Monday, September 28, 2009

Hispanic Heritage Month: Watching Latino Politics Disappear

Hispanic Heritage Month: Watching Latino Politics Disappear
by Randy Shaw

In honor of Hispanic Heritage Month, Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor threw out the first pitch at Saturday's Yankees-Red Sox game in the Bronx. Sotomayor's appointment was a signature achievement for the nation's Latinos, and represents President Obama's leading accomplishment for a constituency that helped elect him. But after Latino voters gave Democrats back the House in 2006 and victories in key states in 2008, it's rather remarkable how coverage of their concerns and viewpoints have almost disappeared. On health care, the stimulus bill, climate change and virtually every issue other than immigration, Latino faces are not seen and their voices are not heard. The television news media is so averse to Latinos that we even have a lesbian hosting a major political show (the brilliant Rachel Maddow), while pundits from the Latino community are ignored. Celebrating Hispanic Heritage Month (Sept 15-Oct 15) without highlighting the media's treatment of one of the nation's largest and most potent political constituencies is like the National Secretaries Day promotion of raises, not roses - and seems to confirm that Latino power remains ground zero of the nation's culture war.

As we celebrate the annual Hispanic Heritage Month, let's hope the media uses this time to ask itself some hard questions. Because its ignoring of Latinos as a political community over the past year has been inexcusable, and its only getting worse.

Signs in 2008

During the 2008 Democratic Presidential primaries, early contests in Nevada, Texas and California brought national interest in Latino voting. This led to hopes that the long dormant "sleeping giant" Latino vote would emerge in November, and that Latinos would reap the political benefits of electing Barack Obama and a more progressive Congress.

But as the fall 2008 campaign ensued, I noticed a disturbing pattern. The media repeatedly visited bars in suburban Ohio and Pennsylvania to assess the feelings of the "white working class voter," but was completely ignoring Latino voters in the equally swing states of Nevada, Colorado and Florida. The lack of interest in Florida's non-Cuban Latinos was particularly odd, considering that the state was long considered a tossup and had been the chief focus of the 2000 and 2004 presidential elections.

After the election, Obama's ability to capture white voters in the above Rust Belt states was analyzed to death, and often described as key to his overall victory. Yet the story of how an African-American candidate won record voter support among Latinos - remember all the stories that said Latinos wouldn't vote for a black! - was almost entirely ignored.

It was as if the Latino role in electing Barack Obama was being downplayed, if not erased. As if pro-Obama activists had been so successful at turning out Latino voters in states Bush won in 2004 - Florida, Nevada, Colorado, New Mexico - that the media forgot that they had labeled all four to be "red" states prior to 2008.

Unfortunately, this pattern of media ignoring Latino voters and concerns has continued. Despite Latinos being significantly impacted by health care and the other issues shaping the national debate, our traditional news media employs right-wing hate mongers like Pat Buchanan while shutting all Latinos out.

Latino Power: The Real Culture War

For all of the media focus on whether right-wingers hate Obama more because he is African-American, the real "third rail" racial issue in the United States involves Latinos. This helps explain why a constituency that has become the nation's largest ethnic minority nevertheless remains in the shadows when it comes to virtually every national issue other than immigration.

Take the long-running health care fight.

The media has run so many stories on the drive for health care reform that even the most avid political newshounds are tired. Yet how many national stories in print or on television can you recall where either a Latino expert was quoted, or a Latino family interviewed?

There has been a virtual "brownout" of Latino health stories, despite this constituency being as impacted by the lack of health care as much if not more than any demographic group. The only time I recall Latinos becoming the focus of health care reform was when Republican Joe Wilson said President Obama was "a liar" when he claimed that "illegal immigrants" would not benefit from health care reform.

Suddenly, the White House was all over the Latino health issue - namely, to emphasize that not only could undocumented immigrants not access the President's new health plan, but would not even be able to purchase such health insurance with their own money. Rather than focus any discussion on Latino families health needs, the only time a Latino angle emerged concerned denying coverage.

Preserving a White and Black Nation

This exclusion of Latinos from the health debate, and from all public policy issues other than immigration, is neither coincidence nor accident. It is part of the same strategy that sees Latinos excluded from the cable political news shows, and from the Sunday interview shows on the traditional networks.

Simply put, United States media owners do not feel that presenting Latinos as equal members of the body politic, either as pundits or as interviewees, is good for ratings. They apparently see it as bad business to show the United States as having a politically influential Latino population, but good business to give Lou Dobbs a nightly show in which he is free to portray himself as the white bulwark against the invading brown menace.

While African-Americans do not host any of the top political news shows, and are grossly underrepresented throughout, Eugene Robinson of the Washington Post regularly appears and CNN has Senior Analyst Roland Martin and other pundits. And Barack Obama does provide a daily African-American face to lead news shows.

But except when discussing immigration, Latino experts or pundits are nowhere to be found. It is as if the media is trying to invent a "Second Life" United States where Latinos do not comprise a sizable minority, do not impact local, state and national politics across the nation, and do not shape the outcomes of presidential elections.

Rejecting a "Wise Latina Woman"

For all of the justifiable excitement over Sotomayor's appointment, recall how the Republicans' main line of attack was her often-repeated comment that she brought to the bench the perspective of a "wise Latina woman." Both the White House and the nominee herself had to backtrack from this statement, as it raised the troubling notion - for the white-dominated media world - that Latinos may bring a set of experiences and perspectives otherwise lacking.

How can a traditional media that itself excludes Latinos, and that limits its signature political talk shows to white men, countenance a claim that a Latina has special insights about public policies?

Sotomayor's comment hit a bit too close to home, which is why the media harped on it repeatedly, eventually forcing her to recant.

Such is the state of affairs as we celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month in 2009.

Randy Shaw is the author of Beyond the Fields: Cesar Chavez, the UFW and the Struggle for Justice in the 21st Century.

Mexican American astronaut isn't changing course on immigration stand

Mexican American astronaut isn't changing course on immigration stand
NASA went ballistic when Jose Hernandez advocated legalization of undocumented immigrants in the U.S. shortly after his return to Earth. The California-born son of migrants isn't backing down.

By Tracy Wilkinson

Reporting from Mexico City - He may have soared a gazillion miles in outer space, but back here on Earth, U.S. astronaut Jose Hernandez has stepped knee-deep in controversy.

Hernandez, the California-born son of Mexican immigrants, is a full-fledged media star in Mexico. Fans here followed his every floating, gravity-free move during his two-week journey in space as he Twittered from the shuttle Discovery and gave live interviews to local TV programs.

After the shuttle returned Friday, Hernandez told Mexican television that he thought the U.S. should legalize the millions of undocumented immigrants living there so that they can work openly because they are important to the American economy.

Officials at NASA flipped. They hastened to announce that Hernandez was speaking for himself and only for himself.

"It all became a big scandal," Hernandez later told television viewers. "Even the lawyers were speaking to me."

Hernandez was back this week on Mexican network Televisa's popular morning chat show, where he has seemingly been a fixture, to update host Carlos Loret de Mola on how he was adapting to life back on Earth.

Loret de Mola asked Hernandez, 47, about the controversy, and the astronaut said he stood by what he had said earlier on the same program, advocating comprehensive immigration reform -- a keenly divisive issue in the United States.

"I work for the U.S. government, but as an individual I have a right to my personal opinions," he said in a video hookup from a Mexican restaurant owned by his wife, Adela, near NASA headquarters in Houston. "Having 12 million undocumented people here means there's something wrong with the system, and the system needs to be fixed."

He added that it seemed impractical to try to deport 12 million people. In the earlier conversation, he spoke of circling the globe in 90 minutes and marveling at a world without borders.

Hernandez, whose first language was Spanish, grew up picking cucumbers and tomatoes in the fields of California's San Joaquin Valley. His parents, Salvador and Julia, had migrated from Mexico to Northern California in the 1950s in search of work. They eventually became U.S. citizens and raised four children, including Jose, the youngest.

As a kid, Hernandez continued to visit his parents' home state of Michoacan (his cousins and aunts and uncles have been featured repeatedly in interviews in the Mexican media) and lived what he has called the typical life of a migrant worker, moving constantly with his family to follow the crops.

It was a second-grade teacher who persuaded Hernandez's parents to set down roots near Stockton to give their children a better education and more stable life. Young Jose excelled in math and today traces his dream of becoming an astronaut to the Apollo spacewalks he watched on TV.

After earning bachelor's and master's degrees in engineering, Hernandez applied every year for 12 years to enter the space program, finally being chosen in 2004.

Mexicans were over the moon when they learned that someone with such close ties to their country would be reaching such heights. Normally, space travel is not a popular topic here, perhaps because it is such an other-world experience.

Hernandez has tweeted in English and Spanish, with the moniker Astro_Jose. His orbit-trotting on the Discovery mission included a salsa demo and mini-science lessons for viewers. He made taquitos for his fellow fliers and fielded questions from YouTube users.

TV host Loret de Mola said viewers were flooding him with one question above all: How does a humble son of peasant immigrants manage to become an astronaut?

Hernandez, a father of five, cited two crucial factors: a good education and parents who forced him to study, who checked his homework and stayed involved in his schooling.

"What I always say to Mexican parents, Latino parents, is that we shouldn't spend so much time going out with friends drinking beer and watching telenovelas, and should spend more time with our families and kids . . . challenging our kids to pursue dreams that may seem unreachable," he said.

Hernandez said he planned to visit Mexico soon to take up President Felipe Calderon on an invitation to the presidential residence for a meal. Calderon extended the invite during a nationally televised videoconference with the astronaut before the Discovery voyage. Calderon also hails from Michoacan, and the president has called the astronaut his paisano.

In his most recent tweet, Hernandez wished Mexicans a happy Independence Day on Wednesday, adding, "Now time to rest!"

