Category Archives: Politics

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.

Press fails to cover policy issues in election stories


The decline of the American press is nowhere more evident than in its coverage of the 2016 presidential race.

Rather than examine the policies and substantial issues embodied by each of the candidates, the press has has focused on the personalities of the major party contenders, starting with the primary campaigns and continuing after the nominations were declared at the national conventions.

Admittedly, the contrasting personalities of the two contenders has never been greater — the flamboyant huckster and the wooden machine politician — but Americans are given little notion of what the candidates represent and what they actually stand for.

And now a series of studies from Harvard University’s Thomas E. Patterson, Bradlee Professor of Government and the Press at the Shorenstein Center on Media, Politics and Public Policy at the Kennedy School of Government, confirms the worst.

He writes about his findings for The Conversation, an independent open source academic journal:

Years ago, when I first started teaching and was at Syracuse University, one of my students ran for student body president on the tongue-in-cheek platform “Issues are Tissues, without a T.”

He was dismissing out of hand anything that he, or his opponents, might propose to do in office, noting that student body presidents have so little power as to make their platforms disposable.

Sadly, the news media appears to have taken a similar outlook in their coverage of the 2016 presidential campaign. The stakes in the election are high. Key decisions on foreign and domestic policy will be affected by the election’s outcome, as will a host of other issues, including the appointment of the newest Supreme Court justice. Yet, journalists have paid scant attention to the candidates’ platforms.

That conclusion is based on three reports on the news media’s coverage of the 2016 campaign that I have written for the Shorenstein Center on Media, Politics and Public Policy at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government, where I hold a faculty position.

The third report was released today and it covers the month-long period from the week before the Republican National Convention to the week after the Democratic National Convention.

The first report analyzed coverage during the whole of the year 2015 – the so-called invisible primary period that precedes the first actual contests in Iowa and New Hampshire.

The second report spanned the period of the primaries and caucuses.

10 major outlets studied

Each report was based on a detailed content analysis of the presidential election coverage on five television networks (ABC, CBS, CNN, Fox and NBC) and in five leading newspapers (Los Angeles Times, The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post and USA Today).The analysis indicates that substantive policy issues have received only a small amount of attention so far in the 2016 election coverage. To be sure, “the wall” has been in and out of the news since Donald Trump vowed to build it. Other issues like ISIS and free trade have popped up here or there as well. But in the overall context of election coverage, issues have played second fiddle. They were at the forefront in the halls of the national conventions but not in the forefront of convention-period news coverage. Not a single policy proposal accounted for even 1 percent of Hillary Clinton’s convention-period coverage and, collectively, her policy stands accounted for a mere 4 percent of it.

Trump’s policies got more attention, but not until after the Democratic convention, when he made headlines several days running for his testy exchange with the parents of a slain Muslim U.S. soldier.

Continue reading

And now for something completely different. . .


Those Taiwanese Animators are at it again, with two twisted takes on political stories that have the world’s attention.

First up, their take on the American presidential race:

Trump vs Hillary: Trump and Clinton are neck-and-neck in the battleground states

Program notes:

With only seven weeks to go until Election Day, the race for the White House is getting close.

The Clinton camp is now officially in panic mode as her campaign tries to do anything it can to fend off a surging Donald Trump.

Hillary’s lead has been declining for weeks, and now a recent poll by CBS shows her and Trump neck-and-neck in key battleground states at 42 percent apiece.

It didn’t help Clinton when she described half of Trump supporters as a “basket of deplorables”.

Let’s not forget about her collapsing while trying to get into a Secret Service van at a 9/11 event.

This may help explain why she’s collapsing in the polls amongst black voters too.

And what about Trump’s tax returns? Is his 12,000-page tax return really that complicated?

Well, at least we all have the upcoming debates to look forward to.

And, for them, a story closer to home:

Philippines President Duterte is nuts: Duterte needs to put a sock in it already

Program notes:

President Rodrigo Duterte is putting the country in a rather precarious situation.

An ex-militiaman testified in front of the Senate last Thursday that President Duterte, when he was still a city mayor, ordered him and other members of an extermination squad to kill criminals and opponents in gangland-style assaults that left about 1,000 dead, according to the Associated Press.

Since becoming president in June, Duterte’s anti-drug campaign has left more than 3,000 suspected drug users and dealers dead.

Last week, Duterte also said he would no longer allow joint patrols of disputed waters near the South China Sea with other countries, according to the Philstar.

He also said he was considering buying defense weapons from Russia and China, the Philstar reported.

What will come out of Duterte’s mouth next? Will he follow through on those promises?

