Despite his boast to have "ended" the drug war and pledge to explore cannabis legalization, Mexico's new populist president is seeking to create a special anti-drug "National Guard" drawing from the military and police forces. This plan is moving rapidly ahead—and the military is still being sent against campesino cannabis growers and small traffickers.
An indigenous environmental activist was killed in Mexico's south-central state of Morelos on Feb. 20—three days ahead of a planned referendum on an energy development project that he opposed. Samir Flores Soberanes was a leader of the local Peoples in Defense of Land and Water Front (FPDTA) and community radio station Amilzinko. He was slain by unknown gunmen in an attack at his home in the village of Amilcingo, Temoac municipality. He was a longtime figure in local opposition to the planned Huexca power plant and associated natural-gas pipeline, pushed by the government under the Morelos Integral Project (PIM).
If Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto hoped to present an image of stability to US Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly when he flew in on July 5, it proved to be pretty bad timing. On Kelly's second day, he toured southern Guerrero state to witness opium eradication operations there. Late that very night, a riot broke out at the prison in the state's biggest city, violence-torn Acapulco. The explosion of violence at Las Cruces CERESO (Social Readaption Center) ended with at least 28 inmates dead—many of them mutilated and several beheaded.
Several states across Mexico have been shaken by days of angry protests in response to a jump in the price of gasoline sparked by a new deregulation policy. Protests, road blockades and civil strikes are reported from 12 states since the new policy was instated Jan. 1. Looting was reported in Hidalgo, Veracruz and México states, with over 350 stores sacked. Several federal police agents were briefly taken hostage by protesters when they tried to break up a roadblock in Ixmiquilpan, Hidalgo. Two protesters were killed in the Ixmiquilpan clash, while one Federal District police officer is reported dead in rioting on the outskirts of Mexico City. Police also fired in the air to scatter protesters in Ecatepec, México. Nearly 900 have been detained nationwide. (Sol de Mexico, Jan. 6; Animal Politico, Jan. 5; Apro, Jan. 4)
Mexico's imprisoned top drug lord Joaquín "El Chapo" Guzmán came another step closer to extradition Oct. 20 when a Mexican federal judge in Ciudad Juárez found that the process has been legally sound and turned down five requests for an amparo (or injunction) to halt it. Extradition to face criminal charges in the United States had been approved in May, but suspended later that month by a higher court in Mexico City. The suspension was inteneded to allow the lower court to hear arguments by Guzmán's lawyers that extradition would be unconstitutional. These arguments have now been rejected. Chapo's lawyers were given 10 days to file an appeal.
According to a report issued by Mexico's independent National Human Rights Commission (CNDH), 22 civilians were executed during a May 2015 drug raid in Michoacán. The report, issued Aug. 18, states that among the 43 individuals killed during the drug bust, including one police officer, 22 civilians died as a result of "arbitrary execution," and an additional four were killed from "excessive use of force." While Mexican authorities continue to say the civilians were killed during the gunfight, the human rights commission maintains that the 22 were executed, and said that police placed guns next to 16 bodies in an attempt to substantiate their false claims. The human rights watchdog also found that the Michoacán Attorney General's Office was at fault for mishandling the ballistics evidence. The country's National Security Commission continues to support the actions of the police, saying, "The the use of arms was necessary and the police acted...in legitimate defense."
An indigenous Mexican ecological defender is now in his seventh month behind bars, despite calls for his relase from Amnesty International, Greenpeace and other human rights and environmental groups. Ildefonso Zamora was arrested by México state police last November, in connection with a 2012 robbery. But Amnesty finds "the charge is unsubstantiated and seems to be politically motivated." A leader of the Tlahuica indigenous people, Zamora served as president of the communal lands committee at his pueblo of San Juan Atzingo. In this capacity, he had long protested illegal logging on usurped communal lands in México state's Gran Bosque de Agua—which protects the watershed that supplies Mexico City. Amnesty notes that the prosecution's witnesses described the events "using the exact same words, as if reading them from a script." The rights group says this points to fabricated testimony, and demands that he be immediately and unconditionally released.
A group called the "Pagan Sect of the Mountain" (Secta Pagana de la Montaña) claimed responsibility for Oct. 31 coordinated attacks with improvised explosives that damaged four buses of the MexiBús commuter line at a terminal in the Mexico City suburb of Ecatepec. There were no casualties. The communique, online at ContraInfo, was full of eco-anarchist rhetoric, pledging more bombings to resist the "frenetic advance of modern development... If civilization destroys nature, we will respond in the same form." It signed off: "Fire and explosives against civilization!" The Prosecutor General of the Republic has opened an investigation. (La Jornada, La Jornada, Nov. 2)