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Thursday, May 2, 2013
Since our previous post on the new vigilante movement in Mexico, "community police" groups in the rural southwestern state of Guerrero have gained formal recognition, but other groups in neighboring Michoacán have sparked conflict with security forces.
Mexican authorities are divided on how to handle the self-defense groups. Some, like Monte Alejandro Rubido García, head of the National System of Public Security, have rejected any possibility of legalizing the groups under federal law. Others have been more sympathetic to the movement, most notably Guerrero Governor Ángel Aguirre Rivero, who passed a law to regulate the groups in his state through a "Community Security System."
President Enrique Peña Nieto recently spoke out against the self-defense groups, saying that "the practice of taking justice into your own hands is outside the law and my government will combat it."
Here is a run-down of the latest developments and media coverage of the autodefensa movement:
In an interview on March 22, Michoacán Governor Fausto Vallejo said that he thinks the vigilante problem has been overblown in the media. He claimed that the solution is not "more bullets, more soldiers, more police" but rather increased sources of employment and social development.
On Sunday, April 28, confrontations broke out in three neighboring towns in Michoacán between self-defense groups, suspected criminals, and law enforcement, killing at least 14 people. The leader of the Knights Templar drug gang released a video blaming the vigilante groups for the violence. He said his organization would "lower their weapons" if state and federal governments took "action in regard to law enforcement."
On April 24, the Guerrero government signed a pact with the state's vigilante umbrella organization, the Union of People and Organizations of the State of Guerrero (UPOEG), to legally recognize and regulate the self-defense groups. It also set out plans to have the Mexican Army train the vigilantes.
Guerrero is the first state to formally recognize the local defense groups. In other states, such as Michoacán, the vigilante groups have clashed with security forces and been accused by local governments of becoming involved in the drug trade.
In early April, the Regional Coordination of Community Authorities (CRAC), a coalition of self-defense groups in Guerrero, joined forces with the State Coordinating Committee of Guerrero Education Workers, a state teacher's union that has been loudly and sometimes violently protesting President Peña Nieto's education reform law.
Although the members were unarmed at the first protest, Francisco Arroyo, president of Mexico's lower house of congress, called the link-up an "unpleasant Molotov cocktail," given the union's reputation for violent protest.
While Governor Aguirre Rivero is sympathetic to the groups and has said that they "contribute to the security of their towns and indigenous communities," he has made it clear that he will not allow them to become involved in politics. When the CRAC, which rivals the UPOEG, threatened to launch violent demonstrations if the government did not hold talks with the teacher's union, Aguirre Rivero rejected the move and said the groups "will not bring us to our knees and much less will make us give into threatening behavior."
On April 14, in response to the vigilantes' involvement in political activity, a group of municipal, state, and federal government authorities in Guerrero announced "community police" found to be carrying arms outside of their jurisdiction would be detained by authorities.
On Wednesday, May 1, Mexican soldiers detained over 50 members of self-defense groups in Guerrero. The vigilantes were in the process of transporting suspected criminals to the community of El Paraíso in Ayutla de los Libres when they were apprehended. Leaders of the CRAC condemned the acts as hostage-taking that interfered with the security system in a largely indigenous community.
The PAN recently signaled that they were planning to propose a resolution in the federal legislature that would dissolve all self-defense groups. Speaking to Milenio on April 11, Senator Laura Rojas said that the groups are a threat to citizen security because "you have to question where they are getting these weapons from...they are very expensive. So the first question is, who is truly arming them? What interests do they serve?"
TIME recently profiled a new vigilante squad in the town of Tierra Colorada, Guerrero, which was on the streets by early April. One militia member interviewed said the security situation in the town had dramatically improved since the group moved in, claiming they "have achieved in weeks what police and soldiers could not do in years." One resident said she "used to be scared to go out on the street because of criminals," but now feels "much safer."
BBC revisited the situation in Ayutla, the Guerrero town that sparked the new self-defense movement in January. Some community members claim the force has made the streets safer and that organized crime "has begun to disappear." Ayutla mayor Severo Castro Gomez is grateful for what they have done, calling it "a beautiful thing." However, community police members have also been accused of torturing detainees. One lawyer spoke of cases in which "electric shocks were applied to genitals, there were beatings, plastic bags put over detainees."
Analysts are becoming increasingly worried about the implications of the movement for the broader security situation in Mexico. Some observers have made comparisons to paramilitaries in Colombia, which formed in response to violence caused by the FARC with the purported aim of "protecting" civilians from guerrillas. The paramilitaries went on to become one of the main perpetrators of violence in the country. Their criminal successor groups now run the country's drug trafficking operations and recently were estimated to be responsible for 30 percent of human rights abuses.
This post was written by CIP Intern Marissa Esthimer.
Wednesday, March 13, 2013
Citizens' self-defense groups, or vigilantes calling themselves "community police," are now active in 13 states and 68 municipalities across Mexico.
Although many rural parts of Mexico have a tradition of self-policing that dates back a decade or longer, there has been a surge in the formation of new groups in recent months due to the spread of organized crime into these areas, including increases in extortion and kidnappings.
The spike in violence in places like the state of Guerrero, combined with the minimal presence and weakness of police in rural areas, as well as the low level of public confidence in state institutions, are all contributing factors to the rise
of self-defense groups. "We want to escape the yoke of organized crime," said one vigilante leader about the movement's motivations. "They were charging us protection payments, extortion."
While supporters of the groups say they are providing much-needed security, there are growing concerns they may turn into paramilitary groups or become involved with criminal groups. Raúl Plascencia, head of Mexicos Human Rights Commission, has warned, "there is a very thin line between these self-defense organizations and paramilitary groups."
Here is a state-by-state breakdown of vigilante activity:
The recent self-policing phenomenon first began in Cherán, Michoacán in April 2011, when a group of residents took up arms to defend their forests against loggers with ties to drug cartels. Vigilantes set up roadblocks and night watches to fight back against unauthorized logging.