To view this full article visit Los Angeles Times


> 011-5525-5518-1213 X102
> Blindman's Buff #259
>MEXICO CITY (Sept. 29th) - Seven mornings a
>week, Vicente Ramirez's battered aluminum kiosk
>on Cinco de Mayo Street in this city's old
>quarter is plastered with the front pages of 22
>daily newspapers. All day handfuls of
>pedestrians pause to gawk at the incendiary
>headlines slapped to the siding, often engaging
>in animated debate about the nature of the news.
>"This country is going down the toilet," sneers
>one elderly gentleman studying a story about a
>particularly cruel kidnapping. "Ay Mamacita!"
>another old gaffer exclaims, oogling a
>bare-breasted senorita.
>Fully a quarter of the score of dailies on view
>at Vicente's kiosk are dedicated to the "nota
>roja" or "red note." Tabloids like La Prensa
>(reputedly Mexico's biggest seller but
>circulation figures are elusive) and Impacto are
>all blood and tits, spotlighting brutal
>beheadings, sensational crimes of passion, and
>bevies of topless lasses. Three sports dailies
>including the venerable Esto, which still
>publishes in sepia, rivet the ad hoc attentions
>of passerbys. Two financial papers (El
>Financiero and El Economista), The News (a
>re-incarnation of the long-lived
>English-language paper) and El Pais, or at least
>the Mexican edition of the prestigious Madrid
>daily, dangle from Vicente's stand. Noontime
>and evening editions of Mexico City papers will
>join the display during the day.
>Editorial slants run from hard right to soft
>left - Cronica, reputedly financed by the
>reviled ex-president Carlos Salinas, savagely
>slams the left-center Party of the Democratic
>Revolution (PRD) that has managed the affairs of
>the capital for the past 12 years. Many of the
>dailies hung from Vicente's kiosk exist only to
>cadge juicy government advertising and are
>hesitant to bite the hand that feeds them.
>Excelsior and El Universal, broadsheets founded
>in the midst of the Mexican Revolution not quite
>a hundred years ago, make much of their
>"impartiality" but are intractably linked to the
>once and future ruling PRI party. Reforma and
>its tabloid sidekick Metro are sounding boards
>for the right-wing PAN of which President Felipe
>Calderon is king - both are unavailable at
>Vicente's kiosk, having broken with the powerful
>Newspaper Venders Union, and they now field an
>army of comically uniformed street hawkers.
>The only openly left wing daily in this vast
>array, La Jornada ("The Work Day"), is Vicente's
>best seller at 20 a day, followed by La Prensa
>(15) and Universal (10.) When leftists gather in
>the nearby Zocalo plaza, usually for events
>captained by ex-Mexico City mayor Andres Manuel
>Lopez Obrador (AMLO), Vicente will sell up to a
>hundred Jornadas.
>One caveat: despite this monumental exhibition
>of newsprint and dead trees, the first news
>source for 95% of all Mexicans is still the
>nation's two-headed TV monopoly, Televisa and TV
>September has been a big month for La Jornada.
>To celebrate its 25th birthday, the National
>Lottery offered a commemorative ticket as did
>the Mexico City Metro subway system, rare
>mainstream honors for a lefty rag, and notorious
>U.S. rabble rouser Noam Chomsky came to town to
>help cut the cake - along with Gabriel Garcia
>Marquez (a founding investor) and the
>much-lauded Uruguayan writer Eduardo Galeano,
>Chomsky is one of several literary superstars
>whose words fill the pages of La Jornada.
>The Jornada was founded in 1984 by itinerant
>journalists who had bounced from one short-lived
>left periodical to the next - for many of the
>original Jornaleros, like LJ's first editor
>Miguel Angel Granados Chapa, the last ports of
>call had been Uno Mas Uno ("One Plus One") and
>El Dia but when their publishers were bought off
>by then-president Miguel De la Madrid, the lefty
>newshounds trundled their old Underwoods
>(computers were nowhere on the horizon back
>then) up the winding stairs of La Jornada's old
>ramshackle headquarters on Balderas Street's
>newspaper row and went to work.
>Nostalgia was on the menu for La Jornada's 25th.
>During one celebration under chandeliers at the
>elegant Casa Lamm where the paper presents
>weekly forums on burning social issues, founding
>director Carlos Payan recalled how in February
>1984 he summoned movers and shakers from a broad
>spectrum of the Mexican Left to the
>phantasmagoric Hotel Mexico, the unfinished
>dream of Spanish visionary Manuel Suarez with a
>revolving rooftop restaurant (it has since been
>converted into Mexico's World Trade Center.)
>800 potential investors showed up at the
>assembly, buying in at a thousand pesos a share
>- one of those on hand was Carlos Slim, now the
>third richest tycoon on the planet but then
>still a two-bit corporate cannibal who shared
>Payan's Lebanese ancestry. Two of Mexico's most
>illustrious painters, Rufino Tamayo and
>Francisco Toledo, donated priceless works that
>became La Jornada's principal capital.
>Payan's words to those gathered in the
>Insurgentes Avenue ballroom that night ring just
>as true today as they did back then: "In this
>hour of crisis, we convoke a new labor of
>critical journalism in solidarity with those who
>struggle for the causes of this country."
>The first issue of La Jornada rolled off
>borrowed presses September 19th of that year to
>the universal disdain of Mexico's ruling class
>which then maintained a hammerlock on the press,
>doling out government advertising and even
>newsprint to newspapers based on their
>allegiances to the PRI and the government it
>commanded. The barons of the press gave the
>left daily a few short months of life at best.
>La Jornada was indeed born into turbulent times
>- always a propitious moment for independent
>journalism. Mexico had just gone belly up,
>forced into default of $100,000,00,000 USD in
>short-term foreign bank loans by plunging oil
>prices, and the crisis kicked the legs out from
>under outgoing president Jose Lopez Portillo and
>his hand-picked successor De la Madrid. Wars
>fomented by U.S. proxies were raging in
>neighboring Central America - two of the paper's
>veteran reporters Carmen Lira (now Payan's
>replacement as director) and Blanche Petrich
>(winner of the National Journalism Award) made
>their bones in El Salvador and Nicaragua.
>On the first anniversary of La Jornada's birth,
>Mexico City was savaged by an 8.1 grade
>earthquake that took up to 30,000 lives and when
>the "damnificados" (survivors) built a social
>movement that triggered the resurgence of
>Mexican civil society, La Jornada became its
>The left daily's history is built on such
>dramatic moments. During and after the stealing
>of the 1988 presidential election from leftist
>Cuauhtemoc Cardenas by the evil Salinas and the
>PRI, La Jornada stood on the front lines,
>exposing the fraud that included everything from
>tens of thousands of burnt ballots to crashing
>computers, and the paper accompanied Cardenas
>when he consolidated the PRD in 1989 - the
>Jornada is often accused of being the
>left-center party's mouthpiece.
>In the aftermath of the fall of the Berlin Wall
>and the dissolution of the Soviet Union, also in
>1989, La Jornada played a critical role in the
>debate about the future of the Mexican Left and
>the left press.
>The Zapatista rebellion in Chiapas that exploded
>on January 1st 1994 further burnished La
>Jornada's bonafides and sold tons of papers for
>Vicente Ramirez. Petrich rode into the jungle
>on horseback and got the first interview with
>Subcomandante Marcos and Hermann Bellinghausen,
>another National Journalism Award winner (he
>turned it down) has reported daily from that
>conflictive zone ever since.
>As the '90s ebbed into the new millennium, La
>Jornada closely covered the collapse of the PRI
>and the installation of the rightist PAN in Los
>Pinos, the Mexican White House. The paper's
>platoon of mordant, militant political
>cartoonists continue to relentlessly lampoon and
>skewer the political class.
>For the 12 years that the PRD has administered
>the affairs of this monstrous megalopolis, La
>Jornada has provided critical support and has,
>in fact, played a key role in the
>democratization of the most contaminated,
>crime-ridden, corrupt and chaotic city in the
>western hemisphere.
>The left daily's reportage of the heist of the
>2006 "presidenciales" by Felipe Calderon from
>Lopez Obrador - who still enjoys the blessings
>of the Jornaleros - became Vicente Ramirez's
>bread and butter. "I sold a "chingo" ('a
>fucking lot'.) They flew out of here like
>"balas" ('bullets'.")
>Giving this bold trajectory and because LJ has
>never been "a yes man for the corrupt
>governments of the PAN and the PRI" (Lira), the
>paper is despised by right-wingers and
>establishment intellectuals. Historian Enrique
>Krauze's vitriol at La Jornada is splattered all
>over the glossy pages of his Letras Libres.
>Writing in Krauze's rightist monthly,
>poet-philosopher Gabriel Zaid bemoans the
>influence that LJ has accumulated over the
>years: "how can La Jornada have so much weight
>when important decisions are taken in this
>country?" he complains, blaming the paper's
>"opportunistic" use of culture. "La Jornada
>brings together left intellectuals who define
>what they think is political correct."
>Every morning, LJ's letters to the editor column
>is packed with bristling epistles from
>government flunkies assailing La Jornada
>reporters for exposing the shenanigans of the
>bureaucracy. When the left paper reports on the
>dirty dealings of provincial governors and their
>abuses of authority, the governors are apt to
>send agents into the street to confiscate every
>Jornada in the state. State and federal
>governments threaten the withdrawal of paid
>publicity but LJ's clout has often nullified the
>denial of this lifeblood of the Mexican
>newspaper industry. For its 25th anniversary
>edition, mortal foes of La Jornada like Oaxaca's
>tyrannical governor Ulises Ruiz, the Falangist
>state government of Guanajuato, and the
>Zapatista-hating mayor of San Cristobal de las
>Casas were all obligated to take out paid
>birthday greetings.
>While the corporate newspaper industry appears
>to be gasping its last in the United States
>where no comparable left daily has ever survived
>for longer than two years (PM in New York City
>in the late '40s), Jornada runs in the black.
>Although La Jornada is published in Mexico City,
>the hub of a highly centralized nation from
>which all power emanates, the Jornaleros have
>mothered affiliated dailies in eight Mexican
>states and the national edition is distributed
>from Tijuana to Tapachula on the southern border
>where eager readers snatch up the paper the
>moment it hits the stands. In addition to the
>print edition, La Jornada On Line receives
>thousands of hits each day and has attracted a
>lively community of bloggers.
>Despite its long reach into the provinces, La
>Jornada is anything but provincial. Its
>correspondents prowl New York and Moscow and
>Havana, Bolivia and Chile and Argentina. The
>newspaper's perspective is firmly grounded in
>the global south but Robert Fisk and Patrick
>Cockburn share their London Independent
>dispatches from Middle East hotspots. This
>correspondent reported on the first days of
>Bush's illegal invasion of Iraq from Baghdad.
>Similarly, David Brooks covered the 9/11 terror
>attacks on New York and Washington from Ground
>Zero. Luis Hernandez Navarro never misses an
>international anti-globalization mobilization or
>World Social Forum. Cronista (chronicler) Arturo
>Cano hangs out with Mel Zelaya in Tegucigalpa.
>La Jornada does not only print the news, it
>makes it, actively espousing social causes and
>decrying injustice daily on its pages. In fact,
>the resistance of marginated communities from
>Chiapas to Pais Vasco would be little noted if
>the news had not first run in La Jornada.
>Crucial to this insemination of resistance in
>Mexico are daily notices of meetings and forums
>and rallies and marches that act as a mighty
>force multiplier for left movements, turning
>handfuls into multitudes. La Jornada, whose
>strong suit is reporting on social movements,
>has itself become a social movement.
>Although politics are its main course, La
>Jornada publishes monthly supplements on
>agriculture, the environment, labor, indigenous
>cultures, women's struggles, and gay and lesbian
>rights. The weekly cultural insert and daily
>reports on painting, dance, literature, music,
>and popular entertainment have deep scratch
>among cultural workers. The Jornada even once
>published a weekly magazine in English, a losing
>commercial venture that was eventually killed by
>Lira. "We are not going to spend the benefits of
>our workers" by continuing to publish a magazine
>"in the language of the oppressors," Carmen
>explained to this writer at the time. Jornada
>workers have built a strong in-house union.
>La Jornada also operates a book publishing arm
>with dozens of titles authored by its own
>reporters like Bellinghausen's account of the
>massacre at Acteal, "A Crime of State."
>Translations of Noam Chomsky's multiple works
>are hot sellers.
>Despite hard-wired anti-gringo sentiments, La
>Jornada invited the renowned gavacho gadfly to
>crown its 25th birthday celebration with a
>magnum lecture at the National University. Noam
>Chomsky is hardly the only U.S. lefty to adorn
>LJ's op ed columns - Howard Zinn, Immanuel
>Wallerstein, James Petras, and Amy Goodman are
>regular collaborators. In introducing his
>September 21st lecture at the UNAM, the oldest
>and most prestigious in the Americas, Carmen
>Lira posited that Chomsky's analysis of mass
>media in writings like "Manufacturing Consent"
>and the ethical guidance of the late Polish
>journalist Ryzsward Kupascinski ("bad people
>cannot become good reporters") were the
>cornerstones of La Jornada's credo.
>Chomsky's near two-hour talk to a jam-packed
>auditorium named for the poet-king Nezahualcoytl
>(every seat in the house was claimed within 30
>minutes of the announcement of the lecture)
>lazored in on Washington's fading domination of
>a uni-polar world. Noam ranged far afield: how
>Barack Obama, the darling of Wall Street, was
>sold to the North American electorate "like
>toothpaste or a wonder drug"; the British Empire
>as the "first international narco-trafficker"
>(the Opium War); the strategic perils of U.S.
>bases in Colombia for the Global South. The
>elderly (82) MIT linguistics pioneer's
>discourses are often better read on the printed
>page than pronounced out loud and Chomsky's
>low-key, nebbishy persona left some attendees
>dozing despite the dazzling blizzard of data he
>Focusing on Washington's crimes around the
>globe, the talk often approached the world on an
>west-east power bias rather than south to north,
>mentioning NATO more than NAFTA with no
>reference to new Latin Left leaders like Hugo
>Chavez with whom Chomsky had just huddled. The
>perennial icon of the U.S. Left also avoided
>much mention of contemporary Mexican politics,
>perhaps with an eye out for Constitutional
>Article 33 that gives the Mexican president
>carte blanche to kick out any "inconvenient"
>foreigner. Still, the old gringo's condemnation
>of free trade, the war on drugs, and neo-liberal
>economics must have made Felipe Calderon (whose
>name was never dropped) uncomfortable.
>Despite the length of the talk, Chomsky was only
>twice interrupted with applause - once when he
>advanced that like the U.S., Mexico was not a
>"failed state" (a favorite theme) at least for
>the oligarchy but for millions of the poor who
>have lost all social protections, the state has,
>in fact, failed. When Noam Chomsky counseled
>that the best cure for neo-liberal excess was to
>confront the rulers with mass mobilizations, the
>audience again broke into cheers.
>As the very professorial Noam Chomsky stepped
>from the podium he was greeted by Trinidad
>Ramirez, wife of the imprisoned (113 years)
>Ignacio del Valle, leader of the Popular Front
>for the Defense of the Land, who tied a red
>kerchief around his neck and presented him with
>the emblematic machete of the farmers of San
>Salvador Atenco who count 13 political prisoners
>among their ranks.
>After 25 years and upwards of 9000 editions, La
>Jornada has forcefully disproved one of Noam
>Chomsky's pet thesis: that an independent media
>cannot survive in a corporate-dominated press.
>"You've proven me wrong," the old professor
>sheepishly confessed during a visit to the
>paper's Spartan headquarters in the south of the
>"9000 editions! You've got be kidding!" Vicente
>Ramirez marveled in his cramped little newspaper
>kiosk, whipping out his pocket computer. "Lets
>see - 9000 editions at 10 pesos a piece times
>20. That's 1,800,000 pesos! Happy Birthday! La
>Jornada has been very good to me."
>John Ross's monstrous "El Monstruo - Dread &
>Redemption In Mexico City" will hit the streets
>in November (to read raving reviews from the
>likes of Mike Davis and Jeremy Scahill go to
> Ross will be traveling
>Gringolandia much of 2009-2010 with "El
>Monstruo" and his new Haymarket title
>"Iraqigirl", the diary of a teenager growing up
>under U.S. occupation. If you have a venue for
>presentations he would like to talk to you at


