Category Archives: Organized crime

Maps of the day: Where the haters are


From the bodacious British crafty cartographers of Worldmapper, to look at hate groups in the U.S., first, in the larger map, showing the states resized according to population and shaded according to the numbers of hate groups in each state, The lower maps are resized according to memberships of specific types of hate groups [click on the image to enlarge]:

More from Worldmapper:

Hate and extremism have gained wider attention with the rise in populism and populist politics. The election of Donald Trump was also in part attributed to his rhetoric connecting to far-right extremism in the US. In the UK, a spike in hate crime was linked to the Brexit vote, while a considerable increase in anti-Muslim abuse has also been observed in recent years.

Describing and understanding hate crimes and groups associated with committing (or endorsing and promoting) such crimes is a complex issue and scholarly definitions are still not fully agreed upon. Dr Phyllis Gerstenfeld of CSU Stanislaus describes a hate crime as ‘a criminal act which is motivated, at least in part, by the group affiliation of the victim.’ John van Kesteren of Tilburg University observes that prejudice and hatred of specific social groups ‘characterized by immigrant or ethnic status, race, religion, gender, sexual orientation, or disability’ are therefore at the core of hate-related crimes.

Among the organisations monitoring groups that advocate hatred is the Southern Poverty Law Centre (SPLC) which was founded by civil rights lawyers in reaction to activities by white supremacist groups such as the Ku Klux Klan. Today its scope includes the activities of a broad range of US hate groups and other extremists, including the Klan, the neo-Nazi movement, neo-Confederates, racist skinheads, black separatists, anti-government militias, Christian Identity adherents and others.

Donald Trump’s presidential campaign in 2016 has brought hate groups further into the spotlight. The SPLC attributes this to the divisive and polarising language he is using. A study undertaken in the aftermath of the presidential election indicated evidence for this ‘Trump effect’, with a significant number of hate incidents immediately after the election, and 37 per cent of the 1,094 investigated bias incidents referring directly to the then president-elect or using his campaign slogans.

This cartogram is based on a compilation of a total of 917 hate groups that the SPLC has identified across the mainland 48 states of the USA in the year 2016. It uses ‘hate group publications and websites, citizen and law enforcement reports, field sources and news reports’ for its database and monitors activities such as ‘criminal acts, marches, rallies, speeches, meetings, leafleting or publishing.’

The overall distribution of hate groups is shown in the main cartogram at the top of this page. Here each state is resized according to the total number of groups, overlaid by the proportion of hate groups in relation to the population distribution.

The SPLC categorises a total of 18 hate ideologies of which nine are displayed above in more detail as cartograms distorting the states by the distribution of the respective hate ideology. The colours in the smaller cartograms shown throughout the page refer to four main regions within the USA as shown in the reference map.

This series shows that hate ideologies follow some distinct spatial patterns across the USA. The Ku Klux Klan is rarely represented in the western region, while the neo-Confederates appear even more concentrated following their ideological origins in the south. Christian Identity in contrast, an anti-Semitic and racist theology that rose in the 1980s, is in decline. Today’s anti-Muslim hate groups have started emerging in the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks – 2016 has seen a 197 per cent increase in numbers. The distribution of anti-Muslim hate groups is widespread, looking similar to the overall population distribution.

This picture is only part of the whole phenomenon of hate groups, which has been on a steady rise in the digital world as well. The maps give an indication of the disparate patterns that underlie these extremist views. The geography of hate in the United States is a reflection of the realities that determine the social tensions within the different parts of the country.

Mexico update: Murders, NAFTA, and more


We begin with the latest development in the infamous case of the 43 abducted students from the Raúl Isidro Burgos Rural Teachers’ College of Aytozinapa in the blood-soaked state of Guerrero, then move on to yet another murder, followed a a Mexican NAFTA backdown.

U.N. slams Mexico over missing students probe

Nothing has done more to damage the rapidly sinking reputation of Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto than the 26 September 2014 abduction of the students from Ayotzinapa, a crime apparently ordered by members of his own party.

Successive investigations by his government have come to nothing, and the lastest review has dran fire from the U.N.

From teleSUR English:

On Wednesday the head of the U.N. Human Rights Office in Mexico slammed a recently released internal review of irregularities in the more than 2-year-old investigation into the disappearance of 43 students from the Ayotzinapa teachers’ training college.

“It is regrettable that it turned out this way,” said Jan Jarab, the representative of the U.N High Commissioner for Human Rights in Mexico. “The final results are a missed opportunity to effectively address the serious violations committed in the investigation of the Ayotzinapa case.”

Jarab noted that the internal review released on Feb. 9 by Mexico’s attorney general failed to address the serious irregularities documented by an earlier international panel of experts from the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights.

That panel reported that former chief investigator, Tomas Zeron, had planted evidence and tortured potential witnesses and suspects, actions which not only sabotaged the investigation but also called into question its conclusion that the 43 students had been killed by a local drug cartel.

The panel found evidence pointing to high-level political involvement — including by state police and military officials — in the disappearance of the students from the primarily Indigenous teachers’ college known as a hotbed of political organizing and activism.

The internal review released just over two weeks ago was ordered after a previous review — which was left unreleased — reportedly recommended criminal charges against Zeron.

Jarab lamented that this final and official report suggested that at worst Zeron and his team had committed only “administrative” errors in the course of the investigation.

“We feel the government’s priority is no longer finding the truth about what happened to the students, but is much more concerned with hiding the reasons behind a historical cover-up,” said Mario Patrón, a lawyer for the families of the missing students, said when the final review was released earlier last month.

Another Mexican journalist murdered

Mexico, which has become a graveyard for journalists, has claimed another victim.

And the killing was also in Guerrero.

From teleSUR English:

Cecilio Pineda Birto, a 38-year-old Mexican journalist in the state of Guerrero, was shot and killed Thursday night, Mexican authorities have confirmed.

Pineda was lying down in a hammock waiting for his car to be washed when multiple armed men passing by on motorcycle shot him and fled.

The 38-year-old covered local news in Guerrero, one of the most violent states in Mexico known for marijuana production, drug cartels and a recent increase in kidnappings. He often collaborated with national media outlet El Universo and local media outlets such as La Voz de Tierra Caliente.

Just hours before his death, Pineda had published a video about the leader of a local criminal group responsible for kidnappings, in which he indicated that these kidnappings could not be happening without government complicity.

Pineda had previously shared on social media that he received threats in relation to his work. In September 2015, he narrowly escaped an attack outside his home.

Mexico is the most dangerous country in Latin America for journalists, particularly those working to expose corruption and criminal networks. At least 48 journalists were killed in Mexico in 2016 and 72 in 2015, according to The Committee to Protect Journalists.

Mexico signals a shift on NAFTA

Finally, faced with the reality of the current occupant of the White House, Mexico is bowing to the seemingly inevitable.

From Reuters:

Mexico is prepared to negotiate changes to the North American Free Trade Agreement to modernize the 23-year-old open trade pact grouping the United States, Canada and Mexico, Economy Minister Ildefonso Guajardo said on Friday.

Guajardo said Mexico is prepared to discuss with the Trump administration and Canada revisions to NAFTA, such as including labor and environmental standards. Mexico “is willing to modernize NAFTA,” he said.

However, Guajardo said Mexico will not accept tariffs. U.S. President Donald Trump has called for new border taxes on Mexican-made goods. “It makes no sense to introduce an agreement with border restrictions or tariffs,” he said.

State Republicans ramp up new anti-protest laws


If there’s one thing Republicans hate, it’s protests.

