Mexico’s Ruling Party Cries ‘Witch Hunt’ at Landmark Anti-Corruption Bill

4/26/16 VICE News

maxresdefaultA grassroots proposal for a new law designed to make it harder for Mexican officials to hide ill-gotten gains has garnered unprecedented public support at a time when corruption and conflict of interest allegations buzz around both the government and their political rivals.

The bill, however, now appears on the point of being blocked from becoming law by the governing Institutional Revolutionary Party, known as the PRI, and its allies in the senate.

Drawn up by lawyers, academics, and high-profile transparency activists and organizations, the citizen’s bill was designed to be included in the package of laws governing the implementation of the much-touted National Anti-Corruption System, which was approved last year.

“This was a real landmark for civil society in Mexico, actually drafting a bill and gaining enough signatures for it to reach the senate floor,” said Edna Jaime, director of the think-tank México Evalúa and one of the activists behind the initiative.

The proposal is called the Ley3de3, or the three-out-of-three law, because it would oblige all holders of public office to upload proof of their personal assets, tax returns, and potential conflicts of interest onto a national database that is already up and running. It also lays out formal channels for citizens to denounce corruption and recommends sanctions for those officials found guilty.

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Mexico is Latin American winner as Brazil spirals

4/29/16 CNN Money

South-America-BrazilIt’s a tale of two economies for Latin America’s two largest countries.

Brazil is in a political crisis and severe recession. Its president, Dilma Rousseff, could be impeached this year. Brazil’s debt has also been downgraded to junk status.

Meanwhile, Mexico is growing, politics are relatively stable and its debt was upgraded in 2014.

“Right now Mexico and Brazil are as different as they come, this is day and night,” says Alberto Ramos, head of Latin America economic research at Goldman Sachs.

Those diverging narratives bore out Friday. Officials in Brazil announced that unemployment hitnearly 11% in the three months ending in March, way up from about 8% a year ago. Mexico’s unemployment rate is 3.7%.

Mexico’s economy grew 2.7% between January and March compared to a year ago, according to government figures released Friday. That’s even slightly better than what most economists expected.

That’s not stellar growth but it’s a lot better than Brazil’s economy, which shrank 3.8% in the fourth quarter last year and its central bank estimates the economy will contract 3.5% this year.

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Mexico GDP Beats Forecasts on Consumer Spending; Peso Rises

4/29/16 Bloomberg Business

pesoMexico’s economy expanded more than analysts forecast for the third time in four quarters as strength in domestic consumption offset weak exports and a drop in oil output. The peso extended its gain, rallying to the strongest level in more than four months.

Gross domestic product rose 2.7 percent in the first quarter from a year earlier, according to preliminary figures released by the national statistics institute Friday. That compared with the 2.4 percent median forecast of 19 economists surveyed by Bloomberg. From the previous quarter, GDP expanded 0.8 percent. The institute will release final GDP figures May 20.

Mexican consumers are spending more as inflation holds near a record low and remittances rise amid weakness in the peso. The country has been a bright spot for growth compared with some Latin American economies such as Brazil, and in an interview last week, central bank Governor Agustin Carstens said it may get even better as factors that have held back the expansion, such as weak exports, begin supporting growth.

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Mexico Senate Unanimously Approves Prison Reforms

4/29/16 Insight Crime

InSightLogo_main_24bitMexico’s senate has unanimously approved a wide-ranging prison reform bill, but it’s unclear if these measures will be enough to revamp a penitentiary system badly in need of improvement.

On April 27, by a vote of 114 to zero, the senate passedthe National Penal Enforcement Law (Ley Nacional de Ejecución Penal), which will now head to the chamber of deputies for final approval.

The head of the senate justice committee, Fernando Yunes Márquez, said the legislation would ensure that Mexico‘s prisons “will no longer be nests of violations of the rights that our constitution guarantees.”

The bill prohibits the use of torture and other “cruel, inhuman or degrading” disciplinary measures, including confinement in cells without light and ventilation. It also bans the use of solitary confinement for more than 15 continuous days.

In addition, the legislation establishes gender-specific rights for incarcerated women, including the right to receive obstetrical-gynecological and pediatric care, as well as adequate and healthy food for their children if they remain with their mothers in prison.

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Mexican general gets 52 years for torturing, killing man

4/29/16 The Washington Post

San-Quentin-Prison-5.jpgMEXICO CITY — A judge has sentenced a general in the Mexican army to 52½ years in prison for ordering the torture of a suspect, then having his body burned, Mexico’s federal judiciary council said Thursday.

The sentence was among the longest ever against a senior army officer.

The council said the conviction came in a 2008 case in the northern state of Chihuahua. The judge also ordered the army to publicly apologize, clear the victim’s name and pay his family damages.

The judge in the case did not release the general’s name in the public case record. But the case number on the docket was the same as one linked in local media reports to Gen. Manuel Moreno Avina, who formerly commanded an army unit in the town of Ojinaga, across the border from Presidio, Texas.

Troops under the general’s command detained a suspect in a soldier’s death and tortured him for hours with electric shocks until he died. They then took the man’s body to a ranch and burned it.

The man was detained by soldiers just after midnight July 25, 2008. According to the council, the court found that soldiers “tied him up and watered him down in order to apply electric shocks on his body, in order to obtain information about the death of a soldier.”

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Slain Lawyer for Mexican Drug Cartel Apparently Was U.S. Informant

4/26/16 Wall Street Journal

mexican drugsFORT WORTH, Texas—A lawyer for a powerful Mexican drug cartel was cooperating with law enforcement and allowed to live legally in the U.S. before being gunned down in a posh Dallas suburb, federal prosecutors said Tuesday.

The revelation that Juan Jesús Guerrero Chapa, a prominent member of the so-called Gulf Cartel, worked as an informant before his killing in 2013 came during opening statements in a closely watched murder trial federal court here. Mr. Guerrero Chapa’s role was earlier reported by the Dallas Morning News.

Two men, Jesús Gerardo Ledezma-Cepeda, 59, and his cousin,  José Luis Cepeda-Cortés, 60, are accused of stalking Mr. Guerrero Chapa and arranging his killing by hit men outside a shopping center in the small city of Southlake. The slaying shocked North Texas.

According to a defense lawyer for one of the defendants, the hit men were from a rival cartel. Both defendants pleaded not guilty to charges of conspiracy to commit murder for hire and interstate stalking, which could lead to life in prison.

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Parents lead protest of probe into missing 43 students in Mexico

4/27/16 Reuters

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Thousands of protesters gathered in Mexico City on Tuesday, angered by the government’s handling of an investigation into 43 students who apparently were massacred in 2014 and the government’s alleged treatment of international experts who have cast doubt on the official account.

The case of the 43 trainee teachers, who were abducted in September 2014 in the violent southwestern state of Guerrero, has tarnished the reputation of President Enrique Pena Nieto and highlighted the scale of human rights abuses in Mexico.

The parents and relatives of the abducted students led what appeared to be more than 2,000 protesters along the main thoroughfare of the Mexican capital, Paseo de la Reforma, carrying small torches along with large black and white photographs of the missing students.

Blanca Luz, the mother of one of the 43, said she wants to meet with Pena Nieto to discuss the investigation, a request frequently echoed by the parents.

“My heart can’t take anymore,” she said, standing near the main building of Mexico’s attorney general’s office. “I want my son back by my side.”

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