P.O. Box 13521
Minneapolis MN 55414
612/ 721-3914 . fax 612/ 721-7826
Web Address:


September 24,2009

The Right to Speak

In President Obama's speech to the United Nations on September 23, 2009, he spoke of a 'new direction'. Two years ago, four solitary nations voted against the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People, they were Canada, Australia, New Zealand, and the United States of America. The Australian government has since reversed its vote and now support the international human rights standard toward Indigenous people.
The American Indian Movement asks the question of the Obama Administration: Will his administration recognize and support the international standard approved by the vast majority of the world's nations?

The United Nations 64th year brings world leaders together to our sacred homeland to discuss the effects of the world's problems to humankind. The American Indian Movement respects the right of all world leaders to speak. We support the right of Moammar Al Gathafi, leader of Libya. We respect the right of Evo Moralas, President of Bolivia. We respect the right of Hugo Chavez, President of Venezuela. We respect the right of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, President of Iran. We respect the right to speak at the United Nations of all the world leaders visiting our homeland.

We often talk in terms of the first world, or the west; or the second world, the east; or the third world, or the non-aligned nations. Another important dimension to this concept is the fourth world of natural and Indigenous people. Peoples whose populations oftentimes go beyond geo-political boundaries. While these struggles have been going on for hundreds of years, the international community has, for the most part, ignored this reality.

One of the greatest crimes against humanity occurred right here in the United States of America. Support for the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People is a start to right this great wrong.

Clyde Bellecourt, co-founder American Indian Movement

Bill Means, International Indian Treaty Council

Chief Terrance Nelson, Vice Chairman American Indian Movement


John Ross writes amazing stuff. All of you should also be on Carlos Muñoz's listserv, BTW. I know him. e-mail him at Carlos Munoz to get on. He sends out a lot of pieces that all can benefit from.