Unless, of course, they’re run by Republicans, as in the case of that infamous “Brooks Brothers Riot” that disrupted the Florida recount in the 2000 Bush/Gore race a protest organized by Trump lawyer/adviser Roger Stone and using paid protesters.

Because of the Dakota Access Pipeline occupation and the massive anti-Trump protests of recent months, Republican-controlled state legislatures are bust enacting all manner of laws criminalizing protests, even to the point of classifying them as organized crime.

TeleSUR English reports on the of the worst pieces of legislation:

1. Arizona

Arizona lawmakers have approved a bill that could make people who organize or take part in protests that turn violent subject to the same criminal charges used to fight organized crime. The bill also seeks to seize protesters’ assets.

Republicans, who pushed for the bill, say it will help curb the kind of protests that have erupted nationwide over the past few years by penalizing those they term “paid” and “professional” demonstrators, a notion they share with President Trump.

Opponents of the Arizona bill say it is unconstitutional and will serve to harm Arizona’s reputation nationally.

“This bill only serves to chill people’s rights to free speech by allowing one bad actor to turn peaceful demonstration organizers into racketeering felons,” state Senator Martin Quezada, Senate Democratic Whip, said last week.

2. Indiana

Republican lawmakers in the state of Indiana introduced a bill in January that initially required police to clear, by “any means necessary,” protesters from blocked roads and highways within 15 minutes.

The bill was changed last week, removing the phrase by “any means necessary” and instead granting police the power to fine protesters for blocking the roads. The Republican lawmaker behind the bill said it was designed to “limit traffic obstructions.”

3. Minnesota

Republicans in Minnesota have introduced two separate anti-protest bills. One seeks to grant cities the power to sue protesters in order to charge them for the cost of policing demonstrations. The second bill could see protesters fined for blocking streets and highways.

4. South Dakota

As they anticipate renewed protests over both the Dakota Access and the Keystone XL pipelines, Republican lawmakers are introducing a bill that would expand the governor’s emergency response authority to “destructive” protests, create new trespassing penalties and make it a crime to obstruct highways.

If passed, the law would expire in 2020.

5. Tennessee

In order to counter peaceful protesters in the state, Republicans are introducing a bill that would protect drivers from liability if they hit protesters and injure them in streets and highways as long as the hit is not intentional.

Intolerance II: A censored potent white racism talk


You would think the University wouldn’t censor a talk by Tim Wise, an outspoken, articulate, well-informed critique of white racism and its deep cultural and institutional roots in American culture.

On 25 January, the University of California–Santa Barbara Multicultural Center hosted An Evening with Tim Wise, A White Anti-racist Advocate.

It’s a powerfully informative talk, a rant [in the best sense of the term] revealing the Trump campaign’s skillful use of racism to mobilize his voters.

And in making his points, Wise employs the occasional shit, a fuck or two, and what we suspect is one instance of asshole.

The words are used in the best rhetorical tradition, as potent emphases.

But where the words were only a brief silence remains in the version posted online by University of California Television today [24 February].

How stupid.

But that hypocritically ironic flaw aside, do watch a very memorable talk.

From University of California Television:

An Evening with Tim Wise: A White Anti-Racist Advocate

Program notes:

Author and anti-racist activist Tim Wise speaks about the importance of being a white ally to communities of color, and how we can all work together to create a healthier community on campuses and in the world beyond. Wise spoke as part of UCSB’s Resilient Love in a Time of Hate series.

Intolerance I: Who are America’s worst terrorists?


This is the first of two offerings on intolerance.

President Pussygrabbers seized the White House at the end of a campaign designed to rouse racist fears in a masterful act of misdirection, shifting blame for the very real pains of his grass roots base away from the real culprits — people like Trump himself — onto alien Others.

Always at play within his rhetorical was the portrayal of the Other as a violent criminal, a murderer and rapist in the case of folks from south of the border, or as a bombing-and-beheading non-Christian fanatic, in the case of the Muslim.

But who are the real terrorist fanatics in the United States?

[Hint: They don’t pray toward Mecca.]

A wide-ranging, multi-university study looks at the numbers, and the terrorists probably voted the Trump.

The study, Threats of violent Islamist and far-right extremism: What does the research say?, is published in The Conversation, an open source academic journal written in conversational English.

The authors are William Parkin, Assistant Professor of Criminal Justice at Seattle University; Brent Klein, a doctoral student at the Michigan State University School of Criminal Justice; Jeff Gruenewald, Assistant Professor of Public and Environmental Affairs at Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis; Joshua D. Freilich, Professor of Criminal Justice at City University of New York; and Steven Chermak, Professor of Criminal Justice at Michigan State University.

From The Conversation:

On a Tuesday morning in September 2001, the American experience with terrorism was fundamentally altered. Two thousand, nine hundred and ninety-six people were murdered in New York, Virginia and Pennsylvania. Thousands more, including many first responders, lost their lives to health complications from working at or being near Ground Zero.

The 9/11 attacks were perpetrated by Islamist extremists, resulting in nearly 18 times more deaths than America’s second most devastating terrorist attack – the Oklahoma City bombing. More than any other terrorist event in U.S. history, 9/11 drives Americans’ perspectives on who and what ideologies are associated with violent extremism.

But focusing solely on Islamist extremism when investigating, researching and developing counterterrorism policies goes against what the numbers tell us. Far-right extremism also poses a significant threat to the lives and well-being of Americans. This risk is often ignored or underestimated because of the devastating impact of the 9/11 terrorist attacks.

We have spent more than 10 years collecting and analyzing empirical data that show us how these ideologies vary in important ways that can inform policy decisions. Our conclusion is that a “one size fits all” approach to countering violent extremism may not be effective.

By the numbers

Historically, the U.S. has been home to adherents of many types of extremist ideologies. The two current most prominent threats are motivated by Islamist extremism and far-right extremism.

To help assess these threats, the Department of Homeland Security and recently the Department of Justice have funded the Extremist Crime Database to collect data on crimes committed by ideologically motivated extremists in the United States. The results of our analyses are published in peer-reviewed journals and on the website for the National Consortium for the Study of Terrorism & Responses to Terrorism.

The ECDB includes data on ideologically motivated homicides committed by both Islamist extremists and far-right extremists going back more than 25 years.

blog-chart-1

Between 1990 and 2014, the ECDB has identified 38 homicide events motivated by Islamist extremism that killed 62 people. When you include 9/11, those numbers jump dramatically to 39 homicide events and 3,058 killed.

The database also identified 177 homicide events motivated by far-right extremism, with 245 killed. And when you include the Oklahoma City bombing, it rises to 178 homicide events and 413 killed.

Although our data for 2015 through 2017 are still being verified, we counted five homicide events perpetrated by Islamist extremists that resulted in the murders of 74 people. This includes the Pulse nightclub massacre in Orlando, which killed 49 people. In the same time period, there were eight homicide events committed by far-right extremists that killed 27 people.

These data reveal that far-right extremists tend to be more active in committing homicides, yet Islamist extremists tend to be more deadly.

Our research has also identified violent Islamist extremist plots against 272 targets that were either foiled or failed between 2001 and 2014. We are in the process of compiling similar data on far-right plots. Although data collection is only about 50 percent complete, we have already identified 213 far-right targets from the same time period.

blog-chart-2

The locations of violent extremist activity also differ by ideology. Our data show that between 1990 and 2014, most Islamist extremist attacks occurred in the South (56.5 percent), and most far-right extremist attacks occurred in the West (34.7 percent). Both forms of violence were least likely to occur in the Midwest, with only three incidents committed by Islamist extremists (4.8 percent) and 33 events committed by far-right extremists (13.5 percent).

