Monday, September 28, 2009

FEAR & LOATHING SOUTH OF THE BORDER: PARANOIA GOES PANDEMIC IN JITTERY MEXICO

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.

Angela


>FROM: JOHN ROSS
> 011-5255-55181213 X 102
> johnross@igc.org
> Blindman's Buff #258
>
>FEAR & LOATHING SOUTH OF THE BORDER: PARANOIA GOES PANDEMIC IN JITTERY MEXICO
>
>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
>celebrants.
>
>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
>bureaucracy.
>
>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
>troops.
>
>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
>collared.
>
>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.
>
>FIN
>
>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
>contact johnross@igc.org

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