Self-policing groups also exist in Tepalcatepec and Buenavista Tomatlán, towns in the western part of the state that have been overrun by organized crime. According to official reports, about 400 masked men, some armed with AK-47s and dressed in matching printed T-shirts, set up checkpoints at the entrances to Tepalcatepec.
Authorities recently arrested 31 members of the Buenavista Tomatlán "community police" force in northern Michoacán and 34 members of a similar group in La Ruana. A few days later, another 17 vigilantes were arrested in La Ruana. The groups were accused of being fronts for drug trafficking. "The intelligence we are working with, the type of arms confiscated and other elements, indicates that these are people armed by organized crime groups that operate in Jalisco, Michoacán, and Colima," explained Eduardo Sánchez, Assistant Interior Secretary, regarding the La Ruana arrests.
Four new self-defense groups emerged in the municipalities of Cherato, Cheratillo, 18 de Marzo, and Orúscato, all in central Michoacán.
The new vigilante movement that took off in January has grown most prominently in Guerrero recently. According to the New York Times, this spike builds on a long-standing tradition of citizen police forces in the rural regions of the state. Before the outbreak, vigilante groups already claimed to be patrolling the streets of 77 towns and villages in Guerrero.
The Regional Coordination of Community Authorities (CRAC), which began as the Community Police in 1995, has a deep history in the region. CRAC works in 60 communities in 10 municipalities to “stop common crime through surveillance by community police and the reeducation of those detained.”
On January 5, the Union of Towns and Organizations of the State of Guerrero (UPOEG), originally formed to protest high electricity prices, emerged as a self-policing group in Ayutla de los Libres. It is now present in 41 towns across Guerrero.
There have been two recorded killings thus far by the groups: the first on January 22, in the
town of Tixtla, where a suspected criminal was shot to death when he refused to stop for inspections at a roadblock. The second took place on February 20 in the community of Refugio, in Ayutla de los Libres, when vigilantes opened fire on a group of five armed suspects, killing one.
Following a popular trial that began on January 31 in the town of Ayutla de los Libres, vigilante groups turned over 20 of the suspected criminals to state authorities. The vigilantes freed over 20 others following a "re-education process." They now claim they have either freed or turned in all of the 54 detained criminals.
On February 24, vigilante leaders announced that 20 self-policing groups from villages around Acapulco and Coyuca de Benítez will unite into one front. Spokesman Carlos García Jiménez said that the "community police force" would be setting up checkpoints the following week, and claimed the group was working toward official recognition from the government.
At the request of rural farmers and ranchers, some 60 residents of Mapastepec, on the southern coast of Chiapas, banded together to form a Rural Forces Squad (PFR) to work in collaboration with local authorities.
- With only 60 municipal police serving a population of 50,000 in the town and 200 surrounding communities, the town was previously ill-equipped to fight crime, particularly cattle theft, according to La Jornada. The Rural Forces Squad has been sworn in and armed by the government, but apart from thefts, they are required to refer any crime to authorities.
Self-defense groups are now patrolling in two communities in the eastern part of Morelos: Tetelcingo, in the municipality of Cuautla, and Tenextepango, in Ciudad Ayala. The groups formed in response to a surge in criminal acts, including vehicle theft, homicides, and attacks on storekeepers and credit holders at banks.
- In the indigenous community of Tetelcingo, the group has hung banners over streets and bridges to advise residents to remain vigilant for crime, and to warn criminals that they will be "put to death by the people" if they are apprehended in the area. State Secretary Jorge Messeguer Guillén said that the government is aware of the situation and that it "rejects any public use of force by one's own hand."
- In Tenextepango, a recent attack on an elderly woman in her own store riled up the anger of the community, which then began to organize to put an end to such crimes themselves.
Residents of Santos Reyes Nopala formed their own self-policing group and declared themselves in rebellion against abuses of the army and members of the state police. After being sworn in by Mayor Fredy Gil Pineda Gopar, a member of the PRI, the 500 vigilantes took up rifles, shotguns, and machetes and set up the first roadblock at the entrance to the community. The governor of Oaxaca has vowed to dissolve the group.
In two municipalities, Ascención and Galeana, members of the Mennonite and Mormon communities have taken up arms to end the kidnappings, murders, and acts of extortion that members of their families have experienced at the hands of organized crime groups.
In the community of Obrera, in the capital city, residents have set up guards and taken up
homemade arms to stop thieves, though the local police intervened.
Estado de Mexico
The Secretary General of the State of Mexico, Efrén Rojas Dávila, acknowledged that self-policing groups operate in the towns of Amatepec and Tlatlaya, in the southern part of the state.
The only known self-defense group in Tabasco is People United Against Crime (PUCD), which emerged in Villahermosa in order to "clean" the city of organized criminal groups like Los Zetas. Governor Arturo Núñez Jiménez has denied the existence of PUCD, and claims to have "no evidence" that the group exists.
On February 11, municipal leaders met with representatives of the state government, the military, and several indigenous groups, including 150 members of the indigenous Nahua group, in Cuautitlán de García Barragán to announce their decision to create a self-defense group. Town leaders have been faced with an increase in illegal mineral extraction and logging as well as organized crime.
The vigilante movement has also spread to Veracruz, where there are self-policing groups in three different regions of the state, including Ciudad Mendoza, Acultzingo, and the northern region. The communications coordinator for the state of Veracruz, Gina Domínguez Colío, has denied that such groups exist in the state and claimed that the reports mistook protesting peasants in Acultzingo for vigilantes.
Today, the Mexican news website Animal Político reported the results of a public opinion survey conducted by Parametría. The study found that approximately 6 out of 10 Mexicans approve of the self-defense groups. About 50% of those surveyed believe that the groups are "a way of helping authorities solve the problem of crime," as opposed to 25% who responded that they constitute "taking justice into one's own hands."