Continue reading

Did Pussygrabber threaten to invade Mexico?


Both the Associated Press and a leading Mexican journalist report that a leaked transcript of a call between Narcissist of Pensylvania Avenue and his Mexican counterpart, Donald Trump threatened to send the army South of the Border to take charge and kick ass.

From the Associated Press:

President Donald Trump warned in a phone call with his Mexican counterpart that he was ready to send U.S. troops to stop “bad hombres down there” unless the Mexican military does more to control them, according to an excerpt of a transcript of the conversation obtained by The Associated Press.

The excerpt of the call did not detail who exactly Trump considered “bad hombres,” nor did it make clear the tone and context of the remark, made in a Friday morning phone call between the leaders. It also did not contain Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto’s response. Mexico denies that Trump’s remarks were threatening.

Still, the excerpt offers a rare and striking look at how the new president is conducting diplomacy behind closed doors. Trump’s remarks suggest he is using the same tough and blunt talk with world leaders that he used to rally crowds on the campaign trail.

>snip<

The phone call between the leaders was intended to patch things up between the new president and his ally. The two have had a series of public spats over Trump’s determination to have Mexico pay for the planned border wall, something Mexico steadfastly refuses to agree to.

“You have a bunch of bad hombres down there,” Trump told Pena Nieto, according to the excerpt given to AP. “You aren’t doing enough to stop them. I think your military is scared. Our military isn’t, so I just might send them down to take care of it.”

If Trump really said it [Peña’s mouthpiece firmly denies it], it wouldn’t be the first time, or the second, or even the third.

And make no mistake, sending troops into another country to wage war on civilians [even if they are criminals] is the very definition of invasion.

A Mexican journalist adds context

The reporter who reported on the transcript offered a strong affirmation of her report.

From teleSUR English:

Mexican journalist Dolia Estevez has defended the veracity of the claims she made Wednesday about a phone call between U.S. President Donald Trump and his Mexican counterpart Enrique Peña Nieto, in which the former used a “humiliating” and “threatening” tone.

The information has been strongly rejected by the Mexican Ministry of Foreign Affairs, which said Estevez used absolute “falsehoods” and acted with “obvious malice.”

“The ministry is lying and exerting the same tactic used by Peña Nieto against critical Mexican journalists by trying to discredit my information,” Estevez said in an interview with Aristegui Noticias Thursday morning.

>snip<

According to Estevez’s reports, Trump told Peña Nieto that he could be forced to send in troops to deal with the southern neighbor’s “bad hombres.” CNN reports that a White House official also denied this information. “Even the Mexican government is disputing these reports,” the source said.

Estevez said that time is again proving her points to be true. A phone call between President Trump and the Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull has also led to a diplomatic rift between two allied countries after the two leaders exchanged harsh words over refugee policy and Trump abruptly ended the call.

“I don’t understand why the Mexican government is trying to hide this issue. I mean Trump has shown a hostile tone against several world leaders like Turnbull. Why would Peña Nieto be the exception? Now they call me a liar, but it is the Mexican government who is lying again,” Estevez said.

The Washington-based award-winning journalist also mentioned that Mexico’s Foreign Ministry is lying when they rejected her report about a meeting held on Jan. 31, between Mexico’s top diplomat Luis Videgaray and the United States Northern and Southern Command chiefs. According to Estevez, the encounter took place in the southern border city of Tapachula, Mexico.

The U.S. embassy in Mexico said the meeting was part of a cooperation plan to reinforce security at Mexico’s border with Guatemala and that it was scheduled a long time ago. However, they did not reveal who attended the meeting.

And now for some comic relief. . .

For your amusement a report on Trump’s call and other events of the second week of his presidency from Late Night with Seth Meyers:

Trump’s Second Week Is as Chaotic as His First: A Closer Look

Program notes:

Seth takes a closer look at the confusion surrounding President Trump’s controversial travel ban and his bizarre calls with foreign leaders.

Gasolinazo protests continue to rage in Mexico


The gasolinazo, the name Mexicans have given the the government-mandated 20 percent hike in gas prices as a result of the partial privatization of Mexico’s national oil monopoly, continues to inspire massive discontent.

President Enrique Peña Nieto, whose administration mandated the price hike. Has watched his poll numbers plummet, with only one in four Mexicans approving of his handling of the office.

And now he’s trying to cool things down.

From the Associated Press:

Mexico’s president tried again on Thursday to calm anger over the big jump in gasoline prices this month amid a historically weak currency and continued threats by Donald Trump to steer manufacturers back to the United States.

In his latest speech, the deeply unpopular President Enrique Pena Nieto outlined measures that he said would help families mitigate the impact of the price hike. Yet steps like notifying more than 3 million Mexicans older than 65 that they have money in government retirement accounts seemed unlikely to dissipate the outrage that led to widespread looting in parts of the country and marches calling for his resignation.

Earlier this week, Pena Nieto promised to police price increases for staple goods and invest in modernizing public transportation. But it was difficult to see how any of that could make up for the overnight 20 percent increase in the price of gasoline when the government ended price controls.

After days of seeking ways to strike a calming chord, Pena Nieto tried taking a more relaxed posture Thursday, leaning casually on the podium, cracking jokes — and telling Mexicans to suck it up.

Protests lead to State Department warning

Just how tense the situation in Mexico has become can be judged by this travel advisory from the State Department:

The U.S. Consulate General Nogales informs U.S. citizens that large demonstrations are expected at Port of Entry DeConcini January 14-15, 2017 to protest the increase in gasoline prices.  U.S. citizens are urged to use the Mariposa Port of Entry until further notice. As always, avoid areas of demonstrations, and exercise caution if in the vicinity of any large gatherings, protests, or demonstrations.

Demonstrations in Nogales last Sunday turned violent, with police firing numerous warning shots in an attempt to turn back protesters.

Protests continue, on a reduced scale

A report from Business Insider:

Protests against the gas price hike imposed by the Mexican government at the start of this year have spread across the country, appearing in at least 28 of Mexico’s 32 states.

Many of the protests have been peaceful, but in some areas demonstrators have shut down gas stations and facilities belonging to the state oil company, Pemex.

Elsewhere, protests against the gasolinazo, as the price increase has come to be called, have boiled over into looting and violence.

In Mexico City, one police officer was killed while trying to stop looting at a department store, and elsewhere police officers joined in to ransack stores. At least six people have been killed and more than 1,500 have been arrested.

Looting seen during the first week of the year largely subsided this week, but in Tijuana, which shares the Western Hemisphere’s busiest land-border crossing with San Diego, protesters continue to block traffic and confront authorities. Since the price increase — designed to let prices float in response to supply and demand — Tijuana and Baja California state have seen some of the country’s highest prices.

One protest, a blockade in the city of Rosarita, turned violent earlier this week, with at least seven people hurt when a truck rammed the barricade.

A video via the San Diego Informer:

U.S. gas stations on the border do a booming business

While the gasolinazo had been bad for Mexican businesses, it’s proving a real boon for one kind of business on this side of the border.

From Bloomberg Markets:

Mexico’s fuel market liberalization has done something rarely seen before: make California’s pump prices look cheap.

Drivers are flooding across the border to southern California to fill up on gasoline, after protesters blocking distribution centers near the Baja California capital of Mexicali caused stations to run dry. Antunez’s Shell gas station in Calexico is just five blocks away from the Mexican border and rarely has business been as busy as now. Mexicali drivers wait four to five hours to cross into the U.S. just to fill their fuel tanks and then wait two more hours to cross back into Mexico.

