Michoacán’s Self Defense Group, Edgar Tamayo’s Execution, and Davos – Weekly News Summary: January 24

coffee-by-flikr-user-samrevel1The Mexico Institute’s “Weekly News Summary,” released every Friday afternoon summarizes the week’s most prominent Mexico headlines published in the English-language press, as well as the most engaging opinion pieces by Mexican columnists.

What the English language press had to say…

This week’s news centered on the vigilante groups present in the Mexican state of Michoacán. The Economist stated that an uneasy peace has settled on Apatzingán, a 99,000-strong city in western Mexico. The federal government this week sent in troops to disarm “self-defence” groups operating in Michoacán, Mexico’s most troubled state. The deployment came as these groups advanced on Apatzingán, the stronghold of a vicious gang called the Knights Templar, which controls drugs, extortion and other crime rackets. Michoacán represents the biggest challenge to President Enrique Peña Nieto’s claim that violent crime has waned since he took office late in 2012. In a speech on January 13th Miguel Ángel Osorio Chong, the interior minister, described the state’s recent bloodshed as “unparalleled and unprecedented” and ordered forces to intervene. The self-defence groups say they are filling a void in law enforcement; Mr Osorio retorted that, if they wanted to protect their communities, they should join the local police instead. The Los Angeles Times

The New York Times featured a piece on Edgar Tamayo’s’ execution. The newspaper wrote that Despite opposition from the State Department, Mexican officials and Latino advocates, Texas executed Edgar Arias Tamayo on Wednesday night, putting to death a Mexican citizen whose case raised questions about the state’s duty to abide by international law.

A Fox News Latino piece highlighted that Iranian President Hassan Rouhani has made a concerted effort to reach out to Western powers during his trip the World Economic Forum this week, highlighting the Islamic Republic’s need for greater energy ties with Latin America – even broaching the topic of alleviating the country’s tense relations with the United States.

On the immigration reform front, Politico noted that “the same House Republicans who punted on immigration last year are now privately crafting an intricate plan to try to pass it in 2014. Most people close to the planning expect votes on four bills by the end of the summer, including one that would give undocumented workers legal status. And though none of the bills is likely to offer a path to full citizenship, the fact Republicans are preparing to take on immigration at all is a sign the party is coming to grips with a political reality: if they want to win elections in the long run, they’ll have to face the issue.”

The Arizona Daily Star wrote that the new secretary of homeland security stressed alertness along the U.S.-Mexico border, but during his first official visit to Southern Arizona he did not address recent cartel-related violence in Sonora. “We have to remain vigilant in the face of evolving challenges to border security,” Jeh Johnson, homeland security secretary, said during an afternoon stop at the Customs and Border Protection building on South Swan Road. He said border security is a priority along with making sure the agencies he oversees remain open to using new methods.

What Mexican columnists had to say…

Several Mexican columnists wrote about the situation in Michoacán. Writing for Reforma, Sergio Aguayo commented that Michoacán is a clear example of the short-comings of economic neoliberalism and vulnerability of political transitions. He noted that the weakness of the Mexican state and of the centralized federal government helped organized crime in Michoacán, allowing it to blossom in a very short period using extreme violence. He called for Mexicans to remember that no authority will be able to provide citizen with security if it does not prove that it can ensure security and defend it. Justice, equality and democracy will only come about when we respect the rights of all citizens at all times. Carmen Aristegui F stated that the Mexican state must act soon to confront the challenges to its authority in Michoacán and Guerrero, as the phenomenon is spreading to other parts of the country. She said that the president was questioned about self-defense groups in Davos this past Thursday, and admitted that many of these groups are acting in order to protect their communities. He invited them to participate in efforts to change the state of security through institutional mechanism. She commented that the government’s posture on the issue has not evolved, and we should anticipate that the groups will also not change their stance. They will continue to insist that they will disarm once they see that the government can guarantee their safety.

Writing about the PAN, Maria Amparo Casar noted that as the upcoming election for leader of the PAN party draws closer, different factions of the party have accused each other of many things. This, she said, has made the deep divides within the party very evident, and has also shed light into the crimes committed by many party members.

Jorge Castañeda addressed the famous Tamayo case in his weekly piece, saying that in light of the execution of Edgar Tamayo by the state of Texas yesterday, President Peña would do well to discuss the Vienna Convention and the need for the US to respect consular protection when President Obama comes to Toluca on 02/19.

Finally, Lorenzo Meyer and Leo Zuckermann wrote commentaries on the rule of law in Mexico. Meyer wrote that Mexico has a serious problem – when people are sent to jail, they are not rehabilitated, but rather, they perfect their criminal abilities. Changing and improving the penal system must become a priority, for moral reasons and for practical ones. Violence and insecurity have been deemed central to the national agenda. In order to address these, Mexico must ensure that prisons to not merely punish, but also reform people and successful reinstate them into society. Leo Zuckermann noted that in December of 2012, the Congress approved legislation that will forgive up to 100% of the debt that state and municipal governments owe for rent taxes in 2012. A group of people, in which the author is included, has sued the government for this, because they think that this is an abuse of their power.

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