Iran hangs three in Baluchistan mosque blast

Three men were hanged for their supposed involvement in a May 28 bomb attack that killed 25 and injured over 100 at a mosque in Iran’s eastern city of Zahedan, Baluchistan province.

Issue #158, June 2009

Electronic Journal & Daily Report THE “COLOMBIANIZATION” OF CHIHUAHUA Bogotá Trains Anti-Narco Forces on Mexican Border from Frontera NorteSur KIDNAP, NO RANSOM Drug Cartel Slave Labor in Northern Mexico? by Peter Gorman, Fort Worth Weekly MEXICO’S RESURGENT GUERILLAS Washington’s Drug… Read moreIssue #158, June 2009


A Perfect Storm in Mexico

by Todd Miller, NACLA News

The 40-day blockade of the Trinidad mine in the Oaxacan community of San José del Progreso came to a sudden and violent halt on May 6. Mine representatives and municipal authorities called in a 700-strong police force that stormed into the community in anti-riot gear along with an arsenal of tear gas, dogs, assault rifles, and a helicopter.

The overwhelming show of force was in response to community residents’ demand that the Canadian company Fortuna Silver Mines immediately pack its bags and leave. The company is in the exploration phase of developing the Trinidad mine. The result was a brutal attack, with over 20 arrests and illegal searches of homes. Police seemed to be going after a heavily armed drug cartel, not a community protest.

This is one of the drug war’s dirty secrets: As Mexican security budgets inflate with US aid—to combat the rising power of drug trafficking and organized crime—rights groups say these funds are increasingly being used to protect the interests of multinational corporations. According to a national network of human rights organizations known as the Red TDT, security forces are engaged in the systematic repression of activists opposed to megaprojects financed by foreign firms such as Fortuna Silver Mines.

In Oaxaca and throughout southern Mexico these types of conflicts seem destined to increase. Defying the logic of the international financial crisis, Mexico remains the top destination in Latin America for foreign direct investment, particularly in extractive industries. In the last three years alone, multinational companies have received over 80 federal mining concessions in just Oaxaca, covering 1.5 million acres of land. Mining is only the tip of the iceberg: Other megaprojects include hydroelectric dam construction, tourism and infrastructure, energy generation projects, water privatization, and oil exploration.

In response to the influx of capital-intensive projects, Marcos Leyva, director of Services for an Alternative Education, a community group, says, “We saw it coming, but we didn’t realize the utter force with which it was coming at us.”

The warning signs were there. The North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) gave foreign investment free range in the country. NAFTA even forced changes to the constitution so that communal lands could be broken up and sold piecemeal—in a word, privatized. In 2000, Plan Puebla Panamá was unveiled; the Plan sought to link southern Mexico with Central America through a series of networked megaprojects. But a strong wave of community resistance pushed the plan into the corner. Many say the plan is back, moving ahead with all cylinders, under a new name: Plan Mesoamerica.

In April, dozens of grassroots groups came together in Oaxaca to discuss these developments at a forum titled, “Weaving Resistance in Defense of Our Territories.” The forum’s declaration, signed by participating communities and organizations, denounced, “A privatization of our territories and natural resources is clearly being pushed forward, and the majority of this is located in rural and indigenous communities.”

At the meeting, representatives of rural and indigenous communities all share similar experiences to those of their counterparts in San JosĂ© del Progreso. The common denominator is the everyday struggle of life in Oaxaca where endemic and structural poverty has left 76 percent of the state’s population in desperation. Those affected by the mine described it as a “virus” that was gnawing away at their land, leaving it infertile and taking away their only sources of livelihood—agriculture and cattle.

Residents also complained the mine would pose a health hazard through the poisoning of their clean water sources with chemicals such as cyanide and arsenic, which are used to extract precious metals from the ore. The mine would also drain scarce water sources. “A mine will use more water in one hour than an entire family uses in one year,” says Raymundo Sandoval from the Project for Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights, a Mexico City-based organization.

“It is not right that foreigners come here and steal our natural wealth,” complains community resident Dominga RodrĂ­guez. And this wealth could be significant. Though the project is still in its exploration phase, Fortuna Silver Mines expects the mine to yield 50 million ounces of silver worth about $700 million.

The community says neither the government nor the company consulted it about the mine—that’s pretty much par for the course for these kind of projects. In March, municipal authorities ignored complaints from residents about dynamite blasts damaging their homes and cattle dying after drinking contaminated water. RodrĂ­guez believes the municipal officials had already “sold out to the mine company.”

After the community took over the mine in March, the army set up camp a mere 100 meters from its entrance. Though the soldiers said they were there to remove explosives from the mine, the foreboding message was clear: When it comes to the $35 million that the company has invested in the project so far, there is little room for dialogue.

The events of May 6 confirmed the army’s implicit threat. Agripina Vásquez, one of the people arrested in the massive police raid, told the Oaxacan daily Noticias: “What we wanted was dialogue, but they didn’t give us the opportunity. The police simply surrounded and arrested us.” The magnitude and brutality of the police raid was an eerie reminder for locals of Oaxaca’s months-long social conflict in 2006; the uprising was met with brute force by police. The government’s response was a human rights disaster by any measure and has yet to be resolved.

