Mexico Theater

This year's other gay bar massacre —in Mexico

Following the horrific massacre at a gay nightclub in Orlando, Latin American media are noting a similar deadly attack earlier this year that failed to make world headlines—in Xalapa, capital of Mexico's Gulf Coast state of Veracruz. That happened on May 21, when a group of heavily armed men opened fire on patrons at the city's La Madame gay bar, killing seven and wounding 12. As in the far bloodier Orlando attack, an AR-15 rifle was used. Some of the gunmen were also armed with AK-47s. The Veracruz Public Security Secretariat said this was just another massacre in the wars between rival drug cartels that have been convulsing Mexico for a decade now. But, as the Yucatan Times points out, the fact that the shooters seemed to fire randomly into the crowded bar may point to another motive.

Oaxaca: six dead as police fire on striking teachers

Federal police opened fire on striking teachers blocking a road through Mexico's southern Oaxaca state, leaving six dead—a significant escalation in the battle over the government's proposed education reform. Some 50 civilians and a similar number of federal and state police officers were also reported injured in the May 20 clash at Nochixtlán. Striking teachers and their left-wing supporters set vehicles on fire at the roadblock. Followers of the dissident CNTE teacher's union have been blocking roads across Mexico's south to oppose the reform program. The state-owned oil company, Pemex, has warned that it may be forced to close a refinery in the area if the highway linking Oaxaca to Mexico City remains blocked. The clash comes two days after the leader of the Oaxaca section of the CNTE, Rubén Núñez, was ordered imprisoned by federal authorities on corruption charges that are rejected as political by the union. (Animal PoliticoThe Guardian, June 20; El Universal, PubliMetro, June 18)

Pressure on Mexico to free peasant ecologist

An indigenous Mexican ecological defender is now in his seventh month behind bars, despite calls for his relase from Amnesty International, Greenpeace and other human rights and environmental groups. Ildefonso Zamora was arrested by México state police last November, in connection with a 2012 robbery. But Amnesty finds "the charge is unsubstantiated and seems to be politically motivated." A leader of the Tlahuica indigenous people, Zamora served as president of the communal lands committee at his pueblo of San Juan Atzingo. In this capacity, he had long protested illegal logging on usurped communal lands in México state's Gran Bosque de Agua—which protects the watershed that supplies Mexico City. Amnesty notes that the prosecution's witnesses described the events "using the exact same words, as if reading them from a script." The rights group says this points to fabricated testimony, and demands that he be immediately and unconditionally released.

Mexican judge approves Chapo extradition

A federal judge in Mexico ruled May 9 that drug lord Joaquín "Chapo" Guzmán may be extradited to the US—where he faces numerous federal charges of drug trafficking, kidnapping, money laundering and murder in Chicago, Miami and New York. Mexico's Exterior Secretariat has 30 days to decide whethe to approve the extradition, but Guzmán's lawyers say there are multiple appeals pending against extradition, and that to extradite him before these are exhausted would be a violation of his human rights. Mexico's Third District for Penal Processes, which approved the extradition, says that all legal requirements have been met. The identity of the judge in the case remains secret under special rules in place for prosecution of cartel bosses. (Jurist, BBC News)

Chiapas: municipal uprising against PRI 'satellite'

Mayor Rosa Pérez Pérez of Chenalhó, Chiapas, stepped down May 26—after days of violence in the indigenous Maya municipality that even turned deadly. Pérez finally resigned after two state lawmakers from her Mexican Ecologist Green Party (PVEM) were taken captive by opponents at a meeting called to negotiate an end to the dispute at the offices of the Catholic diocese of San Cristóbal de las Casas. The lawmakers were forcibly removed from the premises by masked men who invaded the meeting and drove them to Chenalhó, where they were held to demand Pérez's resignation. By then, some 250 residents of outlying hamlets had fled inter-factional violence and taken refuge in government offices in Chenalhó's municipal center. A 56-year-old man was killed in fighting at the hamlet of Puebla. Violence has continued even after the resignation, with a 14-year-old girl shot in Puebla, where several homes were put to the torch. Opponents charged Pérez with diverting funds for development projects to her personal account, and say she represents the traditional ruling families of Chenalhó, who for the past generation have terrorized opposition with paramilitary groups to maintain power. The PVEM, now the ruling party in Chiapas, is assailed by critics as a "satellite party" of Mexico's ruling machine, the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI).

Chiapas: striking teachers occupy radio stations

Striking teachers on May 28 took over the installations of three radio and TV stations in Tuxtla Gutiérrez, capital of Mexico's Chiapas state, in an ongoing campaign against President Enrique Peña Nieto's proposed education reform. Days earlier, state and federal police violently evicted a protest camp ste up by the teachers in Tuxtla's central plaza. The National Coordinator of Education Workers (CNTE) is demanding that the national government cancel the new education reform. Campesinos from rural Chiapas villages have mobilized local marches in support of the teachers. The pending reform would impose strict teacher evalutions, but critics say it fails to address the critical problem of under-resourced schools in poor areas of the country. The pending reform was crafted with the participation of business-friendly groups such as Mexicanos Primero, led by figures including Televisa president Emilio Azcárraga. (Left Voice, May 29; Uno TV, May 28)

Mexico: probe into missing students blocked

A panel of experts released on April 24 its second and last report (PDF) on its inquiry into the 43 undergraduate students from a teachers college in Ayotzinapa who went missing in Iguala, Guerrero, in 2014, stating that the Mexican government has hampered the investigation. Consisting of Latin American lawyers and human rights activists, the panel of experts appointed by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights found the following: some of the suspects had been tortured by government security forces; the integrity of evidence had been compromised in the case; new evidence showed a greater role by federal security forces in the 2014 events; a lack of investigation into high-level officials; a lack of investigation into phone records from that night; and "sclerotic bureaucracy" throughout the justice system. The experts brought together the events leading up to the disappearances of the students through witness testimony and ballistic tests; they concluded that "the join action [of the attackers and officials] shows a coordinated modus operandi..." 

HRW: Mexico returning children to violence

Mexican immigration authorities are returning children that might qualify for formal protection from violence in Central America, Human Rights Watch (HRW)  said April 1 in a report. The report states that by law "Mexico offers protection to refugees as well as to others who would face risks to their lives or safety if returned to their countries of origin," but that less than "1 percent of children who are apprehended by Mexican immigration authorities" are recognized as refugees or offered other formal protection. In addition, HRW found that children are not guaranteed legal or any other assistance and those who are face prolonged detention in either closed facilities or "prison-like" settings. HRW stated that part of the reason Mexican authorities are apprehending more migrant children today is that the US has provided increased financial support to Mexico for immigration enforcement since mid-2014.

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