>snip<

Unleaded gasoline in Mexicali was increased in January to 16.17 pesos a liter, or $2.815 a gallon. Seventeen miles north across the border in El Centro, California, pump prices jumped 5.3 cents a gallon to average $2.718 as of 5 p.m. New York time Wednesday, according to GasBuddy, a price tracking company.

“There is a very important commercial exchange happening in the border region,” said Jose Angel Garcia, the president of Mexico gasoline retailer association Onexpo. “There are trucks with large tanks being used to bring fuel into Mexico from the U.S.”

More from CSP News, a trade publication for gasoline retailers in the U.S.:

In Calexico, Calif., gas stations reported a tripling in fuel sales and waits of an hour or more for fill-ups, according to The Desert Sun. The town of 40,000 sits across the border from Mexicali, where protesters had earlier blocked the road into the central fuel distribution center, causing local gas stations to run out of fuel. Federal police cleared the blockade, but waits for fuel in Mexicali were still more than an hour that same day.

“It’s great for us,” Juan Arce, the manager of two SoCo Express gas stations in Calexico, told the newspaper. “I do feel bad for the people to the south.”

Several retailers in Calexico reported similar spikes in business. “It’s been more than double,” said Carlos Vera, manager of a Shell-branded site. On a high-volume day, the gas station typically sells 5,000 gallons of gas; the weekend of Jan. 7, it sold nearly 10,000. Its supplier has had to refill its underground storage tanks each day, Vera said.

Motorists were filling up gallon gasoline containers, empty laundry soap containers and even metal barrels to bring back into Mexico for family and friends.

Cartels add gas to their drug business

And in Mexico, there’s one organization already doing business in a highly valued commodity where the demand is great and the market is eager to buy.

So it should come as no surprise that they, too, are getting into the gasolinazo.

From Bloomberg Businessweek:

The black market is booming. Several states experienced gasoline shortages at the end of last year as more thieves tapped into state-owned Petróleos Mexicanos (Pemex) pipelines. The pilfered fuel was sold to drivers hoping to save money. Pipeline theft in 2015 increased sevenfold, to more than 5,500 taps, from just 710 in 2010. Pemex attributes the company’s 12-year slide in crude production in part to the growth in illegal taps.

The drug cartels have turned to fuel theft as a side business worth hundreds of millions of dollars each year, and crime groups focused solely on gasoline robbery have sprung up, says Alejandro Schtulmann, president of Empra, a political-risk consulting firm in Mexico City. “You only need to invest $5,000 or $8,000 to buy some specific equipment, and the outcome of that is huge earnings.”

Fuel theft creates a vicious cycle: The theft increases costs for Pemex and makes the official gasoline supply more scarce, contributing to higher prices for legal consumers. Theft amounts to about $1 billion a year, says Luis Miguel Labardini, an energy consultant at Marcos y Asociados and senior adviser to Pemex’s chief financial officer in the 1990s. “If Pemex were a public company, they would be in financial trouble just because of the theft of fuel,” he says. “It’s that bad.”

And while on the subject of funny business. . .

Consider this from teleSUR English:

An anti-corruption group in Mexico revealed Tuesday that the energy minister, as well as relatives of President Enrique Peña Nieto, had financial interests in the recent gas hikes that have sparked protests across the country for the second week in a row.

Energy Minister Pedro Joaquin Coldwell is a shareholder of four of the five gas stations on the Caribbean island of Cozumel in partnership with his sister and two sons.

One of the gas stations was closed down in April 2016 over alleged manipulations of prices, as the station was not providing the amount of diesel customers were paying for, Mexicans Against Corruption and Impunity exposed in the official reports by Profeco, the oil watchdog in Mexico. The ruling was appealed.

The investigative paper Aristegui Noticias denounced a conflict of interests even more problematic in the context of the contested gas price hike. “Coldwell is the head of the energy sector in Mexico. As the energy minister, he could access privileged information on the oil business,” said the article.

Coldwell denied any interference in the administration of the four gas stations in an interview with the anti-corruption group, adding he will pass over his shares to a trustee in order to avoid conflicts of interests.

Map of the day: A deadly year for journalists


From the International Federation of Journalists, a map showing nations where journalists were killed in 2015.

From the International Federation of Journalists, a map showing nations where journalists were killed in 2015.

The year just ended proved a bloody one for the world’s dwindling population of journalists, and Mexico proved one of the most dangerous of nations for members of the Fourth Estate, with 11 journalists slain, trailing only Iraq [15 killed] and Afghanistan [13 killed].

From the International Federation of Journalists:

93 journalists and media professionals were killed in 2016 according to new statistics published by the world’s largest journalists’ organisation.

The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ), which represents 600.000 members in 140 countries, today published a list of 93 journalists and media staff who were killed in 2016 in work-related incidents. A further 29 died in two plane crashes.

The killings, including targeted murders, bomb attacks and crossfire incidents span 23 countries in Africa, Asia Pacific, the Americas, Europe and the Middle East and Arab World regions.

Although the figures for 2016 are down on previous years the IFJ has warned against complacency citing reports of rising threats, intimidation and self-censorship as evidence that attacks on freedom of expression remain at critical levels.

In addition to the 93 targeted killings, 20 Brazilian sports reporters perished in a plane crash over the city of Medellin in Colombia, a country where for the first time in many years no killing was recorded this year, against three listed in 2015. 9 Russian journalists were killed in a military plane crash.

State Department sternly warns on travel to Mexico


As the holidays draw near, if you’re thinking of heading south across the border to catch a little fun and sun in Mexico, you might want to think again: the U.S. State Department has issued a strong warning advising against it.

Or at least to some parts of a nation wracked by unprecedented levels of violence.

From Spain’s El País:

The US travel warning comes against a backdrop of rising violence in Mexico, with 29,000 murders registered in the country in the year to the end of September. Of those murders, 16,749 were assassinations. If that trend continues for the rest of the year, 2016 will be the most violent 12 months since Mexico’s embattled President Enrique Peña Nieto came to office in 2016.

A UCLA study published in January said the rise in the number of homicides in Mexico from 2000 to 2010 has reduced the average life expectancy of its citizens.

According to the study, life expectancy among men who live in the north, the most violent part of the country, had fallen by three years over the period.

Mexico continues to make headlines for all the wrong reasons. Recently, police in Mexico’s Gulf Coast state of Veracruz said 14 criminal suspects had been killed in a gun battle with a patrol of Mexican marines.

Spelled out in dire terms

Singled out in the warning are some of the most popular tourist destinations in the country.

From the advisory:

U.S. government personnel and their families are prohibited from personal travel to all areas to which the Department recommends “defer non-essential travel” in this Travel Warning. As a result of security precautions that U.S. government personnel must take while traveling to parts of Mexico, our response time to emergencies involving U.S. citizens may be hampered or delayed.

Gun battles between rival criminal organizations or with Mexican authorities have taken place on streets and in public places during broad daylight. The Mexican government dedicates substantial resources to protect visitors to major tourist destinations and has engaged in an extensive effort to counter criminal organizations that engage in narcotics trafficking and other unlawful activities throughout Mexico. There is no evidence that criminal organizations have targeted U.S. citizens based on their nationality. Resort areas and tourist destinations in Mexico generally do not see the level of drug-related violence and crime that are reported in the border region or in areas along major trafficking routes.

U.S. government personnel are prohibited from patronizing casinos, sports books, or other gambling establishments in the states of Coahuila, Durango, Zacatecas, Aguascalientes, San Luis Potosi, Nuevo Leon, Tamaulipas, Jalisco, Colima and Nayarit.

