May 24, 2013
A Mexican drug cartel commander known as “Tweety Bird” pleaded guilty on Thursday in federal court in Washington to ordering the ambush and murder of U.S. immigration agents in 2011, according to U.S. officials. The plea related to a February 2011 incident when two “hit squads” from the Los Zetas drug cartel forced an armored U.S. government vehicle off a highway near Mexico City and surrounded it, federal prosecutors said.
Zetas commander Julian Zapata Espinoza, known as “El Piolin” (Tweety Bird), ordered U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement special agents Jaime Zapata and Victor Avila out of the car, said Acting Assistant Attorney General Mythili Raman of the U.S. Justice Department’s Criminal Division. When the agents refused, identifying themselves as American diplomats from the U.S. embassy, Espinoza ordered the gunmen to fire on the vehicle. Zapata was killed and Avila was seriously wounded but survived, officials said.
May 22, 2013
Lawyer Jaime López was diagnosed with kidney cancer in 2008. But he did not have health insurance to cover his treatment. As a sole practitioner, López did not have access to any public social security services available in Mexico through its two social security agencies. The Instituto Mexicano del Seguro Social offers these benefits to employees of private companies, and Instituto de Seguridad y Servicios Sociales de los Trabajadores del Estado offers them to government employees.
David González, López’s partner of 10 years, had health insurance through IMSS and tried to enroll López as his beneficiary. But IMSS denied their request because they were not married. The laws governing the social security agencies extend benefits to only spouses and concubines. By that point, López had already had his left kidney surgically removed to prevent the cancer from spreading. Since 2008, he has been receiving medical care at the Instituto Nacional de Cancerología, a public hospital in Mexico City for people without social security. He must pay for services out of pocket.
April 23, 2013
The Christian Science Monitor, 4/22/13
Mexico City was once known for its smoggy landscape with industrial eyesores such as the 18 de Marzo Refinery spewing ozone-forming emissions such as sulfur dioxide. The cloud of contaminants hanging over the capital played into an apocalyptic reputation for pollution, crime, and overpopulation; and it fueled urban myths, like the one about birds dropping dead mid-flight because of the poor air quality.
But the refinery – named for the day Mexico expropriated its oil industry – was ordered closed in 1991, and converted into a park commemorating the country’s 2010 bicentennial. It is but one example of industry exiting Mexico City and the steps taken to improve air quality over the past two decades in this megalopolis of more than 20 million people.
March 28, 2013
The Washington Post, 3/27/13
Hundreds of armed vigilantes have taken control of a town on a major highway in the Pacific coast state of Guerrero, arresting local police officers and searching homes after a vigilante leader was killed. Several opened fire on a car of Mexican tourists headed to the beach for Easter week.
Members of the area’s self-described “community police” say more than 1,500 members of the force were stopping traffic Wednesday at improvised checkpoints in the town of Tierra Colorado, which sits on the highway connecting Mexico City to Acapulco. They arrested 12 police and the former director of public security in the town after a leader of the state’s vigilante movement was slain on Monday.
March 26, 2013
CBS News, 3/26/2013
Earthquakes shook Mexico City on Tuesday, causing buildings to sway in the capital and sending thousands fleeing into the streets as an earthquake alarm sounded.
There were no immediate reports of damages or injuries. Mexico Seismology Service said the quake had a magnitude of 5.9 and was centered about 30 miles southwest of Pinotepa Nacional on the Pacific Coast.
March 19, 2013
Live in Mexico’s largest city or plan on visiting sometime soon? The city’s police force has created an app that tracks your location, and lets you contact local beat cops at the press of a button. But if you’re concerned about giving the cops access to your data, keep it off your phone.
Called Mi Policia (or My Police), the app for iOS and Android was released last week by the Ministry of Public Security (SSP), the agency overseeing Mexico City’s thousands-strong police force. If it’s a success, the hope is that police in the Western Hemisphere’s largest city will be able to react faster to emergencies, while building connections between citizens and police — a tactic known as community policing — at a more local level. It may help prevent drug violence from making inroads.
March 11, 2013
By Carlos Puig, The New York Times, 3/8/2013
It’s one of the trendiest, most expensive and nicest pieces of land around. It’s in Polanco, the city’s most expensive neighborhood, and on a corner of Paseo de la Reforma, the capital’s most important avenue. Less than two kilometers away from the president’s residence and just five blocks from Masaryk Street, our own Park Avenue. It occupies 1,500 square meters of Chapultepec, the park in the middle of Mexico City.
And it is this piece of prime real estate that last year, under heavy pressure from human rights organizations, the government designated for a memorial to honor the victims of drug-related violence.
March 7, 2013
“Alcatraz jail” is scrawled in graffiti by the compound’s entrance. Inside, tales abound of drug abuse, bribes and beatings doled out by mini-mafias who charge for access to the toilets. But this gray block an hour east of Mexico City is no prison. The stories that filter out of Jose Maria Morelos, a 1,000-student high school in Nezahualcoyotl, a ragtag, million-strong town on the edge of Mexico City, highlight the problems of an education system that languishes near the bottom of proficiency tables among advanced economies.
“The system’s rotten from the inside out,” said Ivon Romero, a 35-year-old former public school teacher, as she left her 12-year-old daughter at the school’s drab white gates. In interviews with dozens of parents, students and teachers at the school and others like it, a picture emerges of crumbling facilities, a lackluster, protected teaching corps and a scrappy student body left largely to its own devices.
February 13, 2013
Last Thursday, the Wilson Center’s Mexico Institute and ITAM (Instituto Tecnológico Autónomo de México) launched their newest energy report, “A New Beginning for Mexican Oil: Principles and Recommendations for a Reform in Mexico’s National Interest” at ITAM’s campus in Mexico City.
February 13, 2013
The New York Times, 2/12/2013
The capital has largely been spared the gun violence that has ravaged much of the country. The city of nearly nine million had an average of slightly more than two killings a day last year, a rate lower than that of many large cities in the United States. But in November, a 10-year-old boy at the movies was killed when a stray bullet fired into the air outside pierced the cinema’s roof. The killing struck a nerve here, leading to calls for action. City officials responded by shifting the desultory and poorly publicized efforts of the past into overdrive.
They are sending social workers door to door to remind residents that it is illegal to have a gun without a permit and that a gun at home does not guarantee protection. The workers have been spreading the word about the exchange and compiling an informal census on attitudes about guns. The buyback program, which began in December, has so far collected almost 3,500 guns, as well as ammunition and grenades.
Unlike the United States, where proposals for stricter gun laws are driving a heated political debate, Mexico has strict gun laws and little formal opposition to them. Mexico’s Constitution guarantees the right to bear arms, but that right has been severely restricted.