> 011-5255-55181213 X 102
> Blindman's Buff #258
>MEXICO CITY (Sept. 22nd) - More virulent than
>last spring's Swine Flu panic here and cranked
>up by Mexico's two-headed TV demon, a pandemic
>of paranoia is sweeping this neighbor nation as
>Felipe Calderon embarks on the back half of his
>battered presidency.
>In the past weeks, the nation's 107 million
>citizens have borne witness to a foiled and
>much-questioned skyjacking and prominent
>politicians have been the victims of assassins'
>bullets. Heeding urgent warnings from Mexican
>and U.S. intelligence sources, September
>15th-16th Independence Day celebrations
>converted public plazas into armed camps and
>with good reason - September 15th marked the
>one-year anniversary of a presumed narco-bombing
>in Morelia, the capital of west-central
>Michoacan state that killed and dismembered ten
>A newly-released study by the Public Security
>Secretariat (SSP) calculates that the civilian
>death toll in Calderon's ill-advised war on
>Mexican drug cartels dating from December 2006
>when tens of thousands of troops were dispatched
>to quell violence in 11 states through August of
>this year has now topped 14,000 and the violence
>is on the uptick - 5000 were killed in 2008,
>13.6 victims a day. So far in 2009, 4500 have
>died, an average of 18.5 per diem.
>To animate the paranoia that this unrelenting
>orgy of homicidal violence had bred, this
>September 9th a Bolivian-born evangelical
>preacher Jose Mar Flores Peyrera "skyjacked" an
>Aeromexico Boeing 737 with 104 passengers
>aboard, including a number of U.S. citizens,
>bound from Cancun to Mexico City. Initially
>identified as a Venezuelan or a Colombian or
>some such dangerous South American, Flores
>turned out to be neither a drug thug or a"21st
>Century Socialist" but rather a self-anointed
>messenger of Jesus Christ sent to save Mexico.
>As the flight approached Mexico City, "Josmar"
>(his Christian music recording name) stepped
>into the aisle with a bible in one hand and a
>fake bomb (two empty Jumex pineapple juice cans
>and some Christmas lights) in the other and
>politely requested the stewardess to instruct
>the pilot to circle the airport seven times.
>Heralding himself as "a celestial messenger",
>Josmar insisted that he urgently needed to
>communicate directly with President Calderon who
>either by coincidence or design was waiting on
>the ground in the presidential hanger about to
>board a jet for a junket to Campeche.
>The preacher's intended message: the date was
>9/9/09, 666 upside down, and the Mark of the
>Beast was on the land - he had seen the Devil in
>the Mexican flag. Now monstrous calamity
>impended - Mexico City would be riven asunder by
>an apocalyptical earthquake (the bizarre
>"skyjacking" took place just days before the
>24th anniversary of the 1985 8.1 Mexico City
>quake that took up to 30,000 lives.) Only the
>righteous would be saved from the conflagration.
>Josmar invited God-fearing Mexicans to get on
>board the flight to heaven. The Christian
>terrorist told Captain Ricardo Rios that he had
>three accomplices aboard, information that put
>security forces on the ground on red alert. The
>preacher later revealed his accomplices to be
>God the Father, God the Son, and the Holy Ghost.
>The terrorist threat triggered emergency
>communication on both sides of the border - U.S.
>citizens were on the flight and the incident
>unfolded just 48 hours before the marking of the
>9/11 terror attacks on New York and Washington.
>As Commander-in-Chief, Calderon mulled
>scrambling jets and forcing the 737 down over
>neighboring Puebla state but held off, instead
>ordering Public Security Secretary Genero Garcia
>Luna to take charge of the explosive situation.
>Aeromexico Flight #576 landed at Benito Juarez
>International Airport (Mexico City) without
>incident 37 minutes late (the flight had been
>delayed in Cancun) and taxied to an open runway
>near the presidential hanger. In addition to
>phalanxes of federal police and military
>personnel, the flight was met by an army of
>camerapersons and reporters from the mainstream
>press led by the two-headed television dragon
>Televisa and TV Azteca that had been invited to
>cover the show (albeit from a respectable
>distance) and the denouement of Josmar's caper
>was transmitted live at lunchtime to millions of
>wide-eyed witnesses.
>Ironically, those aboard Flight 576 were the
>last to know they had been skyjacked, only
>finding out when they punched in cell phones to
>call homes and offices to announce their
>arrival. The Christian Terrorist made no effort
>to hold anyone hostage and women and children
>were invited to exit first - several passengers
>were injured when they were forced to use the
>emergency slide after the requested stairs did
>not show up. Then ski-masked commandos casually
>stormed the plane. Josmar, resplendent in a
>white tunic, was led off in handcuffs, praising
>the Lord. Seven presumed "accomplices",
>including a Quintana Roo state senator, were
>hauled from the airplane and thrown roughly to
>the ground (they were freed hours later.)
>Josmar's "bomb" was blown up on the tarmac for
>the TV cameras - if it had been a real bomb, one
>commentator fretted, the explosion could have
>taken out half the airport, including the nearby
>presidential hanger.
>An hour later, smiling and snapping gum, Jose
>Mar Flores appeared at a chaotic press
>conference under the watchful eye of SSP
>chieftain Garcia Luna where he waved his bible
>around and preached a primetime sermon. Later
>in the afternoon, the would-be savior of Mexico
>was taken before a federal judge and charged
>with terrorism, skyjacking, and sabotaging the
>nation's air defenses. When asked if he had a
>lawyer, Josmar affirmed that Jesus Christ was
>his attorney.
>By 7 PM, non-stop coverage was wrapped up just
>in time for the Mexico-Honduras football match
>from which Mexico would emerge victorious,
>assuring the Aztecs of a ticket to the World Cup
>next year in South Africa.
>Reporters who accompanied Calderon to Campeche
>that afternoon found the president oddly gleeful
>about the dramatic events. "That was a close
>call, a real test for the government and the
>Mexican people," he boasted. But many in the
>Fourth and Fifth Estates were not convinced. In
>fact, public skepticism at the spectacle was
>unprecedented, at least in the memory of this
>reporter who has spent the past quarter of a
>century covering public skepticism in Mexico.
>"Sabotage or Masquerade?" the left daily La
>Jornada editorialized, pointing out that the
>plane had never really been hijacked and the
>passengers never held hostage and describing the
>government response as "exaggerated and
>suspect." Writing in Proceso magazine, Miguel
>Angel Granados Chapa, the dean of the nation's
>political commentators, speculated that the
>shadow show had been staged to distract public
>attentions from an onerous tax hike announced by
>the Calderon administration just the day before.
>One couldn't even pass through airport
>checkpoints with a kids' scissors, Granados
>noted, yet Josmar had managed to smuggle a
>(fake) bomb aboard Flight 576.
>Granados Chapa and others also suggested that
>the hoax had been engineered to spotlight the
>SSP's Garcia Luna who has been engaged in a
>years-long firefight with (former) Attorney
>General Eduardo Medina Mora over leadership of
>Calderon's blood-soaked drug war. It would not
>be the first time that the Public Security
>Secretary had used the media to toot his own
>horn, Granados recalled - in 2007, Garcia Luna
>gave carte blanche to TV Azteca to "recreate"
>the rescue of a kidnap victim and the capture of
>a criminal gang featuring the French citizen
>Florence Cassiz who has since become the object
>of an international tug of war between Calderon
>and French premier Nicolas Sarkozy.
>Genero Garcia Luna's center stage role during
>the "skyjacking" drama earned him juicy airtime
>on Televisa's flagship station "La Canal de las
>Estrellas" (The Channel of the Stars) and came
>just two days after his rival Medina Mora
>resigned as attorney general and was handed a
>golden parachute (he will become ambassador to
>the UK), presumably to keep his mouth shut about
>widespread corruption in the drug war
>In effect, Medina's removal was a visible
>admission by Calderon that his anti-drug crusade
>had flopped and must have dismayed the
>ex-attorney general's U.S. counterpart Eric
>Holder with whom he had collaborated on
>logistics in the implementation of drug war
>strategies under Washington's billion buck
>Merida Initiative. Just days before, Holder had
>issued an unusual warning that drug cartels in
>Mexico would attack public buildings and target
>U.S. citizens.
>On deck to replace Medina Mora is a Calderon
>crony Arturo Chavez Chavez. As Chihuahua state
>prosecutor in the 1990s, Chavez Chavez was
>charged with the investigation of the murders
>and/or disappearances of nearly 200 women in the
>hardscrabble border city of Ciudad Juarez. The
>attorney general-designate failed to clear even
>one case. Instead, he blamed "Las Muertas"
>("The Dead Girls") for their own murders,
>accusing them of provoking their killers by
>wearing mini-skirts. "Good people stay home at
>night - only bad people are out in the street,"
>was one of his more memorable conclusions. Many
>of the murdered women were slain after coming
>off late shifts at maquiladora factories.
>Chavez Chavez's crimes of omission as chief
>prosecutor have been denounced by the National
>Human Rights Commission (CNDH, the InterAmerican
>Human Rights Commission (CIDH), members of the
>European Parliament, and the international human
>rights community. In spite or because of the
>attorney general-designate's inept
>administration of justice, Las Muertas of Juarez
>have become international feminist icons - Eve
>Ensler, creator of "The Vagina Monologues", and
>actress Sallie Fields lead marches through that
>grimy industrial city.
>Victims' organizations are appalled by the
>nomination and are resolved to battle Chavez
>Chavez's ratification by Congress as Medina's
>successor. Last week, Norma Ledezma, whose
>daughter's remains were returned to her in a
>sealed coffin in 2002, stood before the Mexican
>Senate and wept at the prospect of Chavez
>Chavez's confirmation: "this man put pain in all
>of our hearts." Ledezma counts 24 women who have
>been murdered or disappeared in Juarez so far in
>2009, a number that is lost in the sea of death
>that has engulfed that desert city - more than
>1400 have been mowed down in the last year (30
>at local drug treatment centers in the past 10
>days) despite the fact that Juarez is occupied
>by thousands of Mexican army troops.
>Last year's Independence Day bombing in Morelia
>invoked unprecedented security measures at 2009
>public commemorations in provincial capitals and
>the capital of the country, upping the paranoia
>quotient to the breaking point. In Mexico City,
>a few hundred souls endured metal detectors,
>close questioning, and three federal police pat
>downs to access the great Zocalo plaza where
>Calderon was to deliver the traditional "Grito"
>of "Viva Mexico", a record low turn-out. Those
>who did get through the police barricades were
>kept a football field away from the National
>Palace upon whose balconies the president would
>appear by a labyrinth of metal barriers and 1500
>The stringent security measures were installed
>as much to discourage supporters of Calderon's
>arch-nemesis Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador from
>protesting as they were to detect incoming
>terrorists - the leftist ex-mayor of Mexico City
>was holding his own "Grito" just blocks away.
>"They treat us like sheep!" one elderly street
>vender hawking patriotic paraphernalia
>complained loudly, "they are the ones who are
>afraid of the bombs. We are citizens and this
>is our fiesta!"
>Meanwhile in Morelia, the scene of last year's
>Independence Eve massacre, the center of the old
>colonial city was locked down by thousands of
>armed-to-the-teeth federal and state robocops
>and only a handful of locals braved the curtain
>of fear to join Governor Lionel Godoy of the
>left-center Party of the Democratic Revolution
>(PRD) for his Grito.
>It remains unclear who precisely tossed the
>fatal bomb during the 2008 ceremonies - the
>killings appear to be one more bloody chapter in
>the on-going turf war between "La Familia", a
>home-grown cartel with ties to the Evangelical
>"Theology of Prosperity" and "Los Zetas",
>experts at beheading their rivals whose
>ex-military founders were trained at the Center
>for Special Forces in Ft. Bragg, North Carolina.
>In the wake of the bombing, three purported
>perpetrators were dragged before the TV cameras
>covered with contusions but skepticism about
>their guilt reigns.
>28 Michoacan mayors whose names appeared on a
>so-called La Familia "narco-list" have been
>jailed by Calderon's drug fighters and an
>elected federal deputy, Julio Cesar Godoy, the
>governor's half-brother, is on the lam. Both
>the PRD and the once-and-future ruling PRI party
>charge that Calderon, a leader of the rightist
>PAN, is turning the drug war into a political
>witch-hunt. Whatever the merits of the
>accusations, the brouhaha underscores increasing
>ties between the cartels and the political class.
>A skein of political assassinations has gilded the paranoia sweeping Mexico:
>Item - In neighboring Guerrero, PRD bigwig
>Armando Chavarria, the president of the state
>congress and former state attorney general, was
>gunned down in a gangland-style execution August
>20th. No suspects have been
>Item - In Tabasco state this September 7th, Jose
>Francisco Fuentes, a rising star in the PRI
>firmament and candidate for the state congress,
>his wife, and two children were murdered in what
>the New York Times described as "an apparent
>drug hit." Three teenagers have been accused of
>the killings but, as in Michoacan and in the
>Josmar imbroglio, incredulity is rife. The
>Mexican justice industry is famous for
>"fabricando cupables" (literally "manufacturing
>guilty parties.")
>Item - On September 10th, a gang of gunsills
>perhaps tied to the Zetas opened fire on a
>motorcade in which Zacatecas Governor Amalia
>Garcia, a PRD honcho, was thought to be
>traveling. Although two of her drivers were
>grievously wounded, Garcia was unhurt.
>President Calderon has also received an undisclosed number of death threats.
>This pandemic of paranoia is surging just as the
>Bicentennial of Independence from Spain and the
>100th year anniversary of the start of the
>Mexican Revolution hove into view. Despite
>continuing economic collapse that has added
>10,000,000 citizens to the ranks of the
>country's 70,000,000 poor, President Calderon
>budgeted billions of pesos for the festivities,
>rejecting the cautions of his peers. The new
>U.S. Ambassador Carlos Pascual recently
>expressed concern that as the downturn deepens
>and unemployed youth are sucked up by the drug
>cartels or join the armed opposition in
>frustration, the level of violence could soon be
>uncontainable. 70% of the 14,000 drug war
>victims counted by the Public Security
>Secretariat were between the ages of 20 and 35.
>Anticipating destabilization in the 2010
>Bicentennial year, it is no secret that Calderon
>has stepped up surveillance of radical sectors.
>Despite slashed budgets, the National Security
>and Information Center (CISEN), Mexico's lead
>intelligence agency, has been ascribed 2.4
>billion pesos for the coming year, a quarter of
>the Interior Secretariat's total allocation -
>Interior oversees national security. CISEN
>budgets have tripled since 2007 when the
>clandestine Popular Revolutionary Army (EPR)
>thrice bombed PEMEX petroleum pipelines.
>The "Focos Rojos" (red lights) are flashing in
>Chiapas, Guerrero, Oaxaca (Chavez Chavez was the
>government negotiator during the 2006 uprising
>in that southern state in which 26 activists
>lost their lives), Mexico state, and Mexico
>City. By most counts, a half dozen guerrilla
>formations are active in Mexico but more are
>lurking in the wings. Three bombings in Mexico
>City during the past two weeks (a bank, an auto
>showroom, a luxury clothing store) have been
>claimed by the previously unknown "Subversive
>Front For Global Liberation" and "The Autonomous
>Cells of The Immediate Revolution - Praxides C.
>Guerrero" (Guerrero was an anarchist fighter a
>hundred years ago during the Mexican revolution
>who once wrote "our violence is not justice - it
>is just necessary.") Anarchist symbols and
>scrawled "pintas" (slogans) at the bombing
>scenes decried animal abuse and the building of
>new prisons.
>But more worrisome to the Mexican and U.S.
>security apparatuses than pierced youths
>sporting Mohawks, is the very real possibility
>that narco-commandos and the guerrilla movements
>will strike an accord to move together against
>the "mal gobierno" (bad government.) Although
>guerrilla groups like the Zapatista Army of
>National Liberation distance themselves from the
>drug gangs, the prospect of creating havoc
>during the bicentennial celebrations may be too
>tempting to pass up. Indeed, several recent
>attacks by drug gang commandos have resembled
>classic guerrilla actions.
>As fear and loathing ratchet upwards south of
>the border, paranoia is the password. But as
>psychoanalysts reason, if there is something
>real to fear the pathology is not paranoia at
>all but rather what's really happening.
>John Ross's monstrous tome "El Monstruo - Dread
>& Redemption in Mexico City" will be published
>by Nation Books this November. His "Iraqigirl"
>(Haymarket Books), the diary of a teenager
>growing up under U.S. occupation, is in the
>stores. The author will soon embark on a
>2009-2010 "Ross & Revolution" U.S. tour and is
>hunting venues at which to present both volumes.
>If you have further info take a minute to