Kidnappings in Mexico take the following forms:

  • Traditional: victim is physically abducted and held captive until a ransom is paid for release.
  • Express: victim is abducted for a short time and commonly forced to withdraw money, usually from an ATM, then released.
  • Virtual: an extortion-by-deception scheme where a victim is contacted by phone and coerced by threats of violence to provide phone numbers of family and friends, and then isolated until the ransom is paid. Recently, hotel guests have been targets of such “virtual” kidnapping schemes.

U.S. citizens have been murdered in carjacking and highway robberies, most frequently at night and on isolated roads. Carjackers use a variety of techniques, including roadblocks, bumping/moving vehicles to force them to stop, and running vehicles off the road at high speeds. There are indications that criminals target newer and larger vehicles, but drivers of old sedans and buses coming from the United States are also targeted. U.S. government personnel are prohibited from intercity travel after dark in many areas of Mexico. U.S. citizens should use toll roads (cuotas) whenever possible. In remote areas, cell phone coverage is limited or non-existent.

The Mexican government has deployed federal police and military personnel throughout the country as part of its efforts to combat organized criminal groups. U.S. citizens traveling on Mexican roads and highways by car or bus may encounter government checkpoints, staffed by military or law enforcement personnel. In some places, criminal organizations have erected their own unauthorized checkpoints, at times wearing police and military uniforms, and have killed or abducted motorists who have failed to stop at them. You should cooperate at all checkpoints.

One region singled out is the of Guerrero, where 43 students from the Raúl Isidro Burgos Rural Teachers’ College on 26 September 2014 are still missing [previously].

The report warns:

Personal travel to the state of Guerrero, including Acapulco, is prohibited for U.S. government personnel with the exception of travel to Ixtapa/Zihuatanejo by air. In Ixtapa/Zihuatanejo, U.S. government personnel must remain in tourist areas. The state of Guerrero was the most violent state in Mexico in 2015 for the third year in a row, and self-defense groups operate independently of the government in many areas of Guerrero. Armed members of these groups frequently maintain roadblocks and, although not considered hostile to foreigners or tourists, are suspicious of outsiders and should be considered volatile and unpredictable.

Cartel victims overflow morgues in Guerrero


In Mexico’s state of Guerrero, cartel victims are falling so rapidly that morgues in one city have no place left for them.

Guerrero is the same state when students from the Raúl Isidro Burgos Rural Teachers’ College vanished after a violent abduction on the night of 26 September 2014.

From Borderland Beat:

The bodies of the 10 men executed yesterday found in the Chilpancingo area,  remain lying on the parking and entrance area of the Forensic Medical Service of the capital (Semefo), because there are no room in the morgue freezers. The weather in the city is averaging 81 degrees Fahrenheit.

The storage capacity has been exceeding capacity because of the runaway violence that has  plagued the region and reflects the failure of the federal security strategy that directs the Army to gain stability in the  state and assist municipal authorities to combat drug trafficking. All three government entities, have long been accused  of corruption and being in collusion with organized crime.

In the Semefo of Chilpancingo, which depends on the state Health Department, there are two cold storage units with the capacity to store 100 bodies each  and both are typically near or over capacity.

Therefore, the 10 executed bodies found yesterday in Chilpancingo,  remain lying in the parking lot of Semefo, in the capital of Guerrero, due to the lack of space to ensure decent treatment for victims of the drug war, that has engulfed the state in one of the worst ever crises of insecurity, similar to 2012 violence, where the official number of intentional homicides exceeded two thousand that year.

Fidel Castro is gone, the man the U.S. tried to kill


In the end, the killer was one that awaits us all, humanity’s finite lifespan.

From the New York Times:

Fidel Castro, the fiery apostle of revolution who brought the Cold War to the Western Hemisphere in 1959 and then defied the United States for nearly half a century as Cuba’s maximum leader, bedeviling 11 American presidents and briefly pushing the world to the brink of nuclear war, died Friday. He was 90.

His death was announced by Cuban state television.

In declining health for several years, Mr. Castro had orchestrated what he hoped would be the continuation of his Communist revolution, stepping aside in 2006 when he was felled by a serious illness. He provisionally ceded much of his power to his younger brother Raúl, now 85, and two years later formally resigned as president. Raúl Castro, who had fought alongside Fidel Castro from the earliest days of the insurrection and remained minister of defense and his brother’s closest confidant, has ruled Cuba since then, although he has told the Cuban people he intends to resign in 2018.

Fidel Castro had held on to power longer than any other living national leader except Queen Elizabeth II. He became a towering international figure whose importance in the 20th century far exceeded what might have been expected from the head of state of a Caribbean island nation of 11 million people.

More from the Guardian:

Castro’s younger brother Raúl, who assumed the presidency of Cuba in 2006 after Fidel suffered a near-fatal intestinal ailment, announced the revolutionary leader’s death on television on Friday night.

“With profound sadness I am appearing to inform our people and our friends across [Latin] America and the world that today, 25 November 2016, at 10.29pm, Fidel Castro, the commander in chief of the Cuban revolution, died,” he said.

“In accordance with his wishes, his remains will be cremated.”

Raúl Castro concluded his address with the famous revolutionary slogan: “Onwards to victory!”

On Saturday, the Cuban government announced that Fidel Castro’s ashes will be interred at the Santa Ifigenia cemetery in Santiago de Cuba on 4 December. The cemetery is the resting place of 19th century Cuban independence hero José Martí and numerous other leading figures in the country’s torrid history.

Hundreds of assassination attempts foiled

Castro lived a charmed life, surviving hundreds of would-be assassins, many of them dispatched by a U.S. government outraged that a revolutionary regime could challenge its hegemony and flourish just 90 miles off its shore.

Powerful U.S. corporations had seen their lucrative Cuban assets nationalized, and the mob lost its casinos, infuriating syndicate heads in Chicago, Miami, and New Orleans, as well as notorious money launderer Meyer Lansky, who lost his own casino.

Other governments as well loathed Castro for his backing of revolutuonary regimes and dispatched their own killers.

And all of their attempts failed, as documented in this 2013 report from Britain’s Channel 4 News:

638 Ways To Kill Castro

A noteworthy legacy

So we bid farewell to Fidel, who created a national healthcare system that’s one of the world’s best [the island nation’s infant mortality rates are much lower than those of the U.S., a fact the CIA acknowledges], and where the U.S. sends troops to maintain its dominance over the globe, Cuba sends doctors to heal folks in some of the world’s poorest lands and assist when disaster strikes.

Barred by a trade embargo from importing food from the U.S., Cuba developed the world’s best system of agroecology, raising crops without pesticides and an over-reliance on synthetic fertilizers, while turning vacant lots into rich urban farms.

While the American right has long demonized Castro as a despot, the truth is that he accomplished much good for the Cuban people and countless numbers of the sick and the afflicted in other lands.

And now we bid him farewell, a man whose legacy is — like that of all of us — mixed, but one that is far better than so often portrayed in the U.S. media.

Drew Sheneman: Donald Trump’s Jedi mind tricks


From the editorial cartoonist of the Newark Star-Ledger, capturing The Donald on one of the many occasions he’s buddied up to wise guys:

blog-sheneman

Abby Martin tackles John Podesta and his emails


In one of her most important efforts yet, Abby Martin digs beneath the rhetoric to show the real importance of the cache of Wikileaked emails from the account of Democratic National Committee chair John Podesta.

