Category Archives: Latin America

Bloody indigenous protest over another pipeline

While indigenous people in the U.S. are battling one pipeline project, two indigenous groups are battling each other and the government over another pipeline, this one in Mexico.

And the conflict has suddenly turned violent.

From  Mexico News Daily:

Yaqui indigenous communities in disagreement over a proposed natural gas pipeline clashed yesterday, leaving at least one person dead.

The confrontation involved close to 300 people from the neighboring Yaqui communities of Loma de Bácum and Loma de Guámuchil in the state of Sonora. The former community is opposed to the pipeline project, while the latter is in favor.

The Yaqui from Bácum filed and won an amparo against the construction, which resulted in the temporary suspension of all activity in the area, but the construction company started work again last Saturday, allegedly with the support of government officials and the Yaqui of Guamúchil.

Those from Bácum have accused Guámuchil leader César Cota Tortola of being “close to the state government” and receiving “millions of pesos” for his support for the project.

The refusal of those from Guámuchil to abide by the amparo was what sparked the violence between the two communities, which reportedly started late Thursday night and climaxed about noon yesterday.

Mexican police chief arrested in Aytozinapa kidnaps

It’s been more than two years since the 26 September 2014 abduction and disappearance of 43 students of the Raúl Isidro Burgos Rural Teachers’ College in Ayotzinapa, Guerrero, Mexico [previously], and finally a major suspect has en arrested.

He’s the man who served as police chief in the town of Iguala where the abductions took place, and he’s the brother-in-law of the Iguala mayor, the man suspected of ordering the mass kidnapping of the still missing students.

From the Associated Press:

The former police chief of Iguala, Mexico, where 43 students went missing in 2014, was arrested Friday after two years at large in a development that Mexican authorities and relatives of the disappeared hope could shed new light on the case.

The National Security Commission announced that federal agents apprehended 58-year-old Felipe Flores in Iguala, in the southern state of Guerrero, in a raid in which no shots were fired.

Flores was arrested at 6:30 a.m. leaving a house where he had visited his wife, Commissioner Renato Sales said. He said Flores had not always been in Iguala, but did not elaborate on the former police chief’s movements. He said Flores was unarmed.

Flores is accused of offenses including organized crime and kidnapping the students. He is alleged to have followed the then-mayor’s order to attack the students and then tried to cover up the role of Iguala police in the disappearances.

More from Milenio, translated by Mexico News Daily:

The ex-chief is a cousin of the ex-mayor, José Luis Abarca, believed to have been the mastermind behind the affair. He and his wife, María de los Ángeles Pineda Villa, are now in jail awaiting trial.

Two city transit officials have declared that Flores ordered the arrest of students who had traveled to the city by bus from the Ayotzinapa teachers’ college and that they be turned over to the Guerreros Unidos drug gang.

The gang’s former leader, Sidronio Casarrubias Salgado has given evidence that Flores was involved in criminal activities with the ex-mayor and his wife.

The official theory has been that Abarca ordered that police “contain” the busloads of students. They did so by opening fire on them, killing six people, some of whom were innocent bystanders.

Headline of the day: Trump’s foreign policy

From El País:

When Donald Trump blusters, the Mexican peso trembles

But when he stumbles, as during Wednesday night’s presidential debate, the currency gains

Mexican jurist slain; and a governor take flight

Two stories today reveal the extent of the crisis facing government in Mexico today: One of the nation’s most powerful judges has been assassinated and a governor close to Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto has fled rather than stay and face corruption charges.

A jurist assassinated

The judge in question has played a central role in some of Mexico’s most controversial criminal cases, including investigations of major drug cartels and the abductions and presumed murders of 43 missing students from the Raúl Isidro Burgos Rural Teachers’ College in Ayotzinapa [previously].

From El País:

Mexican Judge Vicente Antonio Bermúdez Zacarías was killed by a gunshot wound to the head on Monday. Bermúdez was approached from behind as he left his home to go out for a run. The assailant shot him in the back of the head from less than 30 centimeters away. Then he and another individual ran from the scene. Bermúdez died hours later in hospital.

The 37-year-old judge tried some of the most famous cases in Mexican history. In March, he ordered a 40-day remand for Abigael “El Cuini” González Valencia, one of the bosses of Jalisco New Generation Cartel (CJNG). He also blocked a request for the extradition of Joaquín El Chapo Guzmán to the United States.

One of his last cases involved Gildardo “El Gil” López Astudillo, the suspected ringleader of the hitmen thought to be responsible for the disappearance of 43 student teachers in Ayotzinapa. Judge Bermúdez dismissed the defendant’s petition for a transfer.

Bermúdez served on the bench in Mexico state for three years. The León (Guanajuato state) native specialized in criminal law and, as a judge, he focused on constitutionality issues, remand and search orders.

From Quadratin Edomex, here is the assassination, caught by a surveillance camera:

And a corrupt governor heads for parts unknown

The sordid saga from teleSUR English:

Mexico’s attorney general issued an arrest warrant for Veracruz Governor Javier Duarte over alleged ties to organized crime and corruption, local media reported Tuesday.