Click the map below for an interactive version with more details. Animal Político also has a thorough map of self-defense groups across the country.
Selected Self-Defense Groups in Mexico
This post was written by CIP Intern Marissa Esthimer.
Thursday, February 7, 2013
This post was written by John Lindsay-Poland from the Fellowship of Reconciliation. The original article can be found on the FOR blog.
The Pentagon signed $444 million in non-fuel contracts for purchases and services in Latin America and the Caribbean during the 2012 fiscal year, an overall decrease of nearly 15% from the previous year. But US military spending in the region is still considerably higher than during the George W. Bush administration, when the equivalent Pentagon spending in Latin America averaged $301 million a year.
FOR conducted an analysis of Defense Department contracts listed on usaspending.gov for Fiscal Year 2012, building on the review we did last year.
More than a third of funds for these contracts in the region are being carried out in Cuba, with $158 million for housing upgrades, intelligence analysis, port operations and other services. The United States maintains the Guantanamo naval base in Cuba, site of the 11-year-old detention center that holds 171 prisoners without trial, many of whom have been cleared for release.
An additional $130 million in Pentagon contracts was for fuel purchases, including more than $44 million in Brazil, $35 million in Costa Rica, and $24 million in Honduras. Such fuel purchases supply the Fourth Fleet of the Navy, as well as military aircraft and land vehicles used in exercises, operations, and training.
Colombia remained the country with the largest amount of Pentagon contracts in continental Latin America, with $77 million. A multi-year contract shared by Raytheon and Lockheed for training, equipment and other drug war activities accounted for more than a third of Pentagon contract spending in Colombia. Honduras, which has become a hub for Pentagon operations in Central America, is the site for more than $43 million in non-fuel contracts signed last year.
The US Southern Command (SouthCom), responsible for US military activities in Central and South America and the Caribbean, is assisting the Panamanian border police, known as SENAFRONT, by upgrading a building in the SENAFRONT compound. The force was implicated in killings of indigenous protesters (PDF) in Bocas del Toro in 2011, and fired indiscriminately with live ammunition (PDF) on Afro-Caribbean protesters last October.
Many countries that host US military activities hope to receive economic benefits and jobs as a result. But more than five of every six Pentagon dollars contracted for services and goods in the region went to US-based companies. Only nine percent of the $574.4 million in Pentagon contracts signed in 2012 (including fuel contracts) were with firms in the country where the work was to be carried out. In the Caribbean, there were virtually no local companies that benefitted from the $245 million in Defense Department contracts.
A few corporations dominated Pentagon contracts in the region. CSC Applied Technologies, based in Fort Worth, Texas, received more than $53 million in contracts to operate the Navy’s underwater military testing facility in the Bahamas. Lockheed Martin received more than $40 million in contracts, almost entirely for drug war training, equipment and services in Colombia and Mexico.
Pentagon Focus on Guatemala
Although the Pentagon spent less in most Latin American countries in 2012 than the year before, DOD contracts have more than doubled since 2010 in Guatemala, where there is a ban on most State Department-channeled military aid to the army. However, the ban does not apply to Defense Department assistance. The contracts for nearly $14 million in 2012 amount to more than seven times what it was in 2009. In addition, the US military spent another $8.1 million on fuel in Guatemala last year, probably for “Beyond the Horizon” military exercises held there and in Honduras from April to July, and perhaps to support the deployment of 200 Marines to Guatemala in August.
The contracts included new assistance to the Guatemalan special forces, known as Kaibiles, former members of which have been implicated in giving training to the Zetas drug cartel, as well as the worst atrocities during the genocide period of the 1980s. Two contracts, funded by SouthCom and signed in September, were for a “shoot house” and “improvements” at the Kaibiles training base in Poptun, Petén.
SouthCom also funded a contract for construction of a new $3 million counter-drug base in Santa Ana de Berlin, in Quetzaltenango. This year, SouthCom is slated to build a $1.8 million counternarcotics operations center and barracks in Mantanitas, Guatemala, according to an Army Corps of Engineers presentation.
The expenditures included equipment. For the last two years, SouthCom has been providing Boston whaler boats, radios, and tactical vehicles (Jeeps) to Central American militaries. Guatemala is receiving more of the equipment than other countries in the region – 47 Jeeps and 8 Boston whalers, according to a SouthCom document. SouthCom signed a $2.5 million contract in September for Jeeps for Guatemala, and it has purchased more than $2.8 million of Harris military radios for Guatemala since September 2011.
Department of Defense contracts, summaries of which are posted on usaspending.gov, only represent a portion of Pentagon spending. A report to Congress last April (PDF) of Defense Department assistance worldwide showed more than $15 million in military aid to Guatemala in 2010, including $9 million for intelligence analysis, training, boats, trucks, night vision devices, and a “base of operations.” These funds also included more than $6 million of unspecified support for Guatemalan police operations in Cobán, in the Guatemalan highland department of Alta Verapaz. The report didn’t include data after 2010.
On December 7, the Pentagon’s Defense Logistics Agency signed a $1.4 million contract with a Guatemalan firm to manage a 10,000-barrel supply of turbine fuel for the next five years in Puerto Quetzal, on Guatemala’s southern coast. This followed a July 2012 solicitation to deliver 63,000 gallons of jet fuel to another southern Guatemalan site, in Retalhuleu.
FOR compiled data on the “country of performance” for contracts. For Guatemala, we also examined data on additional contracts that reference the country, which included a $2.5 million contract signed in late September with a Chrysler distributor to deliver tactical vehicles – some of the Jeeps slated for the country. The US Army also purchased $7.6 million worth of trousers from a producer in Guatemala in 2012.