What she reveals is the heart of darkness beating beneath the skin of the American political system, the same system that has given us a presidential race pitting the two most unpopular candidates since polling began.

In an attempt to discredit the emails and what they reveal, the mainstream media have presented without questioning claims that the hack was executed at the behest of the Russian government without offering any verification for their assertion.

But no less than James Bamford, a former U.S. Navy intelligence analyst and attorney who became the most distinguished journalist ever to cover and blow the lid off illegal spying programs by the National Security Agency, Bamford questioned the government’s claims in an incisive essay for Reuters, where he writes:

The problem with attempting to draw a straight line from the Kremlin to the Clinton campaign is the number of variables that get in the way. For one, there is little doubt about Russian cyber fingerprints in various U.S. campaign activities. Moscow, like Washington, has long spied on such matters. The United States, for example, inserted malware in the recent Mexican election campaign. The question isn’t whether Russia spied on the U.S. presidential election, it’s whether it released the election emails.

Then there’s the role of Guccifer 2.0, the person or persons supplying WikiLeaks and other organizations with many of the pilfered emails. Is this a Russian agent? A free agent? A cybercriminal? A combination, or some other entity? No one knows.

There is also the problem of groupthink that led to the war in Iraq. For example, just as the National Security Agency, the Central Intelligence Agency and the rest of the intelligence establishment are convinced Putin is behind the attacks, they also believed it was a slam-dunk that Saddam Hussein had a trove of weapons of mass destruction.

Consider as well the speed of the political-hacking investigation, followed by a lack of skepticism, culminating in a rush to judgment.

But what is certain, beyond question, is that John Podesta represents everything that’s wrong about American politics, where claims of democratic openness are belief by secret deals in which big banks and powerful corporations, not workers and their families, are the real beneficiaries.

And Abby Martin is on the story.

From teleSUR English:

The Empire Files: Abby Martin Exposes John Podesta

Program notes:

With the Wikileaks release of thousands of emails belonging to John Podesta, very little is known in US society about Podesta himself. While he’s maintained a low profile, John Podesta is actually considered one of Washington’s biggest players, and one of the most powerful corporate lobbyists in the world.

In this episode of The Empire Files, Abby Martin explores John Podesta’s political rise, his vast network of corporate connections and his think tank “Center for American Progress.” Learn why the Podestas and the Clintons are a match made in ruling class heaven.

Philippine legalized lynching slammed by U.N.


The victims, slaughtered by the hundreds, are suspected drug dealers, and journalists have also been warned they may become the next targets of President Rodrigo Duterte, who took office 30 June.

And no one should’ve been surprised.

As Time reported Tuesday:

In a span of six weeks, the Philippines’ new President, Rodrigo Duterte, has made international headlines for the hundreds of suspects killed in his war on crime. Since he took office on June 30, an average of 13 people a day have been either assassinated in public by masked assailants, killed by police without further investigation, or found as unidentified bodies on the streets, often balled up in packing tape with signs saying variations of: “Don’t follow me, I’m a criminal.” Duterte’s supporters celebrate these killings as necessary comeuppance, while his critics condemn the violence as precarious violations of due process and human rights. Yet the President’s seemingly outrageous actions are merely part of the Philippines’ deeply entrenched culture of impunity. What is frightening is that so few people realize that yet.

President Duterte’s approval rating was recently a historic 91%, and he is seen by fans and foes alike as decisive and effective, promising sweeping reforms and bringing about the surrender of tens of thousands of drug users and self-confessed dealers before they can be killed. Yet Duterte has also vowed to pardon any police and military involved in the extrajudicial killings, while also pledging to pardon himself. He has ensconced his daughter and son as mayor and vice mayor of the city that he ruled for two decades, while also refusing to fully answer allegations about hidden wealth.

More alarmingly, in what seems an effort to systematically undermine the traditional democratic checks and balances to his authority, Duterte has threatened to shut down the legislature if it hinders his plans, invoked the specter of martial law when criticized by the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, and insulted concerned foreign ambassadors. He has chipped at the influence of the Catholic Church by emphasizing its corruption. And he has warned that members of the media are not protected from assassination: “The Constitution can no longer help you,” Duterte told reporters, “if you disrespect a person.”

And earlier this month, the New York Times reported, Duterte:

publicly accused scores of judges, mayors, lawmakers, military personnel and police officers of involvement with the illegal drug trade, giving them 24 hours to surrender for investigation or, he said, be “hunted” down.

Mr. Duterte rejected calls last week from international human rights groups to observe due process in the war he has declared on both sellers and users of illicit drugs, after a photograph of a drug user shot and killed by vigilantes made it to the front pages and became a symbol for the bloody antidrug campaign.

“I ordered the listing. I ordered the validation,” he said Sunday in a nationally televised speech at a naval base, referring to the roughly 150 people he mentioned by name. “I’m the one reading it, and I am the sole person responsible for these all.”

Al Jazeera reported remarks Duterte made shortly before his announcement:

Earlier on Saturday, Duterte had vowed to keep his “shoot-to-kill” order “until the last day of my term, if I’m still alive by then”.

“I don’t care about human rights, believe me,” he said, according to official transcripts released by the presidential palace.

About 800 people have been killed since Duterte won a landslide election in May, according to reports by the local press, which has been tracking reports of extra-judicial killings.

Before his assumption of the presidency, Duterte had been mayor Davao City, where under his watch he had encouraged vigilante groups, known as the Davao Death Squads, believed responsible for more than a 1,000 murders.

Duterte made no bones [or, rather he did, in Mafia parlance, declaring in 2009, “If you are doing an illegal activity in my city, if you are a criminal or part of a syndicate that preys on the innocent people of the city, for as long as I am the mayor, you are a legitimate target of assassination.”

Duterte, who some have called the Philippine Donald Trump, has brought his ruthless policies onto the national stage with his assumption of presidential powers.

And now he’s giving the finger to the United Nations

The latest development, reported by United Press International:

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte threatened Sunday to leave the United Nations over criticism of his pursuit of drug dealers.

In his hometown of Davao City, where he spent two decades as mayor before becoming president in a landslide election in May, Duterte suggested the Philippines could align itself with China and African countries to form a more useful international body.

“Maybe we’ll just have to decide to separate from the United Nations. If you are that insulting, we should just leave. Take us out of your organization. You have done nothing anyway. When were you here last time? Nothing. Never. Except to criticize,” he told the Davao City audience.

Two U.N. human rights specialists last week called Duterte’s orders an “incitement to violence and killing, a crime under international law.” U.N. Secretary General; Ban Ki-moon and the U.N. Office on Drugs and Crime were critical of Duterte’s “apparent endorsement of extrajudicial killings, which is illegal and a breach of fundamental rights and freedoms.”

Agence France Presse has more on the U.N.’s rebuke

The UN’s special rapporteur on summary executions, Agnes Callamard, last week said Duterte’s promise of immunity and bounties to security forces who killed drug suspects violated international law.

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon in June also strongly criticised Duterte, who during the election campaign promised to kill 100,000 people and dump so many bodies in Manila Bay that the fish would grow fat from feeding on them.

“I unequivocally condemn his apparent endorsement of extrajudicial killings, which is illegal and a breach of fundamental rights and freedoms,” Ban said.

Duterte frequently peppers his public comments with swear words — he has also called Pope Francis and the US ambassador to Manila sons of whores — and days after his election win used typical language to criticise the UN.

“F**k you, UN, you can’t even solve the Middle East carnage… couldn’t even lift a finger in Africa,” he said then.

Duterte flips the rhetorical bird at Uncle Sam

The controversial president also made clear how he feels about human rights advice from the U.S.

