Category Archives: Latin America

Suspicions confirmed; Brazil’s coup neoliberal


While we’ve noted that the demand for neoliberal reforms rather the urge to purge institutional corruption lay behind the legislative coup that ousted Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff, we now have conformatuion straight from the horses ass mouth.

From teleSUR English:

Brazilian President Michel Temer told a crowd of business leaders in New York that the parliamentary coup that ousted former President Dilma Rousseff was carried out in response to her opposition to a neoliberal program defended by his political party.

Temer had earlier claimed before the U.N. General Assembly that the coup that brought him to power followed the “constitutional order,” as it complied with the impeachment process outlined in the country’s constitution.

Rousseff was formally impeached over her budgeting practices, which were also widely exercised by previous presidents. Supporters of Rousseff sustained that the issue of budget practices was a smokescreen and that her impeachment was driven by political interests.

However, in his speech on Wednesday Temer did not mention Rousseff’s budget practices but instead talked about her opposition to the neoliberal policies promoted by his party.

>snip<

Temer’s coup government has pursued a hardline neoliberal program, which includes freezing spending in social areas for 20 years and plans to auction off 32 major resource and infrastructure projects.

The coup regime has been criticized for pursuing a political program rejected by Brazilians in the previous election that saw Rousseff re-elected in 2014. Temer’s cabinet includes many of the Workers’ Party’s political adversaries, including Jose Serra, whom Rousseff defeated in the 2010 election.

Bloodshed in Mexico: Corruption spirals onward


Mexico is descending into a new abyss of violence, and it’s government officials who bear the brunt of the blame as the government of President Enrique Peña Nieto plumbs a new depth of unpopularity.

The latest polling numbers given the Mexican leader a favorability rating of 26 percent, the lowest number for any Mexican president in more than two decades.

One of the leading reasons for the presidential plunge is the nation’s growing level of violence, with the latest victims including both journalists and priests.

Real blood on the newsroom floor

The press has fared poorly under Peña, with an ever-growing number of journalists slain, and politicians from Peña’s party have been linked to some of the slaying.

From teleSUR English:

At least 26 journalists have been killed since President Enrique Peña Nieto took office, including two more last week.

Aurelio Campos, editor at the daily “El Grafico,” based in the central state of Puebla, and Agustin Pavia, host at the southern Oaxacan community radio station “Tu Un Nuu Savi,” were killed just two days apart in unrelated incidents.

“Mexico is in the process of turning into a cemetery for journalists,” said Emmanuel Colombié, the head of Reporters Without Borders’ Latin America desk. “The local and national authorities must urgently overhaul the alert and protection mechanisms for journalists and must give the police and judicial authorities the resources they need to quickly and systematically identify those behind these murders.”

Campos previously reported to local authorities that he had been the victim of intimidation. However, police determined that he was killed by “an angry colleague,” who they have not yet identified. He was fatally shot while driving his car on Sept. 14.

Two days later Pavia was also shot dead while driving. Authorities are still investigating the motive for the crime, and no one has been arrested.

A politician linked to press killings under fire

A second story from teleSUR English looks at one of those government officials linked to press murders:

Mexico’s Attorney General confirmed Thursday the launch of a probe against outgoing Veracruz Governor Javier Duarte for embezzlement and related crimes.

Duarte is infamous in Mexico because 17 journalists have been killed or disappeared since he took office, although none of these crimes form part of the investigation against him. Duarte belongs to the ruling Institutional Revolutionary Party – known by its acronym, PRI – and is a close ally to President Enrique Peña Nieto.

Prosecutors said Duarte must present valid documentation to confirm that his expenditures of nearly US$721,000 were for governmental and not personal use.

The outgoing governor will end his mandate in December, leaving Veracruz with a public debt of US$583 million, according to Mexico’s finance ministry.

Mexican authorities launched a probe in July into the potentially improper use of taxpayer money. So far, at least 69 relatives, friends and associates of Duarte have been investigated. That investigation has not concluded.

Duarte has been linked to the killing of journalist Ruben Espinosa and activist Nadia Vera, both of whom accused him of threatening them and told friends that if they were killed, the governor would be responsible.

In addition to journalists, women have also been subjected to state violence on Duarte’s watch. According to official figures, a total of 500 women have been killed since his swearing-in in 2010.

Priests slain, another abducted

Priests have also been favorite targets of violence, and the Roman Catholic Church is asking for help in finding one of the latest victims:

From TheNewsMX:

Roman Catholic Church officials pleaded on Thursday for the life of a priest who was kidnapped from his parish residence one day after two other priests were abducted and killed in another part of Mexico.