Some legislation for DOD drug war construction of bases and other infrastructure limits projects to $2 million, and the Southern Command continues to employ this authority frequently to construct a variety of facilities all over the Americas. Here are some of the facilities the US military is constructing around Latin America.
Friday, July 13, 2012
As the official recount was drawing to a close, tens of thousands of protestors marched on Saturday to protest Enrique Peña Nieto and the Federal Electoral Institute (IFE). Lopez Obrador and his party have formally filed a petition contesting the election, which can be revoked until September 6. Based on how the 2006 election were resolved, Mexicans are not optimistic. The PAN and PRD, two of the major parties, have worked together to investigate voting irregularities. After the elections, it has become clear that the pre-election poll predictions were inaccurate. Enrique Peña Nieto, the president-elect, elaborated his political strategy for the drug war, which includes targeting lower-level criminals and reducing violence. In Congress, the PRI will not have an absolute majority.
Human Rights issues:
Central Americans in Mexico: While the number of Mexicans making the journey to the United States is decreasing, it is increasing for Central Americans, who are leaving violence behind, but running risks of being victims of organized crime. Human rights defender, Father Solalinde, who returned to Mexico to his shelter Brothers on the Road after leaving the country because of death threats, said, Central American migrants are being used by drug cartels in a form of human trafficking. More than 2,000 Central Americans have been stranded in Mexico after a train derailed in June 17th and the city of Coatzacoalcos has been struggling to handle the emergency.
Violence against women: Amnesty International reports on the growing violence and discrimination against women in Mexico. Despite laws and institutions, there is a lack of investigations and justice, thus low prosecution rates and police who are not held accountable. The report's author noted that president-elect Peña Nieto's track record on tackling gender-based violence "is not strong," thus not giving much hope for the country. Death and violence against women in Ciudad Juarez continue, and some say are worse.
Indigenous rights: Mining contracts have taken over 75% of the lands of the Wikiruta people, reflecting one of the many social-environmental rural and urban conflicts in Mexico. This community has been very openly resistant to these contracts, unlike other communities that have been less visible. On Sunday, two indigenous members of Cherán in Michoacan were kidnapped and killed. Community members protested outside the local congress to demand security and protection from organized crime.
Violence against journalists: On Tuesday, two northern Mexican newspapers, El Norte and El Manana, were attacked by gunfire and grenades. The violence is assumed to be caused by criminal groups, and El Manana, while condemning attacks that limited the country’s freedoms, repeated that it would cease to cover violence among criminal groups.
On a related issue, the Mexican Congress has demanded that the president enact a victims’ rights law after his rejection of the law last week. On Thursday, The U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee issued a report criticizing the use of the military in Mexico to combat drug violence and has recommended spending for judicial and police reform to prevent corruption and human rights violations.
This post was written by the Center for International Policy's Americas Program's Mexicoblog.
The Americas MexicoBlog blog team includes Laura Carlsen, Mikael Rojas, Anna Moses, and Brenda Salas.
Friday, July 6, 2012
This past week's highlight has been the Mexican elections that took place on July 1st. The international press was quick to announce the winner of the presidential election to be Enrique Peña Nieto, and while there was no widespread violence, Americas Program policy analyst Laura Carlsen considered the election an example of the country's movement to an imperfect democracy, citing alleged practices of voter manipulation not only through vote-buying, but also through the mass media of giant TV companies, and citizen complacency with this practice. During the election there was a shortage of ballots in special voting booths for voters that were in transit from their home voting location, according to Milenio. While the student movement criticized the disregard of the number of voting irregularities and organized marches for a fair election and against Enrique Peña Nieto, some reports indicate that journalists may have censured their election coverage or drug cartels may have played a role in local elections. A citizen organization surveyed a number of voters and reported that nearly 30% of citizens were exposed to vote-buying or coercion, according to CNN Mexico. After the election, hundreds of people tried to cash-in cards at a supermarket chain, which they said they had received from the PRI party.
The current PAN governing party experienced great losses in the general election, reflecting dissatisfaction with the party's performance, according to the Washington Post. Andrés Manuel Lopez Obrador, the runner-up in the presidential election, did not concede the election and requested a recount, which was completed on July 6th with Peña Nieto is the official winner of the election. Many of the 40,000 immigrants who voted outside of the country were surprised at the PRI party's return, says the Associated Press. Meanwhile, the president-elect has begun outlining his future plans to increase private investment and encourage job creation.
A New York Times piece argues that the drug war is not "successful," with drug prices at a low in cocaine and heroin and discusses legalization and de-penalization. The U.S. and Mexican policy on drugs was expected to stay the same as the presidential candidates did not make foreign policy a big issue in any of their campaigns. President-elect Enrique Peña Nieto has begun developing his strategy for the drug war, expanding the U.S. partnership in training and intelligence, and measuring success by decreasing the death toll of victims, rather than measuring the number of people captured or drugs seized.
In human rights, Mexicans face frustrating challenges and low approval rates when seeking asylum in the United States. And President Felipe Calderón has rejected a bill that would require the government to assist victims of violence, though in Veracruz an initiative is gaining approval to protect journalists.
From the "Perfect Dictatorship" to the Imperfect Democracy
CIP Americas: If Mexico's electoral authorities confirm the preliminary vote, Mexico will have gone from a "perfect dictatorship" to an imperfect democracy,with the return to power of the party that ruled for 71 years almost without rivals.
Cartels cast shadow over Mexico polls
Al Jazeera: Speculation rife over role of criminal syndicates as country votes for new president amid continuing drug violence.
Mexico's presidential election tainted by claims of vote buying
Washington Post: In their eagerness to assure the world that Sunday's election was free and fair, Mexican President Felipe Calderon and the country's top electoral officials seem to have glossed over a few dirty details.
Mexico: Recounts for more than half the ballot boxes
CNN: More than half of the ballot boxes from last weekend's Mexican presidential election -- 54.5% -- will be individually recounted, the executive secretary of Mexico's Federal Election Institute said Wednesday.