Last week, Duarte announced that he would step down almost two months before his term ends in order to face federal corruption investigations. However, he unexpectedly fled the state by helicopter Saturday and his whereabouts are unknown. His soon-to-be successor, Miguel Angel Yunes, a former congressional deputy from the conservative PAN party, claims to have even more evidence implicating him in the corruption charges. According to Yunes, the aircraft Duarte used to escape would have been facilitated by the acting Governor Flavin Rios.

Over the past months, Duarte has been investigated over allegations that he embezzled or misspent as much as US$2 billion since he took office nearly six years ago. That investigation, however, does not include the hundreds of people, including at least 17 journalists, who have either disappeared or been murdered on his watch.

Despite all of this, Duarte maintains his immunity as governor – which means that if he’s arrested, authorities will have to open another trial just to remove his immunity. Currently, he cannot be banned from leaving the country.

Duarte belongs to the ruling Institutional Revolutionary Party, or PRI, and was a close ally of President Enrique Peña Nieto. However, his own party has turned its back to him.

Quote of the day: Clinton foundation’s toxic legacy

From a devastating report on the much-touted foundation’s projects in Colombia, reported in Fusion:

Colombia should be the Clinton Foundation’s best case study. Ground zero for the drug wars of the 1980s and 90s, racked by uneven development and low-intensity conflict for half a century, Colombia has received more foundation money and attention than any other nation outside the United States. Bill and Hillary Clinton have visited the country often and enjoy close relationships with members of Colombia’s ruling party. Colombia has also been home to the vast oil and natural gas holdings of the man who is reportedly the Clinton Foundation’s largest individual donor, Canadian financier Frank Giustra. In short, conditions were right for Colombia to be the shining example of what the Clinton Foundation’s philanthropy can accomplish in the world, and what makes Hillary so proud of its efforts.

The American Media Institute, a nonprofit news service based in Alexandria, Virginia, partnered with Fusion to send us to Colombia to investigate the Clinton Foundation’s impact. We found ground realities that contrast, often starkly, with the nonprofit’s platitudes about its good work.

Many of the Colombian “success stories” touted on the foundation’s website – the ones specific enough for us to track down – were critical about the foundation’s effect on their lives. Labor leaders and progressive activists say foundation programs caused environmental harm, displaced indigenous people, and that it concentrated a larger share of Colombia’s oil and natural gas reserves in the hands of Giustra, who was involved in a now bankrupt oil company that worked closely with the Clinton Foundation and which used the Colombian military a 1984-style surveillance program to smash a strike by its workers.

It was a shocking record that belies the progressive principles on which the Clintons have based their political dynasty and philanthropy, embodied in the Clinton Foundation’s advertising copy: “Everyone deserves a chance to succeed.”

Mexican gov’t launches another Ayotzinapa probe

It’s been more than two years after the 26 September 2014 abduction and disappearance of 43 students from the Raúl Isidro Burgos Rural Teachers’ College in the state of Guerrero [previously], and still no answers about what happened to the missing students, children of poor families in one of Mexico’s most impoverished regions.

And now the government is launching yet another investigative, this time involving some of the scientists and an international panel which had so thoroughly discredited earlier “investigations.”

From teleSUR English:

Mexico’s Attorney General Arely Gomez said Tuesday that another search for the missing students from Ayotzinapa will be launched next week in the towns of Iguala, Cocula and Guerrero, two years after they were reported disappeared during a clash with federal and local police.

The investigation will involve foreign criminologists, representatives of their relatives and members of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights.

Authorities will use a special technology to obtain underground 3-D images, in a bid to find possible mass graves.

In a four-hour press conference, Gomez added that she will continue the investigation against her predecessor Tomas Zeron de Lucio, accused of having modified the crime scene.

Brazilian regime seeks permanent austerity

It’s the worst possible scenario for millions of the poor in South America’s largest country and a neoliberal’s wet dream, and it seems inevitable.

From teleSUR English:

Unelected Brazilian President Michel Temer is a step closer to cementing his long-term austerity plan for the cash-strapped country as the lower house of Congress approved Monday a constitutional reform that would freeze public spending for the next two decades.

Critics argue that the aggressively neoliberal plan — known as PEC 241, the Portuguese acronym for Proposed Constitutional Amendment — dramatically undermines rights enshrined in the 1988 constitution, written in the early years of Brazil’s transition to democracy following the fall of the military dictatorship in 1985.

Progressive economists often warn that austerity deepens an economic downturn rather than reverses it, by depleting consumers of buying power. Public disinvestment, is, in effect, anti-Keynesian, and is akin to turning off the engine of a plane already in free-fall.

With a population of more than 200 million, Brazil’s income and wealth disparities are among the widest in the world, and the country is currently in the midst of its worst economic contraction since the Great Depression.  The PEC 241’s 20-year freeze on public spending will almost certainly produce an anemic economy because it will starve a demand economy of the very oxygen it needs — consumer demand — to thrive.

The controversial amendment passed with ease in the lower house by a 366 to 111 vote in favor, with two abstentions, after a marathon nine-hour session. The measure still needs a second vote in the lower house, where it is expected to pass the supermajority threshold in a vote scheduled for Oct. 24; if approved, it will be forwarded to the Senate for final approval.