Commentary: Obama drops ball on immigration

Ruben Navarrette Jr. asks why the nation's chief multitasker can't take time for immigration reform.

SAN DIEGO, California (CNN) -- President Obama has placed the immigration reform community at the back of the bus.

This same president who insists the country can't wait to fix what he calls a broken health care system tells reformers to wait for him to get around to fixing what they consider to be an equally broken immigration system.

The same president who tried to juggle a half dozen major policy initiatives in his first few months in office now seems unsure of his ability to -- as he told Univision's Jorge Ramos in an interview last weekend -- "solve every problem at once."

And the same president who seems to understand that the longer he waits to accomplish health care reform, the more difficult it will be to get, doesn't seem to understand the same is true with immigration reform.

The political math for both kinds of reform only gets more difficult if Democrats lose seats in the House and Senate in next year's midterm elections, as is expected to happen.

During a recent speech to a black-tie gala for the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, Obama again promised action on immigration -- at some point. But he didn't give a timetable.

Obama and his advisers decided to attack health care reform before immigration reform. That obviously was a mistake.

'Latino in America'

The Latino population is set to nearly triple by 2050. This October, Soledad O'Brien journeys into the homes and hearts of a group destined to change the U.S. Witness the evolution of a country as Latinos change America and America changes Latinos.
October 21 & 22, 9 p.m. ET

see full schedule »

One thing that has thrown a wrench into the prospects for health care reform is the Joe Wilsonian concern that illegal immigrants might get free health care as a result of the reform process. Had that issue been addressed beforehand by giving illegal immigrants a path to earned legalization, that controversy might have been defused. Now Obama might walk away with nothing.

Be that as it may, it's clear that immigration reform just isn't a top priority for this administration.

The White House may view this as a niche issue, one with limited impact on any group other than Latinos. If so, that shows how little they know.

Business groups, law enforcement, border security advocates, organized labor, high-tech firms, university educators and others are all clamoring for immigration reform. For the record, Latinos care about the same issues the president seems to care about -- the economy, education and health care. But they also care about immigration because they see it as a test of political courage.

They're well-aware of the resistance out there to giving illegal immigrants a path to earned legalization, and so they're drawn to elected officials who are willing to brave those winds in order to do the right thing.

Does that include Obama? At this point, who knows? Time flies when a president is stalling.

It was just several months ago that White House officials were promising that Obama would address immigration reform before the end of the year. Now that timeline seems to have been pushed back to the beginning of 2010. And with midterm elections next November, we can expect Congress to invest -- at most -- five or six months on this issue.

For all intents and purposes, the curtain closes when Congress adjourns for summer recess next year, since members will spend most of the fall campaigning for re-election.

Given all that, immigration reform could easily lapse into Obama's second term, if there is a second term. For now, the president's reluctance to approach the issue in a meaningful way that goes beyond assurances to advocacy groups and promises to Hispanic audiences seems to be prompting members of Congress to take the reins.

Both Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-New York, and Rep. Luis Gutierrez, D-Illinois, have promised to unveil immigration reform proposals in the coming weeks.

Schumer is already behind schedule, since he said he would come up with something by Labor Day. Still, this is all a notable departure from what happened under President Bush, where it was the White House that tried to lead Congress toward immigration reform.

Now it's the other way around. Call that what you want. But it's not leadership on an issue that demands nothing less.

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Ruben Navarrette Jr.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

War Without Borders: Fueling Mexico's Drug Trade

I thought this was an interesting video by the New York Times on how Mexico's drug trade is a problem shared by the U.S. and Mexico.

(the title above is the link to the video)


Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Border Fence Cost skyrocketing

I thought this was kind of interesting, each repair is $1300 and we already had over 3000 breaches of the fence. Imagine what we could have done with that money about $4 million. Geez, imagine those $2.4 billion going to education on the border, what could we have done with that?


Billions for a US-Mexico border fence, but is it doing any good?

The cost for adding 600 miles of new barriers is $2.4 billion so far. The new fencing has been breached more than 3,000 times, a government report finds.

Some $2.4 billion has been spent since 2005 on a still-unfinished project to erect more than 600 miles of new fence along the US-Mexico border – a finding that is being met with surprise, anger, and consternation by immigrant groups and at least some border residents.

A report, released Thursday by the Government Accountability Office (GAO), also says $6.5 billion will be needed to maintain the new fencing over the next 20 years. So far, it has been breached 3,363 times, requiring $1,300 for the average repair.

The US Border Patrol, for its part, agrees with some findings but says several conclusions are unknowable because building the wall has no precedent. And the agency defends the new fencing as effective at deterring illegal immigration.

The report has stirred a range of reactions.

"When our nation is in the midst of an economic crisis, we wonder how many teacher salaries, police officers, miles of road, or school books could be financed instead of throwing large amounts of money for bricks to fix a problem that requires serious, long-term solutions," says Angelica Salas of the Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights of Los Angeles, in a statement.

Dawn Garner, who lives on a ranch on the US-Mexico border in Naco, Ariz., says spending is so high because workers who are building the fence use local hotels for accommodations and food.

"They should live in tents near the wall and cook their own food, and that would save incredible amounts of money," says Ms. Garner, who reports that 40 illegal immigrants a day cross her small ranch. Money could be saved if the National Guard built the fence and if the Border Patrol itself maintained it, she suggests in a phone interview.

Despite the price tag of maintaining the border fence, authorities have not found a way to determine whether it is helping to halt illegal immigration, the GAO report says.

"While they [the GAO findings] have highlighted some risks and their factual statements are correct, we are not as pessimistic as they are," says Mark Borkowski, executive director of the Secure Border Initiative, part of US Customs and Border Protection. Trying to analyze a new endeavor like this fence is like trying to calculate the costs and benefits of planes in combat while they're still on the drawing board, he says.

He acknowledges that attempts to assess the efficacy of the new fence are sketchy. The Naco area where Garner lives may be more porous than other parts of Arizona, such as Yuma or Sasabe.

Still, he says, "it is very clear to the Border Patrol that this has been very effective in cutting down illegal migrant traffic into the US."

The 600 additional miles of fence, started under the Bush administration, have seen several delays and cost increases, which Borkowski says are to be expected in such a massive construction project.

Until the various types of border barriers are in place, states the GAO report, the Border Patrol will not know if the added security measures are working.

US Rep. Bennie Thompson (D) of Mississippi, who chairs the House Committee on Homeland Security, calls the fence a "serious challenge."

Wayne Cornelius, director emeritus of the Center for Comparative Immigration Studies at the University of California in San Diego, says he has conducted 4,000 interviews with illegal immigrants and potential migrants from Jalisco, Zacatecas, Oaxaca, and Yucatan in the past five years. His assessment:

"The existing border fortifications do not keep undocumented migrants out of the US. Not even half are being apprehended on any given trip to the border, and of those who are apprehended, the success rate on the second or third try is upwards of 95 percent."

"There is no reason to believe that additional investments in the fence project – both physical fencing and the new "virtual fence" – will create an effective deterrent," he says.

FOX on Education and NAFTA

The Associated Press State & Local Wire

September 22, 2009 Tuesday 8:01 AM GMT

Ex-Mexican president urges narrowing wage gap

BYLINE: By HEATHER CLARK, Associated Press Writer


LENGTH: 344 words


The United States, Mexico and Canada should spend 2 percent of their gross domestic products to narrow the economic differences between the neighbors, former Mexican President Vicente Fox said Monday.

Fox, who spoke to students and faculty at the University of New Mexico, said later in an interview that the money should be used to build infrastructure, strengthen poorer regions and improve education.

By working together, the three participants in the North American Free Trade Agreement would improve their ability to compete in a global economy in which Asian countries are rising.

"What would be better for this nation than having a wealthy Mexico as a neighbor?" Fox asked.

Fox praised spending by the European Union to level wages between Eastern and Western Europe.

Asked why U.S. taxpayers should support spending on improvements in Mexico and Canada, Fox said taxpayers already are paying to build a wall on the U.S.-Mexico border and for security forces.

"It should be explained to U.S. taxpayers that what they are investing in that wall is not going to work," Fox said. "You're using it in bringing in police forces and national guards and fences and strategies."

Fox said the wall will not limit migration, and increased spending to level the economies of the three countries would eliminate the need for such expensive projects.

Fox cited an economic forecast that by 2040 China will have the world's largest economy. The economies of China and India are growing by double digits, while NAFTA's is growing around 2 percent a year and needs to be revitalized, he said.

Fox said the administration of President Barack Obama has not been very clear about his ideas on immigration reform.

"He's been talking about moving the issue ahead, but I don't have enough information to see what he's proposing," Fox said.

Fox praised Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton for acknowledging on a recent trip to Mexico that the weapons being used in Mexican drug wars come from the U.S., a huge consumer market for narcotics.

"So I think we're on the right path," Fox said.