In recent visits to Mexico, high-level US officials, including President Barack Obama, have failed to acknowledge the country’s deteriorating human rights situation. Washington has moved ahead with its $700 million military and police aid package—with another $470 million in the pipeline—for Mexico known as the MĂ©rida Initiative. As security forces use this aid to fight the drug cartels, it is at least indirectly supporting repressive police operations such as the one seen in San JosĂ© del Progreso that are literally shielding private companies from legitimate community grievances.

In an unguarded moment, Thomas Shannon, the Bush administration’s top diplomat for the Western Hemisphere, admitted last year that Washington was in the process of “armoring NAFTA.” Although Shannon was just replaced by the Obama administration, it does not look like the Democratic president is inclined to rollback this “armoring” of the trade agreement.


This story first appeared May 19 on NACLA News.



See also:

The New Struggle for Central America
by Bill Weinberg, World War 4 Report
World War 4 Report, May 2007

by Mandeep Dhillon, Upside Down World
World War 4 Report, May 2007

From our Daily Report:

Mexico: peasant ecologist arrested in Chihuahua
World War 4 Report, May 27, 2009

Mexico: indigenous protests in Oaxaca
World War 4 Report, March 24, 2009


Reprinted by World War 4 Report, June 1, 2009
Reprinting permissible with attribution



Washington’s Drug War and the Ghosts of 1910

from Frontera NorteSur

A new twist with unpredictable political consequences has emerged amid the shifting battle fronts of Mexico’s narco war. Sometime the weekend of May 9-10 and somewhere in the mountains of southern Guerrero state, a group of at least 20 armed men presenting themselves as a column of the Revolutionary Army of the Insurgent People (ERPI) appeared before Mexican reporters.

Uniformed and armed with AK-47 rifles, the group was led by Comandante Ramiro, or Omar Guerrero Solis, one of the most wanted men in Mexico and an almost folkloric figure who escaped from a prison outside Acapulco more than six years ago and wasn’t publicly seen again until the weekend’s secret press conference.

In comments to reporters, Comandante Ramiro accused the Felipe CalderĂłn administration of not only staging the fight against drug trafficking, but of also protecting the interests of alleged drug lord Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzmán. The masked guerrilla commander charged Guerrero Governor Zeferino Torreblanca, who was elected with the backing of the center-left Party of the Democratic Revolution (PRD) and social sectors sympathetic with the guerrilla movement, with also protecting Chapo Guzmán and an alleged associate, Rogaciano Alba.

A former head of the Guerrero Regional Cattlemen’s Association, Alba also served as the mayor of the Guerrero town of Petatlan for the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI). Gunmen associated with Alba are responsible for about 60 murders in the conflictive Tierra Caliente and Costa Grande regions of Guerrero, Comandante Ramiro said.

“The strategy of combating the narco is phony,” Comandante Ramiro charged. “Here in Guerrero, for example, the narcos participate in meetings that the army and state government hold to strike at one cartel and protect another, but essentially they are the same, because they murder, kidnap and torture,” he asserted. “Here the cartel of Chapo Guzmán is serving the army, and vice-versa..”

The fugitive rebel leader likewise accused Erit MontĂşfar, director of the Guerrero state ministerial police, of involvement in criminal activities in the Tierra Caliente region of the state.

Comandante Ramiro said narco-fueled violence was inspiring young people to join the ERPI’s ranks, which had successfully expelled Alba’s men from some mountain zones. The ERPI, he said, is engaged in active armed self-defense, “striking” and “dismantling” paramilitary groups connected to Alba and the state government.

The guerrilla leader said his troops try to avoid confrontations with Mexican soldiers, whom he called “sons of the people” welcome to join the revolutionary movement.

The ERPI first emerged in 1998 as a splinter faction of the leftist Popular Democratic Revolutionary Party/Popular Revolutionary Army (PDPR-EPR). Two top ERPI leaders, Jacobo Silva and Gloria Arenas, were captured by the Mexican army in 1999, but the guerrilla group survived and reorganized.

The EPR, as well as other spin-offs, remains active. As the 15th anniversary of the founding of the organization’s armed wing neared this month, the PDPR-EPR issued a new communique.

In its message, the underground organization addressed the recent flu epidemic, deficiencies in the Mexican healthcare system, human rights, political scandals, labor movements, the suffering of the mothers of Ciudad Juarez femicide victims, and more.

The group also said its members were reviewing the next step to take in its campaign to force a clarification of the fate of two high-ranking leaders, Edmundo Reyes Amaya and Gabriel Alberto Cruz Sánchez, who were allegedly disappeared by the Mexican government in May 2007.

Subsequently, the EPR waged a sabotage campaign against gas pipelines to force the appearance of its two leaders. The guerrillas later declared a truce, and a mediation commission was established between the EPR and CalderĂłn administration. The commission, however, recently broke down, with no word on the fates of Cruz and Amaya.

