Amid rapidly deteriorating relations between the US and Mexico, reports are emerging that President Donald Trump openly threatened military intervention in a phone call with his counterpart Enrique Peña Nieto. According to a partial transcript of the conversation obtained by the Associated Press, Trump told Peña Nieto: "You have a bunch of bad hombres down there. You aren't doing enough to stop them. I think your military is scared. Our military isn't, so I just might send them down to take care of it." ("Bad hombres" is a term Trump also used in his final debate during the presidential campaign to refer to Mexican narco-gangs.)
The planned meeting in Washington between President Trump and his Mexican counterpart, Enrique Peña Nieto, was called off after Trump signed his Jan. 25 executive order decreeing construction of a wall on the border—accompanied with more bluster about how Mexico will pay for it. Since the cancelation, Trump and Peña Nieto have engaged in an unseemly Twitter war, each taking responsibility for calling off the meeting. Things got worse when the White House raised the option of making Mexico pay for the wall with a 20% tariff on all goods coming in from our southern neighbor. The threat portends a trade war with the United States' third biggest trading partner.
Isidro Baldenegro López, a Tarahumara indigenous activist in northern Mexico's Chihuahua state who fought for the preservation of forest lands, was assassinated last week, in an attack near the home of a family member in the pueblo of Coloradas de la Virgen, Guadalupe y Calvo municipality. Although the Chihuahua state prosecutor has not officially registered a homicide, Baldenegro's relatives confirmed that he had been slain and buried in the village. The assailants have not been identified, but his relatives say they believe the gunmen were part of the same network that has threatened and slain other local residents for defending the pueblo's forest lands and opposing illegal timber felling.
The case of 43 college students from the Mexican village of Ayotzinapa who disappeared in September 2014—and were allegedly murdered by a local narco-gang—continues to elicit outrage. Now, the parents of the missing students held a cross-country mobilization for justice in the case, arriving in Mexico City on Christmas Day. The "Caravan for Memory and Hope" departed from southern Guerrero state five days earlier. On Dec. 26, a special mass was held at the city's historic Basilica de Guadalupe in honor of the missing students, overseen by the Bishop of Saltillo, Raúl Vera, and the Archbishop of Morelia, Carlos Garfias—both well-known for their advocacy for Mexico's poor and oppressed.
Member organizations of Mexico's National Indigenous Congress (CNI), meeting in the Chiapas village of Oventic Jan. 1 for celebration of the 23rd anniversary of the Zapatista rebellion, announced formation of a new Indigenous Government Council (CIG) "to govern the country." The CNI said it had carried out a "consulta" with over 500 indigenous communities across the country, and that a "constituent assembly" will meet in May to formalize the CIG's governance structure. The statement said an indigeous woman will be chosen as candidate for Mexico's 2018 presidential race, but that parallel structures of autonomous self-government would be built simultaneously. The meeting was overseen by Comandante Insurgente David and Subcomandante Moisés of the Zapatista National Liberation Army (EZLN), which has run its own autonomous government in the highlands and rainforest of Chiapas since the 1994 New Year uprising. (Colectivo Pozol, Jan. 1)
Several states across Mexico have been shaken by days of angry protests in response to a jump in the price of gasoline sparked by a new deregulation policy. Protests, road blockades and civil strikes are reported from 12 states since the new policy was instated Jan. 1. Looting was reported in Hidalgo, Veracruz and México states, with over 350 stores sacked. Several federal police agents were briefly taken hostage by protesters when they tried to break up a roadblock in Ixmiquilpan, Hidalgo. Two protesters were killed in the Ixmiquilpan clash, while one Federal District police officer is reported dead in rioting on the outskirts of Mexico City. Police also fired in the air to scatter protesters in Ecatepec, México. Nearly 900 have been detained nationwide. (Sol de Mexico, Jan. 6; Animal Politico, Jan. 5; Apro, Jan. 4)
The ongoing regional war in Mexico's southern Guerrero state between narco gangs and the anti-narco "community police" militia movement resulted in a hostage stand-off that was finally resolved with the mediation of government authorities Dec. 14. The episode is further indication of how the government has lost effective control of the rural areas of the state to the narco gangs and their vigilante enemies.
Rule of law seems to have completely broken down in the southern Mexican state of Guerrero, with the back-country really run by competing murderous narco-gangs. On Nov. 25, a Mixed Operations force of army and state police troops discovered over 30 bodies buried in mass graves in the municipality of Zitlala, in the rugged highlands where hidden canyons produce copious crops of opium and cannabis. The remains—including 32 corpses and nine severed heads—were found in a series of 20 hidden graves. Several men were detained, and cars and weapons seized. Such finds have become alarmingly common in Mexico in recent years, and are dubbed "narco-fosas" (narco-graves).