Border Violence Photo Tour

The title links you to a photo tour by CBS of the border violence it was part of this Sept. 10, 2009 story about Perry's response to the border.

Sadly, unless we do something, this will be the only kind of response that we see.


Texas Ranger Teams Address Border Violence

Gov. Rick Perry Says State Law Enforcement Is Forced to Fill the Vacuum Left by the Federal Government

  • Texas Gov. Rick Perry speaks about border security during a news conference Thursday, Sept. 10, 2009 in Houston. Perry said special teams of Texas Rangers supported by about 200 Texas National Guard members will be deployed to the Texas-Mexico border to deal with increasing violence because the federal government has failed to address the problems. Photo

    Texas Gov. Rick Perry speaks about border security during a news conference Thursday, Sept. 10, 2009 in Houston. Perry said special teams of Texas Rangers supported by about 200 Texas National Guard members will be deployed to the Texas-Mexico border to deal with increasing violence because the federal government has failed to address the problems. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip)

"It is an expansive effort with the Rangers playing a more high-profile role than they've ever played before," Perry said of the Department of Public Safety's elite investigative unit.

The forces, dubbed "Ranger recon" teams, are the latest effort "to fill the gap that's been left by the federal government's ongoing failure to adequately secure our international border with Mexico," he said.

The governor early this year asked Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano for 1,000 National Guard troops and renewed his call last month in a letter to President Barack Obama. The request is bogged down over who will pay for the troops and how they will be deployed.

Perry's announcement Thursday comes amid increasing border violence, particularly in El Paso, mostly involving people with ties to Mexican drug gangs.

"They'll be deployed to high-traffic, high-crime areas along the border," he said. "They'll give us boots on the ground, put people in these hot spots no matter what or where they may exist."

Perry said the effort also would focus on remote areas where farmers and ranchers have complained of being overrun by smugglers and gangs from Mexico in numbers that also overwhelm local law enforcement and border patrol officers.

"Washington is shortchanging them, not giving them the support they need," Perry said. "As a result, we're having to dedicate our resources to deal with the challenges we have along the Texas-Mexico border and ensuing issues that porous border has created all across state of Texas."

He said the state would pick up the tab of $110 million, allocated by the Legislature in the past two sessions.

Perry's announcement drew immediate criticism from U.S. Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison, who is running against the two-term incumbent in the March GOP primary.

"Today's announcement is yet another empty election-year promise from Rick Perry on border security," Hutchison spokesman Joe Pounder said.

Perry fired back that it was the "height of hypocrisy for someone who's been in Washington, D.C., for 16 years, who's had the opportunity to help Texas on our border security, and they've been no more successful in delivering the resources and help."

"So please do that job up there first before you come down here and start criticizing about the state of Texas," he said.

Hutchison also took Perry to task for the absence of any Texas agency from a federal program that allows Homeland Security personnel to work with local law enforcement on immigration issues.

"Texans need a governor they can trust to actually improve our security," her campaign said in a statement.

"I happen to think we've taken advantage of every program that's been effective," responded Perry, who has been branding his opponent as someone from Washington out of touch with her home state. "Pointing out one program that has been funded and leaving the 800-pound gorilla — which is 1,000 National Guard troops that we need — I am stunned someone from Washington, D.C., would say they've done enough to secure our border."

Brig. Gen. Joyce Stevens, commander of the Texas Army National Guard, said about 200 soldiers and airmen already have started integrated operations with the Rangers.

Tony Leal, assistant director of the Texas Rangers, declined to provide the number of his officers involved in the effort.

Del Rio

Here are two stories on the Del Rio situation. Interesting that the Associated Press failed to state that the district is gonna lose several million dollars if they actually go through with kicking out the students.

Still, at this point hasn't the damage already been done to these students. Not only are they humiliated at the bridge, but what could be going on in the classroom. Once these students were identified or even before, did the district and schools already treat these immigrant children as unworthy of being in the district?

Even if parents scramble to rent an apartment or guardianship is changed, the damage has been done. A generation of Del Rio children have now had their authority figures outwardly "other" themselves or their fellow classmates.


Del Rio schools chief says turning back students at border was policy issue, not immigration stance

12:00 AM CDT on Tuesday, September 22, 2009
The Associated Press

DEL RIO, Texas – School district Superintendent Kelt Cooper says he's uncomfortable with attempts to make him a cause celebre for either side of the immigration debate because of his crackdown on students from across the river in Mexico attending his schools.

ERIC GAY/The Associated PressStudents walk home after classes at Lamar Elementary in Del Rio. School officials there warned parents of students crossing from Mexico that they'd be expelled if they could not prove residency. " width="175" height="112">
ERIC GAY/The Associated Press
Students walk home after classes at Lamar Elementary in Del Rio. School officials there warned parents of students crossing from Mexico that they'd be expelled if they could not prove residency.

"We have a law. We have a policy. We follow it," said Cooper, superintendent of the San Felipe Del Rio Consolidated Independent School District.

Students in northern Mexico have skirted residency requirements to attend U.S. public schools for generations, but Cooper figured he had to do something this school year when he got word that about 400 school-age children were crossing the international bridge at Del Rio each day with backpacks but no student visas.

He directed district officials to stake out the bridge and warn students they could face expulsion if they don't prove they live in the district.

Immigration status isn't an issue. A decades-old Supreme Court ruling prevents school officials from even asking about citizenship. Regardless, according to customs officials, students who use the bridge enter the U.S. legally because they are U.S. citizens, permanent residents with green cards or Mexicans with student visas.

But for tuition-free public school attendance, state law requires students to live in the district.

Bob Dane, a spokesman for the Federation for American Immigration Reform, said Cooper's bridge stakeout prevented parents from taking advantage of a "duty-free education."

"It's very obvious the parents are cheating the system. The kids are getting quality education without contributing," he said.

David Hinojosa of the Mexican-American Legal Defense and Educational Fund said he's concerned about students being singled out because they were on an international bridge before school.

Cooper, who conducted similar port-of-entry checks several years ago in Nogales, Ariz., said no Del Rio students have been expelled so far. He said that, within days of his stakeout, most parents offered documentation. Some parents are scrambling to find apartments in Del Rio.

The Associated Press

District cracks down on ‘illegal’ students

Published September 10, 2009

It's one of the public school district's worst-kept secrets – children from Mexico crossing the border to attend Del Rio schools.

“This has been going on for years. Everyone knows about it. When you see truckloads of kids walking across the bridge with backpacks after school, it doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure out where they're coming from,” said Cheryl Weimer, who had five children come up through the San Felipe Del Rio Consolidated Independent School District more than 13 years ago.

But on Wednesday morning, district officials were at the port that separates Del Rio from its sister city, Ciudad Acuña, Coah., Mex., with a message for parents.

“Your child was observed crossing into the United States from Mexico to attend school…Your child will be withdrawn from the school district immediately,” reads a letter handed from district officials to parents at the port Wednesday morning.

The letter directs parents to the district's Office of Pupil Services to provide proof of residence in the United States.

Superintendent Kelt Cooper said the move came after the district received a report that more than 540 school age children were recorded crossing into the U.S.

“When we have vans with Coahuila license plates dropping kids off at elementary schools and a report that says hundreds of kids are coming across…we have a problem,” says Cooper. “With these kinds of numbers, it was out of control…it was right in our face.”

Under state law, the only students allowed a free public education in the San Felipe Del Rio Consolidated Independent School District are those who reside within it, and Cooper says it’s his job to enforce that law.

“I am commanded by the laws of this state and the policies of this district,” said Cooper. “I also have a duty to our taxpayers.”

But the loss of students also means a loss of revenue for the district, which receives state funding based on student enrollment and attendance.

“Is this going to hurt my budget? It's a $2.7 million loss, of course it's going to hurt,” said Cooper. “But the fact is, that wasn't our money to begin with.”

Children crossing the Rio Grande to attend school is nothing new and is something Cooper, who was born, raised and spent most of his career in border communities, has seen before.

In 2002 Cooper, then the superintendent of the Nogales school district in Arizona, was part of an initiative in that state to weed Mexico residents out of its school systems.

“This has been going on for decades,” said Cooper. “It's a game of cat-and- mouse and it's not specific to Del Rio.”

Cooper says he's seen families go to great lengths to get their children into schools.

“Parents will come over and establish residences for a month before school starts. They rent a house or apartment, get utilities in their name and register their children for school. Then a month later they're back in Mexico,” says Cooper, adding that the issue has nothing to do with immigration status, citing a 1982 Supreme Court case that prohibits districts from even asking that question.

“It all comes down to residence. Does the child live in our district or not?” said Cooper.

Carla Gonzalez says she's heard that phrase repeatedly since yesterday morning.

Gonzalez, who says she lives in Del Rio with her sister-in-law on the city's south side, but travels to Mexico periodically to visit her deported husband, was caught with her three children in Wednesday's crackdown.

“We live here the majority of the time, and they're sitting there saying I can't visit my husband and my kids can't see their father? It's just crazy, and a lot of people are going to be upset about this,” says Gonzalez. “They aren't taking any special circumstances into consideration.”

Gonzalez said she spent much of Wednesday trying to establish she lives in the district, but to little avail.

“I even took my sister-in-law with me so she could tell them I live with her, but that's not good enough,” said Gonzalez. “I don't have bills here in my name, it's not my house.”

She doesn't know what will happen if she can't work the issue out with the district.

“I guess I'm going to have to seriously look at home schooling my kids,” said Gonzalez this morning. “I've been married 20 years, and we're not going to split because of this.”

Though Cooper says he has no intention of backing off the law, he believes there might be a solution.

He hopes to present a plan to the public school board within the month that would allow non-resident children to attend Del Rio schools, provided they pay tuition and if space allows.

He says the district is also planning to apply for clearance from the state to allow Mexico children who hold student visas to attend schools at a cost.

“We do not have the authority to pass this cost on to the taxpayer,” explains Cooper.

Linda Eagles, who had three children in public school over the years, agrees.

“You know what, we pay for schooling because we live here, because we pay taxes, and our children deserve it. It is not fair that we have to foot the bill for children whose parents are not paying their way. I know that sounds mean, but it's true,” said Eagles, who said charging tuition would be a fair solution.

UTB Closed

Here are a few articles regarding the border shootout a few weeks ago.

It would be interesting to find out if any of our UT system contact heard about the situation and if system considered any response.

UTB-TSC closes campus in response to Matamoros shootout

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The University of Texas at Brownsville and Texas Southmost College police shutdown the campus after bullets from a shooting incident in Matamoros struck a building and a parked car on campus.

The campus will remain closed on Saturday.

"Due to a shooting incident on the Mexican side of the Rio Grande River and to the lateness of the day, the campus will be closing early. Employees and students are encouraged to leave the campus and to please avoid the University Boulevard area," said a statement on the campus Web site.

