May 22, 2013
The Pan-American Post
On Friday, the Organization of American States (OAS) released a highly anticipated report on drugs and drug trafficking in the hemisphere, which for the first time includes decriminalization and legalization as potential and valid policy options in the hemisphere. Perhaps the most surprising conclusion in the report comes after its assertion that drug use must be addressed as a public health issue. According to the OAS, “decriminalization of drug use needs to be considered as a core element in any public health strategy.” The report’s authors write that a shift is already underway to emphasize prevention, treatment and rehabilitation, as well as a change “from viewing drug users as criminals or accomplices of drug-traffickers to seeing them as victims and chronic addicts.”
Of course, decriminalization and legalization have long been opposed by the biggest market for illicit drugs in the hemisphere: the United States. Even as it has embraced the idea of drug policy as a public health issue, the U.S. has firmly rejected legalization as a solution to drug violence. This position was recently echoed by U.S. Drug Czar Gil Kerlikowske in an op-ed in Colombia’s El Tiempo. However, with marijuana legalized in Colorado and Washington, and seven states likely to follow in the next few years, the government’s foreign policy position on drug legalization seems untenable. A potential test of this stance will come next week when Vice President Joe Biden arrives in Colombia next week as part of a regional tour.
Click here to read the first and second parts of the OAS report.
May 22, 2013
Los Angeles Times, 5/21/2013
The Mexican government poured army troops — and high-level delegations — into western Mexico on Tuesday in a bid to take back control of a region long besieged by a deadly drug cartel. The operation in the Pacific state of Michoacan is the first major military deployment targeting drug traffickers to be ordered by the government of President Enrique Peña Nieto, which is still struggling to publicly define its security strategy six months after assuming leadership of this violent country.
Michoacan was probably chosen because it was fast spiraling into chaos. Parts of the state were awash in lawlessness, crippled by a cartel calling itself the Knights Templar, which in recent weeks blocked roads, torched businesses that refused to pay protection money and killed resisters. Entire villages were cut off, some reported to be desperately short on supplies. In response and feeling abandoned or ignored by authorities, groups of armed citizens attempted to fight back. But they often proved no match for the Knights Templar and were eager to see the army arrive.
May 21, 2013
Associated Press, 5/20/2013
A U.S. judge ordered attorneys for Wal-Mart Stores to turn over more information to shareholders seeking records on how the company responded to allegations of bribery involving its operations in Mexico. The judge on Monday suggested that Wal-Mart attorneys had taken a “persnickety and narrow” approach to turning over documents requested by attorneys for large pension funds trying to find out what, and when, company directors knew of the payments.
The plaintiffs also want information about an internal investigation conducted by Bentonville, Ark.-based Wal-Mart into allegations that bribes were used to speed building permits and gain other favors. The bribery allegations, first reported by The New York Times last year, were carried out by top executives of its Mexican subsidiary to build stores across that country.
May 21, 2013
Associated Press, 5/20/2013
Residents of a western Mexico area who endured months besieged by a drug cartel cheered the arrival of hundreds of Mexican soldiers Monday. People in La Ruana in Michoacan state lined the main road to greet more than a dozen troop transports and heavily armed Humvees with applause and shouts of joy. The town’s supplies had been blocked after the Knights Templars cartel declared war on the hamlet. The cartel dominates much of the state, demanding extortion payments from businessmen and storeowners, and even low-wage workers.
In February, the town formed self-defense squads to kick the cartel out, drawing the wrath of the gang. Convoys of cartel gunmen attacked the town, which was forced to throw up stone barricades and build guard posts. Supplies like gasoline, milk and cooking gas began to run low as cartel gunmen threatened to burn any trucks bringing in goods. On Monday, hundreds of soldiers moved in, erecting checkpoints on the highway leading into La Ruana and setting up an operating base in the town.
May 20, 2013
Associated Press, 5/17/2013
Mexico’s government says it will create a special investigative unit to search for the missing, heeding a request by relatives of the disappeared who have been on a hunger strike for nine days. Attorney General Jesus Murillo Karam made the announcement Friday after meeting with a group of parents who have been on a hunger strike and living in tents outside his office.
Murillo Karam says the special unit will guarantee that the same investigators and forensic experts remain on the cases until they are completed. He said more details about the new unit will be made public in a week. President Enrique Pena Nieto’s government has said it has a database containing the names of least 26,121 people who went missing during his predecessor’s six-year administration.