Headline of the day: Ouch! That’s gotta hurt


From the Independent, with a video clip at te link:

Listen to the reaction when Charlie Crist says he supports Hillary Clinton for her honesty

Former governor of Florida provokes laughs and jeers with his endorsement of a candidate who has struggled to convince voters that she can be trusted

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

Headlines of the day II: Philippine body count grows


First, from Deutche Welle:

Philippines President to extend violent war on drugs for six more months

  • Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte has said his country’s drug problem was far worse than he anticipated when taking office. Around 3,500 suspected dealers and traffickers have been killed in the last 10 weeks.

And this from the Japan Times:

British baron’s daughter dies in Philippine drug war

  • A daughter of the late British baron Lord Moynihan has been killed in the Philippines where the government is waging a deadly war on drugs, police said Monday.
  • Maria Aurora Moynihan, 45, was shot by unknown attackers who left her by the side of a Manila street on Sept. 10, authorities said.
  • Her killers left a cardboard sign accusing Moynihan of being a “drug pusher for celebrities,” Chief Inspector Tito Jay Cuden said.

Scientists issue a political climate change call


Today marked a major political intervention by scientists, ubcluding 30 Nobel laureates, calling for an end to the politicizatuion of climate scientists and urging world leaders to reject calls to opt out of the Paris climate accord.

The signatories, all members of the National Academy of Sciencea, represent leading researchers from the Mericas, Europe,m Asia, and Africa.

The call to action comes as right wing populists running for office across the globe are calling climate change a hoax and rejecting calls for corporations to cut their carbon emissions.

Here’s the text of the letter, with the full list of signatories at the link:

Human-caused climate change is not a belief, a hoax, or a conspiracy. It is a physical reality. Fossil fuels powered the Industrial Revolution. But the burning of oil, coal, and gas also caused most of the historical increase in atmospheric levels of heat-trapping greenhouse gases. This increase in greenhouse gases is changing Earth’s climate.

Our fingerprints on the climate system are visible everywhere. They are seen in warming of the oceans, the land surface, and the lower atmosphere. They are identifiable in sea level rise, altered rainfall patterns, retreat of Arctic sea ice, ocean acidification, and many other aspects of the climate system. Human-caused climate change is not something far removed from our day-to-day experience, affecting only the remote Arctic. It is present here and now, in our own country, in our own states, and in our own communities.

During the Presidential primary campaign, claims were made that the Earth is not warming, or that warming is due to purely natural causes outside of human control. Such claims are inconsistent with reality.

Others argued that no action is warranted until we have absolute certainty about human impacts on climate. Absolute certainty is unattainable. We are certain beyond a reasonable doubt, however, that the problem of human-caused climate change is real, serious, and immediate, and that this problem poses significant risks: to our ability to thrive and build a better future, to national security, to human health and food production, and to the interconnected web of living systems.

The basic science of how greenhouse gases trap heat is clear, and has been for over a century. Ultimately, the strength of that basic science brought the governments of the world to Paris in December 2015. They went to Paris despite pronounced differences in systems of government, in national self-interest, in culpability for past emissions of greenhouse gases, and in vulnerability to future climate change. The leaders of over 190 countries recognized that the problem of human-caused climate change is a danger to present and future citizens of our planet. They made national commitments to address this problem. It was a small but historic and vital first step towards more enlightened stewardship of Earth’s climate system.

From studies of changes in temperature and sea level over the last million years, we know that the climate system has tipping points. Our proximity to these tipping points is uncertain. We know, however, that rapid warming of the planet increases the risk of crossing climatic points of no return, possibly setting in motion large-scale ocean circulation changes, the loss of major ice sheets, and species extinctions. The climatic consequences of exceeding such thresholds are not confined to the next one or two electoral cycles. They have lifetimes of many thousands of years.

The political system also has tipping points. Thus it is of great concern that the Republican nominee for President has advocated U.S. withdrawal from the Paris Accord. A “Parexit” would send a clear signal to the rest of the world: “The United States does not care about the global problem of human-caused climate change. You are on your own.” Such a decision would make it far more difficult to develop effective global strategies for mitigating and adapting to climate change. The consequences of opting out of the global community would be severe and long-lasting – for our planet’s climate and for the international credibility of the United States.

The United States can and must be a major player in developing innovative solutions to the problem of reducing emissions of greenhouse gases. Nations that find innovative ways of decarbonizing energy systems and sequestering CO2 will be the economic leaders of the 21st century. Walking away from Paris makes it less likely that the U.S. will have a global leadership role, politically, economically, or morally. We cannot afford to cross that tipping point.