The Archdiocese of Morelia said priest José Alfredo Lopez Guillén was abducted Monday from his parish residence in the rural town of Janamuato, in the western state of Michoacan. The archdiocese said he was kidnapped after he was robbed.

“We plead that the life and physical integrity of the priest be respected,” the archdiocese said.

In a video statement, Cardinal Alberto Suárez Inda, head of the Morelia archdiocese, said, “After sharing the enormous pain of the death of two young priests in the diocese of Papantla, Veracruz, we are now suffering our own anguish with the disappearance of one of our priests.”

Two priests were kidnapped Sunday in the Gulf coast state of Veracruz, and their bullet-ridden bodies were found on a roadside the next day.

Police sex crimes probed

From the New York Times comes yet another story about official violence:

International human rights officials are demanding an investigation into the brutal sexual assaults of 11 Mexican women during protests a decade ago — an inquiry that would take aim at President Enrique Peña Nieto, who was the governor in charge at the time of the attacks.

The demand is part of a multiyear examination by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights into abuses during a 2006 crackdown ordered by Mr. Peña Nieto on San Salvador Atenco, a town in Mexico State where demonstrators had taken over the central square. During the operations, which left two dead, more than 40 women were violently detained by the police, packed onto buses and sent to jail several hours away.

The case was brought by 11 women to the international commission, which found that the police tortured them sexually. The women — a mix of merchants, students and activists — were raped, beaten, penetrated with metal objects, robbed and humiliated, made to sing aloud to entertain the police. One was forced to perform oral sex on multiple officers. After the women were imprisoned, days passed before they were given proper medical examinations, the commission found.

>snip<

The commission delivered its findings last week to the Inter-American Court, an independent judiciary with legal authority over Mexico. If the court agrees with the commission, it can order Mexico to broaden its current inquiry into the case, a requirement that could force the state to investigate its own president.

The U.N. backs Ayotzinapa parents

Jan Jarab, representative of the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights, meets with Aytozinapa parents. Via Alternative Economics'

Jan Jarab, representative of the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights, meets with Aytozinapa parents. Via Alternative Economics.

The most notorious incident of violence in recent years in Mexico happened two years ago this coming Monday when 43 students from the Raúl Isidro Burgos Rural Teachers’ College in Ayotzinapa, Guerrero, vanished after their abduction from the town of Iguala after a violent assault by police and drug cartel gunmen [previously].

Parents of the missing students have maintained protests and vigils ever since, often met with more violence from police as they demand real answers from a seemingly indifferent government.

And now the United Nations is taking their side.

From the news agency EFE:

The representative in Mexico of the Office of the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights expressed solidarity here Wednesday with the parents of 43 teacher trainees who went missing two years ago in the southern state of Guerrero.

After a meeting with the mothers and fathers of students from the Raul Isidro Burgos Rural Teacher Training College in Ayotzinapa who disappeared on Sept. 26, 2014, in the nearby city of Iguala, Jan Jarab said he supported their efforts to seek the truth and ensure these crimes are not repeated.

“We need to overcome this climate of impunity,” Jarab said in reference to the more than 27,000 people who have gone missing in Mexico over the past decade, many of whom, according to international rights groups, were victims of enforced disappearances, crimes in which state officials – or people acting with state consent – grabbed people off the street or from their homes and then refused to say where they were.

During the closed-door meeting at the school, Jarab hailed the fact that Mexico’s Attorney General’s Office was opening new lines of investigation.

He also said a special monitoring mechanism dictated by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, or IACHR, would be installed soon to ensure the Mexican government is held accountable for its probe.

If Donald Trump wants to keep Mexican killers and rapists out of the U.S., maybe he should start with government officials.

Map of the day: Unauthorized immigrant patterns


From a new report from the Pew Research Center, two graphics on shifts in the patterns of America’s unauthorized immigrants.

The report reveals that while the largest single source of those immigrants is still Mexico, the number of Mexicans living in the U.S. without official approval has declined significantly, while growing numbers are coming from other Latin American nations and from Asia.

Our first graphic is a map revealing another shift, this time isn the pattern of destinations for those immigrants:

blog-immigrants

And another shift is revealed in the second graphic, this time a significant shift in the years of residence in the U.S.:

blog-immigrants-chart

Peña plans massive Mexican education budget cuts


Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto, apostle of Bushist bneoliberal educational “reform,” will make drastic cuts in the national education buget, reports teleSUR English:

The administration of Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto plans to deepen contested education reforms, by cutting spending for facilities improvements, equipment access, and teacher training, the Mexican newspaper La Jornada reported Sunday.

