Mexico: police commander arrested in ecologists' kidnapping

On Dec. 28 the government of the southwestern Mexican state of Guerrero announced the arrest of police commander Cesario Espinoza Palma (or "Cesáreo Espinosa Palma") in connection with the Dec. 7 kidnapping of two campesino environmental activists, Eva Alarcón and Marcial Bautista. Nicknamed "The Goose," Espinoza Palma is the coordinator of the state Ministerial Investigative Police (PIM) for Tecpan de Galeana municipality; his arrest seems to be related to investigators' questioning of 24 Tecpan municipal police and four PIM agents on Dec. 15.

State officials didn't give details on Espinoza Palma's alleged connection to the kidnapping or information on the possible location or condition of the two activists, although official sources indicated a week earlier that they were still alive. Alarcón and Bautista are leaders in the Organization of Ecologist Campesinos of the Sierra de Petatlán and Coyuca de Catalán (OCESP), which has been targeted both by drug traffickers and by the authorities since it was started in 1998 to fight deforestation in the Guerrero highlands. The two activists are also members of the Movement for Peace With Justice and Dignity (MPJD), which was formed in 2011 to oppose President Felipe Calderón Hinojosa's militarized fight against the drug cartels. (Milenio, Mexico, Dec. 29; La Jornada, Mexico, Dec. 29)

The number of homicides from apparent fighting between criminal organizations or from confrontations between the authorities and alleged criminal groups in 2011 had reached 11,890 as of Dec. 30, according to the left-leaning daily La Jornada. This is down 11% from the 2010 total, which was 13,417. Just 10 states accounted for 84% of the killings: Chihuahua, Nuevo León, Sinaloa, Guerrero, Durango, Jalisco, Tamaulipas, Veracruz, Michoacán and México state. The newspaper calculates that the total of these homicides since president Calderón took office in December 2006 is 51,918.

La Jornada's number was based on media reports and information from various government sources. The federal government hasn't given an official total since Jan. 12, 2011, but its number for 2010 was higher than La Jornada's by almost 2,000. (LJ, Dec. 31)