From RT:

The Philippine leader also attacked the US for more members of the public dying as a result of police violence.

“What do you think the Americans did to the black people there? Is that not rubbing off also? And (critics) say what?”

>snip<

He also wondered whether UN officials were indeed threatening to jail him and repeated that he was ready to sacrifice his life and presidency for his country.

Duterte has developed a reputation for being very outspoken and even rude at times. Earlier in August, he called the US ambassador in the country “gay” and a “son of a bitch.”

Nobody should’ve been surprised

Duterte made his post-election plans clear in a remarkable speech to some of the nation’s leading capitalists back in April while still on campaign.

From Politiko, a Philippine political website — and note that final paragraph:

Davao City Mayor Rodrigo Duterte has a simple plan in carrying out extra-judicial plan to kill criminals and drugs lords if he takes over as president: sign 1,000 pardons a day.

In a profanity-laced speech before the Makati Business Club on 27 April 2016, Duterte said he would exploit to the hilt a Constitutional provision which allowed the President to grant absolute or conditional pardon or amnesty with the concurrence of Congress.

“I will tell (those who carry out his orders to kill without hesitation) to get a paper, it will be pre-signed and just put your name and you’re pardoned. I don’t mind giving 1,000 pardons a day. The Constitution did not say anything about limiting it to 5 or 10,” said Duterte whose simplistic proposal drew a loud applause and laughter from the audience.

He said he would ask all police and military who carried out his orders to kill any criminal or drug lord without any hesitation to just point to him as the one who gave the order.

“I will tell every military and police to go out, hunt them, arrest them, and if they offer violent resistance, do not hesitate to kill them. If you have a gun, use it and that will solve every crime,” said Duterte.

Duterte planned to absolve of all these crimes by granting himself an absolute pardon before he would step down from power in 2022.

To sum up his approach to office, we turn to that venerable political sage Alfred E. Newman: “What, me worry?” Or maybe it’s found in the words of the high school bully we remember all too well, who would purposely bump into folks, then declare arrogantly, “Well, pardon me all to hell.”

Mobbed-up Donald’s grandfather was a pimp


Yep, ol’ Friedrich Drumpf, the man who changed the name to the more palatable Trump, was a German draft dodger who fled to the U.S. and promptly entered the sex trade.

That’s just one of the revelations — including close ties to mafia figures — contained in Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist David Cay Johnston’s new book,  The Making of Donald Trump.

In this interview by Amy Goodman and Juan González of Democracy Now!, Johnston dishes the dirt on The Donald:

“The Making of Donald Trump”: David Cay Johnston on Trump’s Ties to the Mob & Drug Traffickers

From the transcript:

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: Well, in your book, you go into a story, not about his father, who’s been well known and covered previously by other publications, but about his grandfather. Talk about Donald Trump’s grandfather.

DAVID CAY JOHNSTON: Donald Trump’s grandfather, Frederick, when he turned 16 in 1885, was subject to mandatory military service in Germany, so he fled the country and came to America. And then he followed Horace Greeley’s advice: “Go West, young man.” And he went into the whorehouse business. And he ran bordellos in Seattle, in Everett, Washington, and in the Yukon Territory, until the Royal Canadian Mounted Police showed up. He then took his fortune, went back to Germany, married a young woman his mother didn’t approve of, came back to America. His wife didn’t like it. They went back to Germany. He figured, with all his money, he could buy his way in. And they said, “You’re a draft dodger. Get out,” and sent him back to America.

AMY GOODMAN: And then, talk about his father, Fred Trump.

DAVID CAY JOHNSTON: Well, Fred Trump, whose father died when he was 12 or 13 years old, was a very industrious guy. When he was 15 years old, he started a business—technically owned by his mother, because he couldn’t sign contracts—building garages in the outer boroughs of New York for these newfangled thing called automobiles. When the market collapsed because of the Great Depression, he invented one of the first grocery stores. People used to have clerks give them their canned goods and stuff. He opened one where you did your own, and then sold it for a profit.

He built housing during World War II for shipyard workers and is said to be the first person in line to get federal money to build worker housing. He was a profiteer. Dwight D. Eisenhower personally went into a rage over what he had done, how he’d ripped stuff off, and he had a creative explanation when he was called before the U.S. Senate to justify what he did. He said, “I didn’t profiteer. I didn’t take the money. It’s in the bank account.” Strange way to think about things. And, of course, they discriminated against everybody who wasn’t white, and were proven to have done this in the ‘50s and in the ‘70s. And Woody Guthrie, the folk singer, “This Land is Your Land,” he wrote a song, which is in the book thanks to the generosity of the Guthrie family, about one of the all-white outer suburb projects owned by Fred Trump.

Death by torture: New Aytozinapa autopsy report


The only body of a student recovered after the brutal brutal assault on students from the 26 September 2014 disappearances [previously] of 44 students from the Raúl Isidro Burgos Rural Teachers’ College in the state of Guerrero, Mexico, bore marks of extreme torture, according to a new report.

Of the 43 other students abducted that night, the remains of only one have been identified, and that from DNA extracted from a bone fragment found in a plastic garbage bag dumped in a nearby river: Alexander Mora Venancio.

The body of Julio César Mondragón Fontes was found the day after the abductions, allegedly by carried out by drug cartel members in league with local politicians.

Mondragón is survived by a wife and young daughter.

From teleSUR English:

The Argentine forensics team submitted its autopsy conclusions Monday about the only Ayotzinapa student’s body, found in September 2014, finding he was brutally tortured before dying, coinciding with his family’s claims against the government’s allegations.

The conclusions, handed into a local court in Guerrero state, agreed partially with the report issued on the same day by the Mexican Human Rights Commission that 22-year-old Julio Cesar Mondragon had 64 fractures in 40 bones, mostly in his skull, face and spine.

The new autopsy however found more injuries on the body that had not been reported in the first one, and confirmed the student was tortured, saying the “serious” fractures in the skull occurred “around the time of death,” without finding any injury due to firearms.

The Argentine experts also found that the boy died as a result of the traumatic brain injury inflicted by a blunt force weapon, while acknowledging fauna’s teeth marks inflicted after the death. But the Human Rights Commission denied the existence of a blunt force weapon, blaming it all on animals.

Nevertheless, both teams called upon federal authorities to investigate further the case including the torture allegations, just as the family of Mondragon and its legal team have demanded for almost two years, claiming they had evidence the student had been tortured while still alive.

More from CNN:

“Julio César Mondragón Fontes was the victim of physical torture,” said Jose Trinidad Larrieta, the special commissioner in Ayotzinapa at the National Human Rights Commission. “He was cruelly beaten by members of an organized gang and public servants of the Iguala municipality.”

.snip

Argentine forensic experts investigating the case said in February that there is no evidence to support the government’s hypothesis that the bodies of the 43 students were burned in a nearby landfill.

Jesús Murillo Karam, who was the attorney general when the students disappeared, said in November 2014 that the young men were abducted on orders of a local mayor, turned over to a gang that killed them, burned their bodies in a landfill and tossed the remains into a nearby river.

Suspects arrested, but none have been tried

The involvement of Mexican governments at all levels with drug cartels has been a given for decades, with politicians and law enforcement officials profiting handsomely from the endless rivers of cash generated by the hunger of the U.S. market.

So it should come as no surprise that of those arrested in connection with the abduction and murders, not a single suspect has been tried on criminal charges.

There’s more, after the jump. . .