The Mexican government proposes federal-level cutbacks in 19 out of 23 programs for children and youths next year,

According to data from Mexico’s Center for Economic and Budget Research, also known as CIEP, spending earmarked for education in the 2017 budget is set to fall by 4.2 percent. Total educational spending represents 14 percent of the federal budget and 3.3 percent of GDP, which represents a reduction in educational investment historically. According to World Bank statistics, Mexico dedicated 5.1 percent of GDP to education in 2011, which was, at that time, more than the worldwide average of 4.53 percent of GDP.

According to numbers reported by La Jornada, some areas will be hit harder than others. Funding for the Education Reform Program is set to plunge by nearly 72 percent, while the Program for Professional Development for Teachers.

Other programs on the chopping block include initiatives aimed at bridging the digital divide, improving early childhood education, and developing infrastructure in the education system, among others, La Jornada reported.

Peña’s move is certain to spark more unrest among his country’s increasingly militant teachers.

New Politics reported Sunday on the factors driving the increasingly militant teachers to take to Mexico’s streets, actions all too often met with deadly gunfire:

Mexico’s dissident teachers have been engaged in a strike against the Education Reform Law since May 16 of this year–four months! Their strikes of tens of thousands, led by the National Coordinating Committee (la CNTE), a caucus within the Mexican Teachers Union (el SNTE), have also engaged in protest marches, the blocking of highways and railroads, the commandeering of government vehicles, and the occupation of government buildings.

The government has responded by docking teachers’ pay, firing them, sending the police to beat them, and issuing warrants and arresting teacher leaders. One can only call what has gone on in Chiapas and Oaxaca and to a lesser extent in Guerrero and Michoacán class war.

Now there also appear to be death squads carrying out executions of teachers and their allies. So far at least three assassinations have taken place: a teacher, a parent, and a lawyer for the union. This is an ominous and very dangerous escalation of political violence.

  • One teacher, Jorge Vela Díaz, was shot and killed and his wife Lorena Antonio Sánchez, was wounded on Sept. 14 when two armed men men on motorcycles attacked them at a public school in the town of Ocotlán, Morelos. Both were teachers and members of Local 22 of the Mexican Teachers Union (el SNTE) of Oaxaca.
  • At the same time, another man, 19 year old Eder Zuriel Gonzen Mosqueda, a parent, was shot and killed in front of the “Juan Enrique Pestalozzi” primary school in San Juan Bautista Textepec, near the border of Veracruz. His relationship to the union is unknown, but the fact that he was shot in front of a school suggests this is related to the union.
  •  On Sept. 15, Agustín Pavia Pavia, a founder and leader of the MORENA party and  defender of the teachers movement in Oaxaca was shot and killed in front of his house in Oaxaca City, the state capital. He was the fifth member of the Oaxaca MORENA party to be assassinated in 2016; no one has been charged with any of the deaths.

Ayotzinapa parents rebel, tests debunk gov’t claim


Two major developments to report in the ongoing controversy 26 September 2014 disappearances of 43 students from the Raúl Isidro Burgos Rural Teachers’ College in the state of Guerrero [previously].

First, parents of the missing students, frustrated with the government’s self-evident coverup of events surrounding the mass kidnaping, have broken off talks with officials of the government of Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto

From teleSUR English:

Relatives of the 43 Ayotzinapa students who disappeared are cutting off all dialogue with the Mexican government after the lead investigator resigned for allegedly tampering with evidence—and was then awarded with a promotion.

Thomas Zeron de Lucio was the former director of criminal investigations responsible for overseeing the Ayotzinapa case. He resigned Wednesday but Ayotzinapa relatives accuse President Enrique Peña Nieto of rewarding Zeron with a higher paying position as technical secretary of the National Security Council. That comes after a new independent study debunked the government narrative on the disappearance of the students in Guerrero.

“Enough, no more lies or simulations,” Felipe de la Cruz, spokesperson for the families, said during a press conference on Thursday in Mexico City. “That’s the requirement. Until it is completed—until Thomas Zeron de Lucio is investigated and punished—the parents will not be returning to the talks.”

The government’s official version says local police apprehended the students, who had commandeered a bus to travel to a protest, and handed them over to a gang known as Guerreros Unidos.

“It is outrageous that after having an open investigation he is rewarded with a higher charge. It’s nothing but a joke to the 43 parents—a mockery to all Mexicans,” said Mario Gonzalez, whose son is one of the missing students.

Confirmation of the coverup

The official government version of events declares that the students were ambushed by members of the Guerreros Unidos drug cartel in collusion with corrupt local police, acting on the believe that the students, who lived in dorms without beds or other furnishings, were engaged in major legaue drug trafficking.

Absurd on its face, the government scenario has been rejected by parents and by numerous NGOs which have been conducted their own independent investigation.

Keystone of the government’s theory is the allegation that the bodies of the students were incinerated in a mass cremation at a trash dump in a ravine.