May 17, 2013
The Dallas Morning News, 5/17/2013
She’s a night owl, dressed in her usual 24-hour attire — pajamas — scrolling through her email, which makes her a daily eyewitness to the most gruesome violence of Mexico’s drug wars. “There are days I want to be a vampire, lie in my bed with my eyes wide open because if I close them I will see hell,” she said. “I prefer not to sleep because I have nightmares.”
She calls herself Lucy, a reporter, and says she’s in charge of a controversial website known as Blog del Narco, a brutally comprehensive chronicle of Mexico’s drug violence. For her safety, Lucy declines to fully identify herself or give her exact age or location. Despite such precautions, Lucy would later leave Mexico, but on this day she spoke via Skype in an interview arranged by a U.S. publicist to promote her book, Dying for the Truth, also a grim account of the horrors that have fallen on Mexico. The book includes victim testimonials and pictures so gruesome that bookstores have shunned it, limiting its sales to an e-book version.
May 17, 2013
Tuesday, May 21, 2013 / 9-11am / Wilson Center
Details & RSVP: http://bit.ly/MexPo
At a time when the bilateral security relationship between the U.S. and Mexico is going through a period of change, and when the administration of President Enrique Peña Nieto is developing its own public security strategy, the Mexico Institute is pleased to present an event examining the role of standards in strengthening policing institutions. Three experts on security and policing standards will speak on the importance of developing standards for hiring, promotion, ethics, behavior and retirement in the policing field, and how to overcome the challenges that exist to their full implementation. Join us for this discussion of a new area of bilateral cooperation in the security field.
May 17, 2013
Mexico is easily the most dangerous place in the Western Hemisphere for reporters to ply their trade. Dozens of journalists have been killed or disappeared. Nearly every month, a newspaper or a radio or TV station is firebombed, attacked with explosives or raked with gunfire, targeted by the country’s rising criminal gangs who use violence to discourage reporting the gangsters don’t like. And the violence has worked. In much of Mexico, local news outlets no longer report on organized crime or corruption. Analysts call these areas “zones of silence,” where the lights have gone out on the dark activities within.
The success of the intimidation alarms advocates of both free speech and democracy. With no news reports on Mexico’s drug and crime problems, citizens find it difficult to stay informed about what could be life-threatening situations developing nearby. They also cannot effectively participate in the normal give and take of public discussion that fuels a democracy. The muffling has been so effective that many Mexicans don’t even realize that a near blackout of news on crime exists in swaths of the country. “If journalists don’t act as a viewfinder to say who is winning the contracts, who will become police chief, if there’s no accountability, they can do whatever they want,” said Andres Solis Alvarez, a former crime reporter and author of a self-protection manual for Mexican journalists.
To read the Mexico Institute’s newest publication on violence against journalists, click here
May 17, 2013
The Guardian, 5/16/2013
The author of a pioneering blog about Mexico’s drug war has said that she has fled the country and that her blog partner has gone missing. The young woman, using her pseudonym Lucy, said her colleague phoned her last week to say a single word – “run” – and then vanished, prompting her to flee to the United States and then Spain. “I’m trying to think positively but I’m scared something terrible has happened. ‘Run’ was our codeword for when something was very wrong. We had never used it before.”
Blog del Narco is an internet sensation which has chronicled Mexico’s drug war with graphic images and shocking stories few others dare show. It has been a must-read for authorities, drug gangs and millions of ordinary people. The anonymous author was a mystery until last month when she revealed to the Guardian and Texas Observer she was a woman, not a man as previously assumed, and that with her colleague she had written a book, Dying for the Truth: Undercover Inside Mexico’s Violent Drug War.
May 17, 2013
Los Angeles Times, 5/16/2013
Responding to mounting concern about disorder in the Mexican state of Michoacan, officials announced Thursday that an army general would take over as its public security chief, overseeing both state and federal security forces. The appointment of the general, Alberto Reyes Vaca, was announced by state officials but had been arranged in coordination with the federal government.
For President Enrique Peña Nieto’s administration, the move is part of a promised new focus on the southwestern state, long a hotbed of drug cartel violence. It has been the scene of massacres, paralyzing labor strikes and clashes between new citizen vigilante groups and local officials. Reyes, a career army officer, is a native of Michoacan who has, among other things, served as commander of a special forces battalion. His predecessor, Leopoldo Hernandez, had held the job for two months.