From the Associated Press: Continue reading

Trump or Clinton: To Mexico, they’re all the same


John Ackerman is one of the leading legal lights of Mexico, serving as professor at the Institute for Legal Research at the National Autonomous University of Mexico [UNAM] and as editor-in-chief of the Mexican Law Review. He is also a columnist for Proceso magazine, source of some of the finest investigative reporting in North America, and for the La Jornada newspaper.

He is also a relentless critic of the corruption of the government of President President Enrique Peña Nieto.

In a recent essay for the Dallas Morning News, he attacked his government’s role in the investigation of the 26 September 2014 disappearance [previously] of the 43 students, still missing and presumed dead, from the Raúl Isidro Burgos Rural Teachers’ College in Ayotzinapa, Guerrero.

The [Inter-American Human Rights Commission] panel has discovered that many of the key witnesses in the case were tortured, key evidence was likely planted on the scene of the crime, and the government’s story about what happened to the students (their bodies were supposedly incinerated at a garbage dump) is scientifically impossible.

Significantly, the panel also has discovered the complicity of federal forces with the disappearances. During the night of Sept. 26, the Federal Police and the Army, which has two large military bases in the vicinity, were constantly tracking the students’ movements in real time and even made themselves physically present on various occasions.

The evidence points to an intentional act of aggression by government forces — local, state and federal — against the group of student dissidents. Just as occurred frequently during the “dirty war” of the 1970s, the government took advantage of the relative isolation of the mountains of Guerrero to eliminate its political opponents. The good news is that this time someone was watching.

In the light of government repression and cover-ups like this one, it should come as no surprise that the public approval ratings for Peña Nieto have reached the lowest point for any Mexican president in recent history. Only 30 percent approve of his performance and only 13 percent believe that Mexico is today “on the right track,” according to a recent independent poll.

Regardless, the U.S. government irresponsibly continues to cover the back of the Peña Nieto administration. In its most recent Human Rights Report, the State Department claims that during 2015 “there were no reports of political prisoners or detainees” and that the Mexican government “generally respected” freedom of speech and the press. Congress also continues to funnel millions of dollars of support to Mexican law enforcement through the Merida Initiative.

Ackerman argues that it may make little difference who is elected president in the United States, since both politicians favor policies that can only bring more harm to his country.

Instead, he calls for a Mexico/U.S.-disconnect, given that the corruption in Mexico is aided, abetted, and even created by U.S. neoliberal politicians and their corporate sponsors.

Similarly, the Trans-Pacific Partnership will only deeply the wounds already inflicted on Mexico by NAFTA.

The TPP contains the same provisions as NAFTA for a establishing a secret tribunal where corporations can sue nation states for policies created to protect their citizens. Currently Mexico is being sued for blocking radioactive waste dumps, a measure that interferes with corporate profit potential.

And those panels work only in one direction: Nations can use them to sue corporations for harming their citizens.

But there are signs of hope.

Ackerman outlines his views in this very important interview from the Keiser Report, and it’s well worth your time.

From RT:

Keiser Report: US, Mexico & walls

Program notes:

In this special episode of the 2016 Summer Solutions series of the Keiser Report, Max and Stacy talk to John Ackerman, professor, columnist and the Mexican Law Review’s editor-in-chief, about the economic relationship between Mexico and the United States. Ackerman has a plan to cut off the flow of funds from America to the Mexican government and he also responds to Donald Trump’s wall. Like Trump, however, Ackerman believes Nafta has been devastating… both to the American worker and to the population in Mexico. They conclude with solutions to the consequences of neoliberal capitalism and dodgy trade deals.

Map of the day: The trans-Atlantic slave trade


From Voyages, the Emory University database on that most execrable of human activities:

Captive Africans followed many routes from their homelands to other parts of the world. The map shows the trans-Atlantic movement of these captives in comparative perspective for the centuries since 1500 only. Estimates of the ocean-borne trade are more robust than are those for the trans-Saharan, Red Sea and Persian Gulf routes, but it is thought that for the period from the end of the Roman Empire to 1900 about the same number of captives crossed the Atlantic as left Africa by all other routes combined.

Captive Africans followed many routes from their homelands to other parts of the world. The map shows the trans-Atlantic movement of these captives in comparative per- spective for the centuries since 1500 only. Estimates of the ocean-borne trade are more robust than are those for the trans-Saharan, Red Sea and Persian Gulf routes, but it is thought that for the period from the end of the Roman Empire to 1900 about the same number of captives crossed the Atlantic as left Africa by all other routes combined.

Duterte declares a violent police state


The new Philippine president who famous lamented he wasn’t first in line for a lethal gang rape and headed death squads suspected of 1,700 killings  announced today that he was following through on his campaign promises to shoot criminals.

From Agence France-Presse:

Philippines’ president-elect Rodrigo Duterte vowed Sunday to reintroduce capital punishment and give security forces “shoot-to-kill” orders in a devastating war on crime.

In his first press conference since winning the May 9 elections in a landslide, the tough-talking mayor of southern Davao city warned his campaign threats to kill were not rhetoric.

“What I will do is urge Congress to restore (the) death penalty by hanging,” Duterte, 71, told a press conference in Davao.

He also said he would give security forces “shoot-to-kill” orders against organised criminals or those who violently resisted arrest.

>snip<

He said military sharp shooters would be enlisted in his campaign to kill criminals.

Quote of the day: A plea from the Panama leaker


An excerpt from an extended manifesto by “John Doe,” the source of the Panama Leaks, published in the Süddeutsche Zeitung:

I have watched as one after another, whistleblowers and activists in the United States and Europe have had their lives destroyed by the circumstances they find themselves in after shining a light on obvious wrongdoing. Edward Snowden is stranded in Moscow, exiled due to the Obama administration’s decision to prosecute him under the Espionage Act. For his revelations about the NSA, he deserves a hero’s welcome and a substantial prize, not banishment. Bradley Birkenfeld was awarded millions for his information concerning Swiss bank UBS—and was still given a prison sentence by the Justice Department. Antoine Deltour is presently on trial for providing journalists with information about how Luxembourg granted secret “sweetheart” tax deals to multi-national corporations, effectively stealing billions in tax revenues from its neighbour countries. And there are plenty more examples.

Legitimate whistleblowers who expose unquestionable wrongdoing, whether insiders or outsiders, deserve immunity from government retribution, full stop. Until governments codify legal protections for whistleblowers into law, enforcement agencies will simply have to depend on their own resources or on-going global media coverage for documents.

In the meantime, I call on the European Commission, the British Parliament, the United States Congress, and all nations to take swift action not only to protect whistleblowers, but to put an end to the global abuse of corporate registers. In the European Union, every member state’s corporate register should be freely accessible, with detailed data plainly available on ultimate beneficial owners. The United Kingdom can be proud of its domestic initiatives thus far, but it still has a vital role to play by ending financial secrecy on its various island territories, which are unquestionably the cornerstone of institutional corruption worldwide. And the United States can clearly no longer trust its fifty states to make sound decisions about their own corporate data. It is long past time for Congress to step in and force transparency by setting standards for disclosure and public access.

And while it’s one thing to extol the virtues of government transparency at summits and in sound bites, it’s quite another to actually implement it. It is an open secret that in the United States, elected representatives spend the majority of their time fundraising. Tax evasion cannot possibly be fixed while elected officials are pleading for money from the very elites who have the strongest incentives to avoid taxes relative to any other segment of the population. These unsavoury political practices have come full circle and they are irreconcilable. Reform of America’s broken campaign finance system cannot wait.

The full, extensive, and growing collection of Süddeutsche Zeitung‘s Panama Leaks stories in English is posted here.