But that theory has been rejected by internation scientists, most recently in experiments conducted by Australian fire scientist José Torero of the University of Queensland, St. Lucia, in Brisbane.

Torrero conducted his own tests, using pig carcasses, burning as many as four at a time on pyres.

From Science:

Torero’s experiments “are one more element that says the so-called ‘historical truth’”—how a former attorney general labeled the government’s theory of the crime—“is impossible,” says Francisco Cox Vidal, a lawyer and member of an expert group (known in Spanish as the GIEI) convened by the Inter-American Commission of Human Rights in Washington, D.C., to examine the disappearance and the official inquest. Deputy Attorney General for Human Rights Eber Betanzos Torres did not respond to requests for comment.

>snip<

Born in Peru and trained at the University of California, Berkeley, Torero has investigated many high-profile fires, including those that brought down the Twin Towers. The cartel members had testified that they incinerated the bodies on a pyre of wood and tires in the open air. Torero’s calculations suggested that fully incinerating 43 bodies in the manner the cartel described would have required a staggering amount of wood: between 20,000 and 40,000 kilograms. He also doubted that it would be possible to nearly eliminate organic matter from the remains with an open-air fire, rather than with a furnace. And when he visited the Cocula dump in July 2015, he saw no evidence of a massive fire. He concluded that it was impossible the students had been burned there.

In an 8 June report, the Attorney General’s office called for experimental verification. Torero independently took up the challenge. He and a dozen students simulated the alleged pyres at Cocula in a field at his university’s Gatton campus, outside Brisbane. They used bone-dry wood, stacked precisely, and left out tires, which would have made the fire less efficient. The experimental set-up, Torero says, represented “the ideal scenario.”
Scientist José Torero working with fire in his lab.

His team systematically burned pig carcasses. Even when using 630 kg of wood for a single 70-kg pig, 10% of the pig’s flesh remained after the fire burned out, Torero told Science. Forty-three bodies of a similar weight, therefore, would have required over 27,000 kg of wood, and organic matter would have survived the fire. Even if the cartel had been able to find that much wood in Cocula, the intense bonfire would have scarred nearby tree trunks, Torero says. Visiting the dump 10 months after the disappearances, he saw no such scars.

Torero also burned up to four pig carcasses at once to explore whether body fat would fuel the fire and promote total incineration. Each added carcass weakened fire intensity, the team found. Burning 43 bodies together, therefore, would require much more wood than burning each separately. “Bodies are a large percent water,” says Lentini. “They’re not great fuel.”

One casualty of Torrero’s investigation has been Tomás Zerón de Lucio, director of the national government’s Agency of Criminal Investigations, who resigned Wednesday.

With the government’s case up in flames, the mystery of just what happened to the missing students remains an open case in the eyes of the world.

Sadly, news media in the U.S. had been neglecting the story. We hope that changes.

Resignation drops another Ayotzinapa bombshell


The 26 September 2014 disappearances of 43 students from the Raúl Isidro Burgos Rural Teachers’ College in the state of Guerrero [previously] has claimed yet another casualty: The head of the Mexican government’s official investigation into the crime.

Given the national government’s fabricated version of events and repeated efforts to stymie independent probes into a crime in which government and police officials at all levels of government have been impicated, the resignation should come as no surprise.

From telSUR English:

Mexico’s director of criminal investigations, responsible for overseeing the Ayotzinapa case, resigned Wednesday shortly after a new independent study debunked the government narrative on the disappearance of the 43 student teachers.

During his tenure as director of the Agency of Criminal Investigations, Tomas Zeron de Lucio worked on several controversial cases, Ayotzinapa being the most famous.

Forty-three teacher-trainee students at the Ayotzinapa school disappeared on Sept. 26, 2014 while en route from the violence-plagued state of Guerrero to Mexico City.

The government’s official version of events asserts that local police apprehended the students, who had commandeered a bus to travel to a protest, and handed them over to a gang known as Guerreros Unidos, who authorities claim killed the students and burned their bodies in a garbage dump nearly 20 miles south of the town of Iguala.

 Their remains, the government contends, were later dumped in the San Juan River near the town of Cocula.

Forensic evidence, fire investigations, and satellite images, however, have repeatedly cast doubt on the government’s claims.

Headline of the day II: Hitting a new low in Mexico


From teleSUR English:

Mexican President Peña Nieto’s Approval Rating Plummets to 22%

Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto’s approval rating has plummeted to the lowest point in the poll’s 14-year history as he continues to garner criticism over a series of corruption scandals, a controversial meeting with U.S. Republican candidate Donald Trump, allegations that he plagiarized his thesis, and other controversies.