Mexico: protests growing in 'failed state'
On Nov. 20 tens of thousands of protesters marched through downtown Mexico City in the fourth National and Global Day of Action for Ayotzinapa, demanding the return of 43 missing students from the Raúl Isidro Burgos Rural Teachers' College, located in Ayotzinapa in the southwestern state of Guerrero. The students were abducted the night of Sept. 26-27 in the Guerrero city of Iguala de la Independencia, apparently in a joint action by municipal police and local drug gangs; three other students were killed in the incident, along with three bystanders. The Nov. 20 demonstration, which also marked the official anniversary of the start of the 1910 Mexican Revolution, coincided with the arrival in the capital of three caravans led by parents of the missing students; the parents had spent a week traveling through different parts of Mexico to increase public awareness about the disappearances.
Mexico: still more 'narco-fosas' uncovered
Mexican authorities unearthed five recently buried bodies from a clandestine grave in the rural pueblo of Mochicahui, El Fuerte municipality, Sinaloa state, officials announced July 21—the latest in a long string of such gruesome finds that the press in Mexico has dubbed narco-fosas, or narco-graves. Sinaloa state prosecutors were tipped off by a local resident whose family member was among the disappeared. Peasants in the region are terrorized by the Sinaloa Cartel, which makes a grisly example of those unwilling to cooperate in its drug-running operations. (EFE, July 21)
Mexico: community radio announcers imprisoned
Alma Delia Olivares Castro, an announcer on the La Cabina community radio station in Omealca municipality in the eastern Mexican state of Veracruz, was arrested on Feb. 28 and was held in a federal prison in Nayarit state for five days on charges of "auditory contamination." The authorities released Olivares Castro on March 4 after her family put up 25,000 pesos (about US$1,893) in bail, but she still faces criminal charges. After realizing that "auditory contamination" is not an offense under Mexican law, the authorities changed the charge to "undue use of a national good" (the airwaves). The station has already been closed and fined 29,000 pesos (about US$2,199) under the Federal Radio and Television Law, which regulates the licensing of radio and television stations.
Blood avocados: Michoacán cartels co-opt ag-biz
Mexico's violence-torn state of Michoacán produces millions of kilos each year of its famous specialty crop, highly prized in US markets... Yes, avocados. Michoacán accounts for 72% of total Mexican production of this rich, green fruit, and over 80% of the state's output is exported to the United States. The trade amounts to nearly a billion dollars a year—even ahead of the state's notorious (and prohibition-inflated) marijuana. But now the two industries are experiencing a grim synergy, as narco lords acquire avocado plantations to launder money, facilitate smuggling and maintain a cover of "legitimate" income. According to a recent exposé in Mexico's Vanguardia newspaper, the Knights Templar cartel has in recent years been running an extortion racket on avocado farmers, seizing their lands if they can't pay up (on pain of family members being abducted and threatened with death), building a "legal" agrarian empire in the state. The local agribusiness association, with the clunky name of the Michoacán State Committee on Vegetable Health, has been co-opted by the Templarios through threats and bribes, according to the report.
Mexico: police attack teachers' strike encampment
Carrying plastic shields and armed with nightsticks and tear-gas canisters, some 3,600 helmeted Mexican federal police moved in on Mexico City’s main plaza, the Zócalo, at 4 PM on Sept. 13 to clear out an encampment teachers had set up as a base for actions that they had been carrying out since Aug. 21 to protest changes in the educational system. The National Education Workers Coordinating Committee (CNTE), the dissident union group leading the protests, had negotiated an agreement with the government to vacate the plaza in time for the Sept. 15-16 ceremonies that traditionally celebrate Mexico's independence from Spain, but a smaller group of teachers from the militant locals in the southern state of Oaxaca tried briefly to hold out against the police. Confrontations followed for several hours involving police agents, teachers and local anarchists. National Security Commission (CNS) head Manuel Mondragón gave a preliminary count of 29 people arrested. (Los Angeles Times, Sept. 13, from correspondent; La Jornada, Mexico, Sept. 14)
Mexico passes 'education reform'; demos continue
The Chamber of Deputies of the Mexican Congress voted 390-69 on Sept. 2 in favor of the Professional Teaching Service Law, legislation that requires teachers to be evaluated periodically, although it allows two retests for teachers who fail the evaluation. This is the third in a series of "educational reforms" being pushed by President Enrique Peña Nieto. The Senate completed the approval process the next day by voting 102-22 for the law. In both chambers the center-left Party of the Democratic Revolution (PRD) was split; five of the party's 22 senators backed the law. (Europa Press, Sept. 2; La Jornada, Mexico, Sept. 4)
Mexico: migrants killed as 'The Beast' derails
Six or more people were killed in the early morning of Aug. 25 when a freight train derailed near the border between the Mexican states of Veracruz and Tabasco. The federal government reported later in the morning that four people were killed and 35 were injured, some seriously; shortly afterwards, Jazmín Cano, the mayor of Las Choapas in southern Veracruz, put the number of deaths at six and the number of injured at 22. The accident was reportedly caused by the combination of rain and excessive speed.
Mexico: Veracruz environmental activist murdered
Mexican environmental activist Noé Salomón Vázquez Ortiz was murdered the early afternoon of Aug. 2 in his hometown, Amatlán de los Reyes, in the eastern coastal state of Veracruz. The killing came one day before the town was to host the Tenth National Meeting of the Mexican Movement Against Dams and in Defense of Rivers (MAPDER). Vázquez Ortíz and a minor were gathering flowers and seeds for a floral tribute to be used at the conference when a group of men appeared, ordered the minor to leave and began stoning Vázquez Ortíz. His body was found later with the hands and legs bound and the throat slit. State police arrested four men the day of the murder; they reportedly said they had personal differences with the murdered man.
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