Immigrants express shock at return of Mexico's PRI
Associated Press: Mexico's new president may dissuade some immigrants from returning home, despite promising economic opportunities there and a faltering U.S. job market.
Drug War News:
Numbers Tell of Failure in Drug War
New York Times: When policy makers in Washington worry about Mexico these days, they think in terms of a handful of numbers: Mexico's 19,500 hectares devoted to poppy cultivation for heroin; its 17,500 hectares growing cannabis; the 95 percent of American cocaine imports brought by Mexican cartels through Mexico and Central America.
Why Mexico's election doesn't matter to Americans
Global Post: Analysis: The winner of Sunday's Mexican presidential election is unlikely to change course on US trade and the drug war.
Mexico's Calderon accused of blocking victims's rights law
Fox News Latino: Poet turned peace activist Javier Sicilia accused Mexican President Felipe Calderon Thursday of breaking his word by effectively vetoing a measure to aid the thousands of innocent victims of the drug war.
This post was written by the Center for International Policy's Americas Program's Mexicoblog.
The Americas MexicoBlog blog team includes Laura Carlsen, Mikael Rojas, Anna Moses, and Brenda Salas.
Tuesday, July 3, 2012
Between June 14th and 24th, U.S. Southern Command (Southcom), led by U.S. Marine Forces South, sponsored ten days of military exercises in Barbados aimed at "improving cooperation and security" in the Caribbean basin. This was the 28th annual Tradewinds exercise and featured U.S. military personnel and law enforcement officers working with 16 other nations from the region. These nations are: Antigua and Barbuda, Barbados (host nation), Bahamas, Belize, Canada, Dominica, Dominican Republic, Grenada, Guyana, Haiti, Jamaica, St. Kitts and Nevis, St. Lucia, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, Suriname, Trinidad and Tobago, and the United States.
This is a smaller group of countries than last year's exercise, which included 21 nations. This year, Colombia, El Salvador, Nicaragua and Panama did not participate
The objective [PDF] of the exercise, according to Southcom, is to "enhance the collective abilities of the Partner Nations' Defense Forces and constabularies to Counter Transnational Organized Crime (CTOC) and conduct Humanitarian Aid/ Disaster Relief (HA/DR) operations." This translates into the following exercises:
- Conduct joint, combined and interagency training,
- Focus on increasing regional cooperation in countering transnational organized crime,
- Support humanitarian assistance/disaster responses,
- Conduct interoperability training for multinational staffs,
- Build capability to plan and execute complex multinational security operations.
The above skills were tested later on in the exercise through a five-day command post exercise in which,
Barbados was just hit by a simulated tsunami in the midst of dealing with a virtual terrorist hostage situation, a collapsed stadium and a bombing that damaged an oil tanker causing an oil leak into the bay, all while preparing for the impending threat of a hurricane.
Alongside the exercise, a meeting was held between upwards of 40 diplomats, ministers of national security, chiefs of defense, ministers of defense, agency directors and senior military officials from the region to discuss the areas the combatants were being trained in through the Distinguished Visitor Program. Larry Palmer, U.S. ambassador to Barbados and the Eastern Caribbean said, "There is a tremendous value to the region for all of these representatives to get this kind of experience - they get to create the kinds of relationships they will need in order to do their jobs when called upon."
U.S. Southern Command has also been in Peru in recent weeks as part of the ongoing New Horizons 2012 exercise which, paired with the Beyond the Horizon exercises, is taking place between April and October 2012. Both of the exercises are taking place in Peru, Guatemala, and Honduras and are being executed by U.S. Army South and U.S. Air Forces Southern.
This blog was written by CIP Intern Anna Moses.
Friday, June 29, 2012
Mexico Elections News this week features the closing of the presidential candidates’ campaigns in Mexico. The final poll by the newspaper El Universal shows Enrique Pena Nieto of the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) leading by 17.4 percent, with Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador of the leftist party coming in second. The independence of the polls, however, has become subject of debate due in part to a Wikileaks cable noting that Peña Nieto was financing pollsters as far back as 2009. The low standing of the PAN candidate is attributed to Mexicans' dissatisfaction with the current president's policies on security and the economy. With the prospect of the PRI winning, opinions range from fear of a return of an authoritarian party to the argument that the PRI has changed since it last ruled for 71 years in a tightly controlled, one-party system. The question of how level the playing field is came up again as The Guardian reported on a second round of documents revealing ties between Pena Nieto and the TV network Televisa since the buildup to 2009 midterm congressional elections. Meanwhile, the student movement has been going strong, with large demonstrations throughout the country.
One of the immediate concerns Mexicans face now is the chance of electoral fraud and the independent Federal Electoral Institute has been preparing to prevent the crisis of the 2006 election results from reoccurring with new safeguards.
In the Drug War the presidential candidates have promised to reduce violence associated with drug trafficking in the country in various proposals, but have not offered detailed plans. This week we saw the bizarre and embarrassing cases of the mistaken arrest of Felix Beltrán León, not the son of the wanted drug cartel leader Joaquin 'El Chapo' Guzmán (in which the US DEA also played a role that has been called into question), and three police officers killed at the Mexico City airport by two other police officers, suspected of being connected with drug trafficking, illuminating the connections officials have with trafficking through the major transportation hub. Veracruz made headlines again for the assassination of journalists and new reports showed that cartel presence and violence is also mounting in Guadalajara.
Opinion: Mexico’s election may resurrect authoritarian party
Miami Herald: MEXICO CITY With virtually all polls showing that soap opera star-looking candidate Enrique Peña Nieto, 45, is likely to win the July 1 elections, the big question is whether his victory would mean a return to Mexico’s corruption-ridden, authoritarian ways of the past. Although times have changed, that may very well happen. Read more.