UTB-TSC Police Lt. Armando Pullido said students were being asked to avoid buildings on the south side of the university campus.

"We’re closing down the campus at 5 p.m.," Pullido said. "Students are being asked to leave."

UTB-TSC Public Information Director Letty Fernandez confirms a bullet struck the Recreation, Education and Kinesiology building, also known as the REK building, and a car at the Life and Health Sciences Building.

The shooting reportedly began around 1:30 this afternoon near Calle Primera and Calle Canales. Neighbors in the area tell The Brownsville Herald they heard gunshots and loud explosions for over an hour.

The shooting then is said to have continued to the intersection of Calle Nicaragua and Calle Acapulco in Colonia Delicias. It was there the Mexican Army seized a refrigerator from a home in the area.

U.S. Customs and Border Protection Field Supervisor Eddie Perez says none of the international bridges between Brownsville and Matamoros were closed.

As a precaution the university moved the Scorpion's men's soccer game with Southern Nazarene to the Brownsville Sports Park.

Friday's scheduled game between Southern Nazarene and the University of St. Thomas was also re-located to the Brownsville Sports Park, with a scheduled start time of 9 p.m.

Fernandez says the university has decided to keep the school, including the Arnulfo Oliveira Library, closed on Saturday.

For more on this developing story, stay with The Brownsville Herald.

Shootout in Matamoros

Shootout sparks tension at shops

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Downtown shoppers and business owners were shaken — and law enforcement remained on alert — on Saturday, a day after a shootout in Mexico ricocheted into Brownsville.

"We feel fear because we don’t know who they are or what’s going on," said Maria Theresa Rodriguez, a Harlingen resident shopping for flip-flops on E. Washington Street.

The University of Texas at Brownsville and Texas Southmost College reported that a bullet from the Matamoros shootout on Friday hit the campus Recreation, Education and Kineseology Center and another bullet hit a car parked on campus.

The shooting began at around 1:30 p.m. near Calle Primera and Calle Canales and neighbors in the area told The Brownsville Herald they heard gunshots and loud explosions for more than an hour.

The shooting was said to have continued to the intersection of Calle Nicaragua and Calle Acapulco in Colonia Delicias.

The Mexican Army declined to comment about the shooting or whether there were any injuries.

A Mexican news agency, Milenio Online, reported that the attorney general of the Republic of Mexico told them that there were people detained during the confrontation between the military and armed men.

"When anything like this happens we increase our security around the bridges," Cameron County Sheriff Omar Lucio said on Saturday. "This happened pretty close to the Gateway International Bridge, so we have to increase our vigilance in that area."

The U.S. Border Patrol said that agents were "remaining vigilant."

"No one in Border Patrol was shot at," said John Lopez, public affairs officer for the Rio Grande Valley sector of U.S. Border Patrol.

"Our Border Patrol agents are careful because there can be cross border fire," Lopez said. "We continue to remain vigilant in the area considering there is a dangerous situation in our neighboring country, Mexico."

The U.S. government obviously was concerned about the shootout. Officers with U.S. Customs and Border Protection working at the Gateway International Bridge were wearing body armor on Saturday morning.

The Brownsville Police Department said the regular patrol schedule would not be changed on Saturday.

"We’re just advising our patrol officers to stay on their toes," said Lt. Perry Pepin.

UTB-TSC closed the campus on Friday at 5 p.m. and cancelled classes until Tuesday, Sept. 8.

"Due to a shooting incident on the Mexican side of the Rio Grande River and to the lateness of the day, the campus will be closing early. Employees and students are encouraged to leave the campus and to please avoid the University Boulevard area," the school Friday posted on its Web site.

On Saturday, shoppers continued to visit Brownsville’s historic downtown, which edges against the Rio Grande.

At OK Trading, a downtown retail outlet, owner Steve Cho said the shooting had disturbed him and his customers.

"It’s something we worry about because it’s so close by," Cho said. "If there’s something happening over there, it blocks them from the bridge, and our clients won’t come here."

Many of Cho’s customers buy items at his store to sell in Mexico.

"One of my customers was driving home when he was caught in the middle of a (another) shootout," Cho said. "People who used to come here twice a week to buy items now come only once every two weeks."

Profile of the Consejo Consultivo of el IME

This is the immigration leadership with the greatest stretch and influence nationally—both in the U.S. and Mexico.
Click here for a more detailed look at the group's profile. Also, sign up to receive the IME documents.

México, D. F. a 21 de septiembre de 2009


Durante el primer encuentro de la tercera generación del Consejo Consultivo, el Instituto de los Mexicanos en el Exterior inició un esfuerzo por contar con datos estadísticos que revelaran el perfil de los Consejeros que integran este órgano asesor.

De un total de 125 Consejeros, 61 participaron en la encuesta lo que representó el 49% del total. Entre los datos que este ejercicio arrojó destaca que el 31% de los consejeros son mujeres y el 69% son hombres. Su edad oscila entre los 35 y 55 años, con una edad promedio de 47 años. La mayoría de los consejeros está casada (64%) y pertenecen a familias nucleares de 4 a 6 integrantes (46%) en tanto que el 38% viven en familias integradas de 1 a 3 personas.

Sobre el perfil educativo, cabe destacar que el 49% de los mismos tienen estudios de postgrado. El 42% los Consejeros domina el inglés de manera muy buena a excelente. Por otro lado, el 52% utiliza frecuentemente en su vida diaria el español, mientras que el 44% habla con mayor frecuencia el inglés. Sus ocupaciones principales son en el sector empresarial y académico.

El 73% de ellos nacieron en México y el 5% refiere haber nacido en Estados Unidos de abuelos mexicanos. El 63% de los consejeros han vivido en más de una ciudad de Estados Unidos o Canadá.

En términos de ciudadanía, el 69% de los consejeros dijo poseer la ciudadanía estadounidense o canadiense. De éstos, la mayoría tuvo que esperar más de diez años para obtener la nacionalidad de su país de residencia. Solamente el 16% de los consejeros nacidos en México aguardó menos de cinco años.

Por otra parte, el 82% de los consejeros declaran ser ciudadanos mexicanos y el 50% de ellos cuenta con credencial para votar. Para el caso de los consejeros que son ciudadanos estadounidenses, el 85% declaró haber votado en las elecciones presidenciales del 2008. En cuanto a los consejeros que son ciudadanos canadienses, el 50% participó en los últimos comicios distritales.

En cuanto al contacto con México, el 93% de los consejeros señala tener familiares en este país. Cabe señalar que el 47% envía dinero a sus familiares en la República Mexicana y el 32% de los consejeros señalaron que la visitan más de tres veces al año, mientras que el 39% visita el país de una a dos veces al año. De hecho, el 54% de los consejeros regresaría a vivir a México por amor a su país, por razones familiares, económicas o de retiro.

Entre las principales motivaciones de los consejeros por participar en el CCIME se mencionan las siguientes: apoyar a los mexicanos en el exterior y en sus comunidades, tener un canal para ayudar a los connacionales en Estados Unidos, ser un intermediario entre los paisanos y el IME, tratar de lograr cambios a favor de las comunidades mexicanas en el exterior.

Conocernos mejor abre posibilidades de construir un sólido puente de entendimiento entre la comunidad que radica en el exterior y así alcanzar los objetivos del IME para elevar el nivel de vida de los migrantes y sus familias.

Si usted desea conocer más sobre esta encuesta haga clic aquí.

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Sunday, September 6, 2009

A Brief Recent History of Guerrero

*4. NEW REBEL ARMY REPORTED IN SOUTHERN MEXICO (1996 Archive from Tulane University)

As of June 29 hundreds of Mexican Army soldiers and agents of the
federal attorney general's office (PGR) were combing the
mountains of the Coyuca de Benitez Sierra near Acapulco in the
southwestern state of Guerrero for members of the Revolutionary
Popular Army (EPR), a self-proclaimed guerrilla organization that
had made its first appearance the day before. Heavy rains from
Hurricane Boris hampered the military operation, which the
government said was aimed at arresting the rebels for violating
federal gun control laws. Some local elections, scheduled for
June 30, were cancelled.

The EPR is reported to have 500 armed combatants. On June 28 the
group issued a statement demanding "revolutionary justice" and
calling for the overthrow of the government of Mexican president
Ernesto Zedillo Ponce de Leon. The statement was entitled the
"Manifesto of Aguas Blancas," in reference to the Guerrero state
judicial police's massacre of 17 campesinos from the leftist
Southern Sierra Campesino Organization (OCSS) at Aguas Blancas
ford in Coyuca de Benitez municipality exactly one year earlier.
[La Jornada (Mexico) 6/30/96, electronic edition; El Diario-La
Prensa 6/30/96 from AP; Washington Post 6/30/96]

The EPR made its existence public at the massacre site on the
afternoon of June 28, during a rally organized by the Broad Front
for the Constitution of a National Liberation Movement (FAC-MLN)
to mark the anniversary. About 5,000 protesters, mostly local
campesinos, marched 12 kilometers from the town of Coyuca de
Benitez to Aguas Blancas, where the rally was addressed by two of
the widows of the victims and by Cuauhtemoc Cardenas Solorzano,
the 1994 presidential candidate of the center-left opposition
Party of the Democratic Revolution (PRD). Soon after Cardenas
finished speaking, a group of masked men and women wearing olive-
green uniforms and carrying AK-47 rifles appeared unexpectedly.
EPR members--exactly 38, according to the PGR and the federal
Governance Secretariat, and about 100 according to the Mexico
City daily La Jornada--approached the podium; one read the
group's manifesto.

