in Torreón

Man beaten by Mexican soldiers

by Kristin Bricker

This article first appeared at the Americas Program.

Gunmen armed with AR-15 and AK-47 assault rifles massacred thirteen people in a Torreón drug rehabilitation center on Wednesday. The massacre occurred less than twenty-four hours before poet Javier Sicilia and his Citizens Caravan for Peace with Justice and Dignity were scheduled to arrive in Torreón for a rally against the drug war. The rehabilitation center is located just three blocks from the rally site.

Despite suspicions amongst some caravan participants that the massacre was an attempt to scare them away from Torreón, Sicilia refused to cancel the event in that city. “The march absolutely will not be postponed,” Sicilia told a press conference in Monterrey just before the caravan left for Torreón.

When the caravan arrived in Torreón, puddles of dried blood still filled the bullet-ridden rehabilitation center and ran out the door onto the sidewalk.

Sicilia had no choice but to hold the event as planned in Torreón. In a city ravaged by massacres, military abuses, journalist assassinations, and disappearances, residents risked their lives by simply organizing the anti-war rally.

According to participants, the massacre did have an impact on turnout though. “We live in constant fear,” said one protester. “There were people who wanted to be here today, but yesterday’s attack made them want to stay shut inside their homes.”

Olga Reyes Salazar, who has suffered the murder of six family members over the past two-and-a-half years in Ciudad Juarez, told Torreón residents that they can’t let fear overcome them. “We’re all afraid,” she told the crowd. “But if they keep intimidating us, we’re all just going to lock ourselves in our homes, and they’ll go there to kill us. So let’s leave our homes now and raise our voices against this government that is cruelly killing us.”

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Mexican Community Uses Barricades to Drive Out Organized Crime and Political Parties

by Kristin Bricker

This article first appeared at Upside Down World.

Armed with machetes, sticks, and farm tools, residents of Cherán, Michoacan, covered their faces with bandanas and set up barricades around their community on April 15. It is a scene reminiscent of Oaxaca in 2006, except this time, the barricades aren’t meant to keep out paramilitary death squads; they keep out organized crime.

The barricades have come at a cost for the town’s 12,600 residents. Schools have been shut down since Easter, and the economy has come to a standstill. However, without the barricades, kidnappers and illegal loggers who are in league with organized crime would continue to prey upon the town with complete impunity. For Cherán’s residents, unabated impunity is unacceptable, because in addition to the usual laundry list of drug war crimes–murder, kidnapping, extortion, and torture–the illegal loggers, protected by organized crime, have destroyed an estimated 80% of Cherán’s woodlands.

When the municipal, state, and federal governments refused to protect Cherán from organized crime, the community took matters into its own hands. Now, not only are they driving organized crime out of they’re community, they’re also kicking out the political parties, whom they blame for allowing insecurity and crime in Cherán to spiral out of control.

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Mexico’s Drug War Victims Find Their Voice in Massive Silent March

by Kristin Bricker

This article first appeared at Upside Down World.

Drug war victims finally made themselves heard in Mexico in the most unlikely way: a nation-wide silent March for Peace with Justice and Dignity.

Over 100,000 Mexicans took to the streets over the weekend to protest the war on drugs, impunity, corruption, and violence. The largest march lasted four days and covered nearly 100 kilometers from Cuernavaca, Morelos, to Mexico City. On Thursday, May 5, about 500 protesters began marching in Cuernavaca. Along the way, more contingents joined the march, while other marches set out from different states to join the protest in Mexico City. By the time the marches met in Mexico City’s main square on May 8, an estimated 100,000 people were gathered to protest the war.

Those who couldn’t make the trip to Mexico City held protests in their own states. In Chiapas, 25,000 masked Zapatistas marched in complete silence to the main plaza in San Cristobal de las Casas, where Comandante David read a communiqué from Subcomandante Marcos. “Tens of thousands of people have died in this absurd war,” said Comandante David. “Their only sin was to have been born or lived in a country that is badly governed by legal and illegal groups who are thirsty for war, death, and destruction.”

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Human Rights in the Rear View Mirror: Colombian Commandos Training Mexican Military and Police

by Cyril Mychalejko

In another misstep of the historic failure of Plan Colombia and the U.S.-supported War on Drugs, Colombia is training thousands of Mexican soldiers, police and court officials in an effort to boost Mexico’s fight against drug cartels.

Trainings have mostly taken place in Mexico, but now Mexican troops and police are traveling to Colombia to receive training from “Colombia’s battle-tested police commandos,” The Washington Post reported on Saturday. The article also suggests that, in addition to asserting itself as a regional power, Colombia is acting as a proxy for Washington because increased U.S. military presence in Mexico is not politically viable.

White House Drug Policy Director Richard Gil Kerlikowske, while meeting with Colombia’s President Juan Manuel Santos Calderón in Bogotá on January 18, said that Colombia “serves as a beacon of hope for other nations struggling with the threat to democracy posed by drug trafficking and related crime.”

A Beacon of Hope?

Kerlikowske’s deceptively rosy assessment of Colombia and the effectiveness of Plan Colombia is severely undermined by the facts on the ground.

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The Invisibles: A Hidden Journey Across Mexico

Mexican actor/director Gael García Bernal and British director Marc Silver have recently collaborated with Amnesty International in a series of four short films, entitled “The Invisibles”. The films draw attention to the plight of Central American immigrants traveling across Mexico in order to reach the U.S.

Watch “The Invisibles” here, and read Amnesty’s full 2010 report entitled “Invisible Victims: Migrants on the Move in Mexico“.

Following is a brief excerpt from Amnesty’s website, which gives an idea of the situation currently faced by migrants:

Kidnappings of migrants, mainly for ransom, reached new heights in 2009, with the National Human Rights Commission (CNDH) reporting that nearly 10,000 were abducted over six months and almost half of interviewed victims saying that public officials were involved in their kidnapping.

An estimated six out of 10 migrant women and girls experience sexual violence, allegedly prompting some people smugglers to demand that women receive contraceptive injections ahead of the journey, to avoid them falling pregnant as a result of rape.

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