Mexican media scandal: secretive Televisa unit promoted PRI candidate
The Guardian: Broadcaster commissioned videos rubbishing rivals of candidate who is now favourite to win presidential race on Sunday, documents seen by the Guardian reveal. A secretive unit inside Mexico's predominant television network set up and funded a campaign for Enrique Peña Nieto, who is the favourite to win Sunday's presidential election, according to people familiar with the operation and documents seen by the Guardian. Read more.
Online and on the streets, Mexico youth protests grow as election looms
CNN: They sport purple hair and piercings, plaid shirts and plastic aviator glasses. A guy with dreadlocks totes a bongo drum. Five weeks ago, they were scrambling to finish homework assignments and studying for exams at Mexico City's Iberoamerican University. Before then, many of them had never met. Read more.
Mexico ready to vote, watchful for fraud
Washington Post: Mexican democracy has come a long way from the days when the ruling party would give out washing machines for votes and rip up ballots with the wrong box checked off. Today, electoral regulators preside over an elaborate system of safeguards that have made stealing the presidency at the ballot box impossible, political analysts say. But they warn that the country’s July 1 election remains vulnerable to subtler forms of tampering and the shadowy influences of organized crime, along with some new twists on the old dirty tricks. Read more.
Drug War News
Mexico election unlikely to reshape drug war
Latimes.com: Six years into a ghastly drug war, none of the top candidates in next Sunday's presidential election has offered a significant new strategy to win a conflict that has claimed more than 50,000 lives and terrorized Mexican society. The top candidates in next week's presidential vote all emphasize plans for reducing the drug cartels' brutal violence, but nobody offers a significant new strategy. Read more.
DEA's 'El Chapo Fiasco' Sets Drug War Back for Years
El Universal: Translation by WorldMeets.Us
"After a series of losing encounters with the facts, agents and operatives of the DEA, who had repeatedly insisted that they had the son of El Chapo, in the end had no choice but to surrender to the accumulating evidence and admit it was a case of mistaken identity ... this has dealt a major blow to the DEA and to the armed forces of Mexico, delaying, perhaps of years, the much-anticipated capture of Joaquin 'El Chapo' Guzmán." Read more.
Officers in Mexico airport drug ring identified
AP: Mexican authorities have identified two federal police officers who shot dead three of their colleagues at Mexico City's international airport this week and say the shooters were part of a trafficking ring that flew in cocaine from Peru. Read more.
Killings Curb Reporting of Mexican Crime Wave
NY Times: Throwing his burly frame to the ground, the photojournalist Alberto Morales click, click, clicked away on Tuesday as police officers and soldiers in body armor barked into radios, hoisted their rifles and crouched into position on word of a suspicious vehicle moving in. Read more.
The Kingpins: The fight for Guadalajara
New Yorker: At the Guadalajara International Book Fair, Enrique Peña Nieto, who is forty-five, boyishly handsome, and generally expected to be the next President of Mexico, was asked to name three books that had influenced him. He mentioned the Bible, or, at least, “some parts” (unspecified), and “The Eagle’s Throne,” a Carlos Fuentes novel (though he named the historian Enrique Krauze as the author). And, for a few excruciating minutes, that was all he could come up with. Read more.
This post was written by the Center for International Policy's Americas Program's Mexicoblog.
The Americas MexicoBlog blog team includes Laura Carlsen, Mikael Rojas, Anna Moses, and Brenda Salas.
Friday, June 29, 2012
President Ahmadinejad's visit to Latin America last week to attend the Rio+20 Summit in Brazil and solidify relationships in the region was a chance to see Iranian foreign policy in action as it evolves with the changing governments of Latin America. During his visit, President Ahmadinejad made stops in Bolivia, Brazil and Venezuela. In his 2011 Worldwide Threat Assessment (PDF), Director of National Intelligence, James Clapper, referred to Iran's increasing relations with Latin America. According to Clapper,
Iran continues to reach out to Latin America as a way to diminish its international isolation and bypass international sanctions. So far, Iranian relations with Latin America have only developed significantly with leftists governments that oppose U.S. leadership in the world, particularly Venezuela, Bolivia, and other ALBA members, as well as with Brazil.
The U.S. State Department, meanwhile, reacted to the recent trip by saying that Ahmadinejad was "looking for friends in wrong places."
Below are highlights from President Ahmadinejad's trip to Bolivia, Brazil and Venezuela.
- The relationship between Bolivia and Iran has been increasingly friendly over the past few years. In 2007, trade and energy agreements were signed between the two countries and then extended in 2010. Bolivian President Evo Morales was also publicly reported praising Iranian investment by FARS news agency in 2007 and stated that his country "relies very much on Iran's aids."
- On this trip, Ahmadinejad was keen to highlight the similarities between the two countries. According to Ahmadinejad, both Iran and Bolivia have a colonial past and will progress by "work[ing] together against greedy governments, and states that want to stop others from developing, and from exercising freedom." President Morales responded, stating that "There is a permanent aggression against you, your government and the Iranian people, but I want to tell you that you are not alone because we are with you in your fight against imperialism."
- An agreement was reached between Ahmadinejad and Bolivian President Evo Morales for the Iranian military to train ten counternarcotics intelligence officers as per a new Memorandum of Understanding (PDF) between the two countries.
- The trip has also renewed multiple economic and agricultural agreements between the countries, including the construction of a cement factory and housing projects, among others, according to the Argentina Independent.
- Under President Luiz Inicio Lula da Silva, the relationship between Iran and Brazil became cordial as Time reports, with Ahmadinejad visiting the country in 2009 and Lula returning the visit in 2010 to facilitate nuclear talks without US or EU powers, according to the BBC.
- This relationship has changed with President Dilma Rousseff's election in Brazil, as she has distanced her country from Iran as CNN noted earlier this year. Rousseff has cited Iran's poor human rights record as a reason for her distance, which runs contrary to her priorities for her own country.