Local police reported that the EPR had a shootout with the
Guerrero judicial police later that evening near the town of
Zumpango del Rio, about 10 kilometers north of Chilpancingo, the
state capital, and 80 kilometers northeast of Coyuca de Benitez.
Some 20 masked and heavily armed EPR members reportedly set up a
roadblock on the Mexico City-Acapulco highway, where they passed
out their manifesto to motorists and asked them to work together
"for the cause." Judicial police say they were attacked when they
arrived on the scene; three agents were wounded in the ensuing
shootout, along with a cab driver who had been talking to the
rebels, who then fled into the mountains. [LJ 6/29/96] The next
day the Guerrero attorney general's office announced that the
incident had simply been a fight between police and common
criminals the police had caught robbing two tractor trailers. [LJ

Cuauhtemoc Cardenas and other PRD leaders issued a communique
denouncing the EPR's presence at the Aguas Blancas rally as "a
grotesque pantomime which would have had no importance except for
the heavy weapons [the group] carried." The communique implied
that the EPR members might be agents provocateurs. [LJ 6/29/96]
Lucas de la Garza, PRD leader in Monterrey, Nuevo Leon, noted
that the EPR had better uniforms and weapons than the Zapatista
National Liberation Army (EZLN), Mexico's best-known rebel group,
and suggested that the disruption of the rally was meant to
distract attention from the Guerrero government's responsibility
for the Aguas Blancas massacre. [LJ 6/30/96] [President Zedillo
forced Gov. Ruben Figueroa Alcocer to take a permanent leave of
absence on Mar. 12 over the case, but the state attorney general
and the state legislature formally cleared him of all
responsibility on June 14. [ED-LP 6/15/96 from wire services; New
York Times 6/17/96 from Reuter]]

In contrast to the PRD, the FAC-MLN, which organized the rally,
simply stated that participants "received an unexpected visit
from a group...which brought us a beautiful, fraternal and
combative homage to the 17 massacred campesinos." [LJ


The FAC-MLN was formed at a Jan. 27-28 meeting of 268 grassroots
and leftist groups from around the country in Acapulco; this was
one of the EZLN's many efforts to unite groups into a broad
civilian opposition movement [see Update #314]. The EZLN, which
carefully calls for a "transitional government" rather than an
overthrow of the government, is continuing the effort with a
"Special Forum for the Reform of the State," to be held from June
30 to July 6 in San Cristobal de las Casas in the southeastern
state of Chiapas, where the Zapatista movement emerged in 1994.
EZLN military leader "Sub-Commander Marcos" and 20 other
Zapatista leaders will attend, along with a large number of
opposition groups and leaders: Cardenas, former Mexico City mayor
Manuel Camacho Solis [who recently deserted the ruling
Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI)], the El Barzon debtors'
movement, some business people and 335 other groups. [LJ 6/28/96]

Meanwhile, the southeastern state of Tabasco, which borders
Chiapas, was shaken by protests on June 25 when President Zedillo
paid an official visit to the state. The PGR formally charged on
June 7 that Tabasco governor Roberto Madrazo Pintado spent at
least $38 million over the legal limit in his 1994 election
campaign [see Update #332], but left actual prosecution up to
Tabasco state authorities, who are expected to do nothing in the
case. Madrazo and Zedillo are both members of the PRI, which has
ruled most of Mexico for 67 years. The state PRD holds that its
candidate, Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador (likely winner of the
party's national presidency in party elections on July 14), was
defrauded of the governorship in the 1994 race.

At 8:00 in the morning on June 25, PRD leaders announced over the
XEVA radio station, which has the strongest signal in the state,
that their followers would blockade the three main highways into
the state capital, Villahermosa, letting traffic through for just
20 minutes out of each hour. Thousands of campesinos were waiting
for the signal, and immediately cut off traffic at six points in
the Cardenas-Villahermosa, Centla-Villahermosa and Macuspana-
Villahermosa highways. Campesinos also blocked access to some oil
fields, including the CEN field in Nacajuca municipality; Tabasco
protesters had blockaded some 70 oil wells in February and March
to demand compensation for environmental damage [see Update

The president flew into Villahermosa, but local PRI politicians
were unable to drive to the ceremonies. Accompanied by state
police and party goons, the politicians tried to break through
the barricades. Police agents used tear gas and fired into the
air, but the more numerous PRD supporters, armed with clubs,
stones and, some cases, machetes, routed the attackers and burned
vans belonging to the goons. By the time Zedillo flew out of
Tabasco in the afternoon, at least 30 people had been injured
(four seriously) and 29 arrested; five vehicles were burned
completely and 15 more were damaged. At one barricade near the
village of Vicente Guerrero, former governor Mario Trujillo
Garcia was injured when campesinos--who say he was firing a
revolver from his van as they were burning another van--threw a
hail of rocks at him. The campesinos pulled his companion, a
local business leader, from the van and deposited him in the town
jail. La Jornada reporter Jaime Aviles wrote that the scenes of
barricades and burning vehicles made him think of Nicaragua 17
years ago, during the Sandinista Revolution. [LJ 6/26/96]

Some 50 PRI members counterattacked the next day, taking over
XEVA for almost three hours to denounce the PRD and Lopez
Obrador. A state legislator announced at a committee meeting that
PRI members were ready to confront PRD members "on whatever
terrain they choose; we're going to win." [LJ 6/27/96] On June 27
a group of PRI state legislators and goons seized a colleague
from the PRD, state deputy Julio Alvarez Santos, in his office at
the state congress building, held him for an hour and beat him
repeatedly. That evening the PRI-dominated Business Coordinating
Committee filed a complaint with the federal PGR that "the Party
of the Democratic Revolution incites to violence." [LJ 6/28/96]


About 1,000 people marched from Chapultepec Park to the Juarez
monument in Mexico City on June 29 in the city's 18th annual
Lesbian-Gay Pride celebration. Many participants were dressed as
animals or had their faces painted in bright colors. Despite
persistent rain, some marched in their underwear, but most were
fully clothed and carrying umbrellas. The marchers paused to
protest at an office of Mexicana, the main airline for flights
within Mexico. [La Jornada 6/30/96, electronic edition] On Dec.
1, 1995, a Mexicana pilot had six security guards physically
remove two lesbians from its flight 972 in the middle of the
night at the Guadalajara airport for "immoral behavior." The two
women, US nationals on their way home, had been holding hands.

The International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission
(IGLHRC) and the Mexico City lesbian group El Closet de Sor Juana
are calling for letters asking Mexicana to issue a public
apology, discipline Captain Arturo Trujillo Viscarra for his
actions and take steps like providing sensitivity training for
its employees and instituting an anti-discrimination policy.
Faxes can be sent (within the US) to Ms. Elizabeth Krupski at US
Aviation Company, Mexicana's insurance underwriter, 212-349-8226,
and Ms. Maria Ruiz, Mexicana Customer Service Department, 310-
646-0433; copies can be sent to Lic. Jorge Madrazo, Comision
Nacional de Derechos Humanos, Av. Periferico Sur No. 3469, San
Jeronimo Lidice, CP 10200 Mexico DF, Mexico. [IGLHRC Emergency
Response Network Vol. 5, #3, May 1996]

Who wants Rogaciano Alba dead? Massacre of Mexican strongman's family breaks all the rules

By Mark Stevenson
10:38 a.m. May 7, 2008
PETATLAN, Mexico – Somebody wants to kill Rogaciano Alba.
Dozens of gunmen attacked the house of the local political boss, killing his sons and kidnapping his daughter in a weekend rampage that left 17 dead. With Alba in hiding, the motive remains unclear, lost in the tangle of drugs, land disputes and rebellion that lurks amid Mexico's glittering beach resorts.

“If anybody has something against me, let them tell me to my face,” Alba raged in a call to a local radio station. “But (the victims) didn't steal or do anything to anybody. There was no reason to kill them like that.”

Alba is easily the most powerful man in Petatlan, a Pacific coast town near the resorts of Ixtapa and Zihuatenejo that was dependent on coconut plantations and cattle ranching until drugs and illegal logging pushed them aside in the 1980s.

Mexico's drug underworld has become ever more violent in recent years, with gunmen beheading victims and carving threats into their bodies. But almost like a code of honor, hit men targeting ranchers, businessmen, journalists and rival drug smugglers have largely left the victims' families alone.

The attack on Alba broke all the rules.

On Saturday, seven ranchers were killed as they returned from a union meeting led by Alba. The following day, gunmen disguised as police showed up at Alba's ranch. When they didn't find him, they lined up 10 of his relatives and friends in front of his sturdy, two-story brick house and mowed them down.

Alba's sons Alejandro and Rusbel were among the dead, and his 18-year-old daughter, Ana Karen, disappeared and is believed kidnapped, although no ransom has been requested. Alba immediately went into hiding.

“Only God and he knows where he is now,” said one of his daughters, who asked her name be withheld for fear the gunmen would come back for her.

She and other relatives gathered late Tuesday before the house's bullet-scarred walls, arranging white flowers and candles in a simple altar to the dead. Then they prayed for the victims and condemned the faceless killers.

On Wednesday, police set up roadblocks as they searched for weapons, but Petatlan police director Horacio Lluck Mendiola said his 30 officers are outmanned and outgunned by criminals.

“The situation has spun beyond our control,” he said. “The federal government needs to take control of this business because of the magnitude of the massacre.”

He said no arrests had been made, adding: “We believe it was a well-organized gang.” However, the motive remains unclear – largely because so many people have reason to want Alba dead.

Alba is a rural strongman who dominates economic and political life in one of Mexico's roughest stretches of countryside.

He was long active in the Ruben Figueroa Landowners Association, which worked with loggers gathering wood in the threatened forests of the coastal mountain range. Human rights groups say much of the logging was illegal.

Logging remains big business: Huge trucks continue to rumble down the coastal highway through Petatlan, groaning under the weight of old-growth fir and pine cut from dwindling forests.

In the 1990s when Alba was tied to the group, activists who tried to stop the loggers were threatened, jailed, shot at and sometimes killed. A group of Mexico City lawyers took up their cause, and the best-known, Digna Ochoa, was shot to death in Mexico City in 2001.

Investigators ruled her death a suicide, but activists believe she was killed and have demanded the investigation be reopened – with Alba as a prime suspect. Mexico City prosecutors will not confirm whether there is an active investigation against Alba in the Ochoa case.

Others speculate the killings could be tied to drugs. Mexico's main drug cartels are fighting over the Guerrero coast, with their gun battles reaching even international resorts like Acapulco. Along the coast, boats laden with cocaine land from Colombia, and in the mountains farmers tend opium poppies and marijuana plantations.

Many farmers in the region are forced to plant, guard or transport drugs for the cartels, and it is hard to conceive that someone of Alba's stature wasn't at least approached by the cartels for help.

The violence could also be related to the leftist rebels who have fought along the Guerrero coast since the 1970s, and landowners' attempts to defeat them.

Human rights groups are pressing the government to investigate mass graves suspected of holding the victims of counterinsurgency campaigns dating back three decades. The biggest group now is the People's Revolutionary Army, which first appeared in the 1990s after a police massacre of peasant activists and now targets oil pipelines.

Peasant groups have recently taken up the cause of the anti-logging activists – bringing them into direct confrontation with groups associated with Alba.

Family members say they have no idea what prompted the attacks. They deny that Alba was involved in anything illicit, pointing out that he served as Petatlan's mayor.

“People say a lot of things. But he is a rancher, that's all,” said the daughter. “There is no explanation for this.”

Meanwhile, Alba remains in hiding – and will likely stay there until he figures out who is gunning for him. Nobody has much confidence that Mexico's police can keep him safe.

“The killers have better weapons than the police,” Alba's daughter said. “Most cops make barely a living wage. They're not going to risk their lives to take the gunmen on.”

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