- President Ahmadinejad was in Brazil for two days to take part in the Rio+20 Summit, though he also hoped to use the opportunity to reinvigorate ties with the Brazilian government. However, after a series of snubs by the Brazilian government, the success of the trip has been deemed a failure back at home in Iran. According to the Daily Telegraph, many Iranians are angry with the way in which President Ahmadinejad was treated and one Iranian MP criticized him "for failing to abandon the trip when he saw that he, and by extension, Iran, was being treated disrespectfully."
- The Islamic Republic News Agency reported that, instead, Ahmadinejad's time in Brazil was "spent in meetings with Brazilian elites, a meeting with the UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, and another meeting with the former Brazilian President Lula da Silva," as well as addressing the Rio+20 Summit.
- Venezuela has probably had the closest ties with Iran of any country in the region in recent years. Since 1999, President Hugo Chavez has visited Tehran 13 times.
- There seems to be no change in this relationship coming in the near future; Ahmadinejad's visit occurred one week after President Chavez confirmed that Venezuela was building unmanned drones with Iran's help, Reuters stated recently. Venezuelan-Iranian relations have most recently been demonstrated through reports that Iran has unrestricted access to a Venezuelan port, where Venezuelan workers are denied access. This has been reported in El Nuevo Herald, Die Welt and the Miami Herald, all citing confidential sources that allege the goal is to ultimately build a missile base, although at the moment it remains under a veil of secrecy.
- Although the meeting does not appear to have produced any new agreements, in his opening remarks at the presidential palace in Venezuela, Ahmadinejad offered to "always stand by the Venezuelan nation and their brave president Hugo Chavez," the Tehran Times wrote. In addition, the two presidents focused their meeting on reviewing current agreements including their "mutual investment of about $5 billion in factories to make cement, satellites, food, tractors and bicycles."
This blog was written by CIP Intern Anna Moses.
Wednesday, June 20, 2012
During the second and final presidential debate, on June 10, the three main candidates in the Mexican election discussed how they would move forward in the continuing drug war. All three pledged a different strategy to that which has been carried out by current president Felipe Calderón, who has focused on using the armed forces as the main form of attack during his tenure. This has led to a death toll "which has spiraled out of control during Mr. Calderón's six-year tenure." Each candidate has mentioned reducing the body count, although the manner in which they plan to achieve this differs.
Below is an overview of the three candidates' strategies for combating the violence in Mexico.
The three candidates:
Enrique Peña Nieto: The current front-runner, for the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI), stated recently in an interview with the New York Times that
The adjustment in the strategy is to focus on decreasing violence [as opposed to reducing drug trafficking]. And that means that the whole Mexican state, jointly between the three levels of government‚ - state, federal and municipal‚ - should really focus its efforts on combating homicide and the impunity that is a given in many of the homicides committed, as with kidnapping and extortion.
Peña Nieto's promises include:
- Bringing more police to less populated areas. "There are too few police, sometimes without equipment, without weapons, and organized crime . . . ends up easily getting there and taking over these places with small populations."
- Focusing on "combating homicide and the impunity that is a given in many of the homicides committed, as with kidnapping and extortion" primarily through cutting corruption.
- While Peña Nieto says he will continue to work with the United States, he has made clear that Mexico should not be "subordinate to the strategies of other countries."
- Peña Nieto has said he would hire former Colombian police chief, Oscar Naranjo, as a security advisor. A move which could mean continued strong U.S.-Mexican cooperation, according to the Washington Post.
One question being asked is whether Mr. Peña Nieto really would be a new leader for the PRI or simply a return to the old guard which ruled the country for 71 years and which many allege allowed the cartels to exist in return for benefits for the government.
Andrés Manuel López Obrador: AMLO, as he is often known, represents a leftist, three-party coalition called the Progressive Movement. He is a returning candidate who narrowly lost the 2006 election to current president Calderón. López Obrador has had to change his campaign strategy for this election and distance himself from his failed attempt at the presidency, although his attitude towards the drug war has not changed hugely.
AMLO's promises include:
- A holistic strategy he has dubbed "Abrazos, no balazos," or "Hugs, not bullets," which focuses on reducing unemployment and fostering economic growth to end the drug war.
- A new federal police force to replace the army in the streets, though he has not elaborated on how this would be organized.
- He has not ruled out legalizing drugs, but will consult with experts and local governments.
- On collaboration with the U.S.: Rather than increased or continued U.S. military aid, AMLO argues that Mexico would benefit more from receiving economic credits that could be used for social programs.
Although polls present differing views of how close the election is currently, López Obrador is generally agreed to be in second place.
Josefina Vázquez Mota: Vázquez Mota is the first female presidential candidate fielded by a major political party in Mexico, representing the Partido Acción Nacional or PAN, the party of current president Calderón.
Her promises include:
- A return to law and order by establishing a well paid, well-trained police force from within the community.
- A four-pillar approach focusing on security, well-being, productivity, and a sustainable Mexico.
- On collaboration with the U.S.: "We have to continue strengthening our relationship with the United States" in an effort to move forward with the drug war.
This is markedly different from Calderón's increased use of the army in an attempt to tackle corruption within the police force. Although Vázquez Mota was second in the polls at one point, in the past month she has slipped down to third place behind López Obrador.
The election outcome
Only one of these candidates will have the opportunity to take their proposed policies forward past the July 1st election. Although polls currently suggest Peña Nieto is the favorite to win, there has been some indication that the Yarrington scandal, in which President Calderón has accused a former governor and member of the PRI for alleged links with drug cartels and corruption, has damaged the perception of Peña Nieto by association. With just under two weeks remaining, it remains to be seen if he can hold his lead.
Friday, May 11, 2012
Drug War News this was punctuated by the gruesome murders of journalists in Veracruz. Three photojournalists who covered the perilous crime beat in the violence-torn eastern Mexico state of Veracruz were found slain and dumped in plastic bags in a canal on Thursday, less than a week after a reporter for an investigative newsmagazine was beaten and strangled in her home in the same state. As might be expected, this recent wave of violence against the media is suppressing news in Mexico.
A group of 18 migrants-- an unfortunate wrong place, wrong time victim group in Mexico's battle against organized crime-- was freed from the Zetas Cartel in the northern state of Coahuila. Across the border in Texas, the Zetas suffered another blow as drug trafficker who worked with them was sentenced to 7 years in prison.
Rule of Law and Human Rights News offered a solemn but hopeful week of events, as Javier Sicilia readies the upcoming Movement for Peace and Justice with Dignity caravan through the United States and mothers of Mexico's disappeared marched on the capital. Students in Michoacan are also taking collective action as they demand the release of their imprisoned compatriots after university protests in Morelia.
Mexico Presidential Race News witnessed the first of two scheduled presidential debates in the run-up to the July election. The debate was seen as an important opportunity for leftist candidate Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador and ruling party conservative candidate Josefina Vasquez Mota to cut into the commanding lead of the gaff-prone PRI candidate Enrique Pena Nieto. While both AMLO and Vasquez Mota badgered Pena Nieto throughout the debate with accusations of links to corruption and false promises, many debate observers cited little known fourth-placed candidate Gabriel Quadri de la Torre as the debate's winner; meaning that Pena Nieto escaped unscathed and still in control of a sizable lead in the polls.
Drug War News
3 Mexico journalists slain, dumped in bags in drug gang-plagued Veracruz
CBS News: Three photojournalists who covered the perilous crime beat in the violence-torn eastern Mexico state of Veracruz were found slain and dumped in plastic bags in a canal on Thursday, less than a week after a reporter for an investigative newsmagazine was beaten and strangled in her home in the same state. read more
Drug war slayings suppressing news in Mexico
The Seattle Times: Four of reporters and photographers covering the perilous crime beat have been slain in less than a week in violence-torn Veracruz state, where two Mexican drug cartels are warring over control of smuggling routes and targeting sources of independent information. read more
Navy frees 18 migrants in Piedras Negras
El Milenio: The Navy released 18 Central American migrants detained by Los Zetas in Piedras Negras, Coahuila. Their operation took place last Saturday and two members of the criminal group were arrested. The statement released by the federal agency does not specify the origin of the immigrants, although it was reported that they are of different nationalities. read more
Texas gun-trafficking suspect sentenced
The Seattle Times: A judge has given a prison sentence to a fourth Texas man federal officials say was linked to a gun used in a U.S. agent's death in Mexico. Otilio Osorio was sentenced Monday to seven years in prison after pleading guilty to conspiracy and other charges relating to a gun-running network. His brother, Ranferi Osorio, received a 10-year prison term for running the network. read more
Mexican Poet Javier Sicilia Leads U.S. Peace Caravan to Expose Drug War’s Human Toll
Democracy Now!: One of Mexico’s best-known poets, Javier Sicilia, laid down his pen last year after his 24-year-old son was murdered by drug traffickers in Cuernavaca, Mexico. In his son’s memory, Sicilia created the Movement for Peace with Justice and Dignity to urge an end to the drug violence — violence that has left an estimated 60,000 dead, 10,000 disappeared, and more than 160,000 Mexicans displaced from their homes over the past six years. Watch interview here
Rule of Law News
Mothers March on Mexico City
New America Media: Mothers of women and men missing in Mexico embarked May 8 on a national march/caravan that will culminate in protests and meetings in the nation’s capital this week. Like last year’s caravans organized by poet Javier Sicilia and other relatives of violence victims, the mobilizations will remind Mexicans of the deep emotional wounds and unhealed psychological scars that devour families of forcibly disappeared persons. read more
Mexicans take search for loved ones in own hands
AFP: Mexico's drug war has produced thousands of unexplained disappearances, especially in northern border states where families of the missing search for loved ones with no help from the law. Victor Rodriguez was 28 years old when he disappeared in the northern state of Coahuila in 2009. Employed by a company that imports cars, Rodriguez was returning from a work trip with his boss and a friend."We knew they were leaving May 11 at 1:00 am and were to reach Tijuana the next day, but we have heard nothing from them to this day," said his mother, Adriana Moreno. read more
Students Take Over City University in Michoacán
El Informador: Members of the Coordinating University Students in Struggle (CUL) took over Ciudad Universidad campus facilities and the preparatory high school at the Universidad Michoacana de San Nicolás de Hidalgo (UMSNH). The measure, which came after the issuing of a detention order for 10 students involved in the burning of official vehicles, affects more than 50,000 students currently in the final phase of the school year. read more
Mexico Presidential Race News
Mexico’s PRI, leading to retake presidency, vows not to return to old ways
KansasCity.com: "The Institutional Revolutionary Party, known by its Spanish initials as the PRI, ruled Mexico for 71 consecutive years before it lost the presidency 12 years ago. Now, with its candidate the front-runner in the July 1 presidential election campaign, it’s trying to recast itself as no longer the corrupt, opaque and repressive machine that gripped Mexico for much of the 20th century in one-party rule.read more
This is a debate? Mexico's presidential face-off a scripted affair
CSMonitor.com: "The front-runner in Mexico's presidential race, Enrique Peña Nieto, might have movie star looks and a seemingly unbeatable lead ahead of the July 1 election, but he also has a knack for gaffes when straying from the script. So if anything is his to lose, it is the presidential debates, the first of which took place last night in Mexico City. read more
Mexican front-runner fends off debate attacks
Atlanta Journal Constitution: The front-runner in Mexico's presidential race fended off rivals' attempts to paint him as a liar with corrupt backers, emerging from the first of two debates with analysts saying his large lead appeared safe. read more