Now 33 years old, the ERPI’s Comandante Ramiro told Mexican media he first joined the Poor People’s Party, a predecessor group of the PDPR-EPR which was founded by the late legendary rebel leader Lucio Cabañas in the late 1960s, when he was fourteen years of age.

According to Comandante Ramiro, the ERPI is organized like Cabañas’ old Campesino Justice Brigade, with units going up and down in size. Claiming his organization enjoys broad popular support in the Guerrero countryside, Comandante Ramiro said he spent the last four years year in the mountains, adding with a half-smile, “without a vacation.” Addressing reporters, he personally challenged President CalderĂłn and Defense Secretary Guillermo Galván to come fight against him if they had a beef and stop sending “innocents” to die.

Replies to Comandante Ramiro
Reaction to the rebel leader’s bravado was slow in coming from CalderĂłn administration officials and Governor Torreblanca, but other state officials and well-known political figures in Guerrero had quick words of response.

Dismissing Comandante Ramiro’s allegations, State Ministerial Police Director Montufar contended the fugitive was using the name of the ERPI to cover for crimes including cattle rustling, robbery and rape.

“How is it possible that someone who escaped from the Acapulco penitentiary, a delinquent of that level, assumes the mantle of defender of social causes?” MontĂşfar responded.

Armando ChavarrĂ­a, coordinator of the PRD group in the Guerrero State Congress and a former state interior minister under Torreblanca, urged the governor to initiate a dialogue with the ERPI.

“Personally, I don’t justify the armed struggle,” Chavarria said, “but I understand it.” The veteran politician said the ERPI’s public reemergence, arising from a grinding poverty trapping hundreds of thousands of people in the state, “makes the situation graver in Guerrero.”

After news of the EPRI’s reappearance hit the press, residents reported stepped-up Mexican military movements, especially in the Tierra Caliente.

While Mexican guerrillas engaged the media this past week, presumed narcos mounted their own publicity campaign by hanging more so-called “narco-banners” in Guerrero, Morelos, Tabasco, Sinaloa, and Chihuahua. Directed at President Felipe CalderĂłn, Federal Public Safety Secretary
Genaro GarcĂ­a Luna and other top law enforcement officials, the latest messages were strikingly frank, with the banner signers acknowledging they were not members of a Boy Scout troop but nevertheless protesting alleged CalderĂłn administration retaliations against family members of accused narcos. According the anonymous authors, the global code of conduct mandates that the family “should be respected.”

A New Game for Washington?
Locally, the EPRI column led by Comandante Ramiro adds another explosive element to a multi-faceted conflict underway in Guerrero involving several rival drug cartels, the Mexican armed forces and different police agencies, which often back different crime groups and battle one another. Last month, a fierce battle in the mountains between the army and suspected gunmen from the Beltran-Leyva cartel left at least 15 gunmen and one soldier dead. Along with large-caliber weapons and grenades, 13 suspects were seized by the army.

Politically, the persistence and even growth of the ERPI further signals the collapse of the broad-based political movement spearheaded by Zeferino Torreblanca that swept into power in early 2005 based on promises of change and end to decades of corruption and misrule by the PRI party.

The ERPI’s ability to attract young recruits shows how the guerrilla in Guerrero, like the narco, has become part of the trans-generational landscape. Comandante Ramiro’s column represents at least the third generation of Mexicans to take up arms since the late 1960s.

The existence of a guerrilla group in the heart of the narco conflict zone has national and international ramifications, especially at a time when the Democratic Party-controlled US Congress is considering a $470 million security funding request for the Mexican government, including money for more helicopters, advanced technology and training for the Mexican armed forces. The modern military equipment could used to fight guerrillas as well as narcos.

On May 7, the House Appropriations Committee approved the military assistance package and sent it on for further action. In an action bearing perhaps more than just passing political symbolism, the Mexico aid was approved as part of a larger security outlay for Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan. Now, even as the new Obama administration retunes its military strategy in Central Asia, Washington could be poised to become more deeply involved in a Mexican civil conflict that has centuries of deep political, social and historical roots.

On the eve of the House committee vote, scores of prominent Mexican human rights organizations wrote the US Congress opposing new military aid. The signatories of a May 6 letter noted that allegations of human rights abuses against Mexican soldiers mainly deployed in anti-drug operations soared 600% from 2006 to 2008, reaching 1,230 cases filed with the official National Human Rights Commission last year. In both Guerrero and neighboring Michoacán, complaints against soldiers are on the upswing in 2009.

Juan AlarcĂłn, longtime president of the official Guerrero State Human Rights Commission, said his agency saw an unprecedented 85 complaints against soldiers from last December to the first three weeks of April. The majority of accusations, encompassing alleged violations of search and seizure, arrest and other laws, “have nothing to do with drug trafficking or organized crime,” AlarcĂłn insisted.

Ghosts of 1910
In some respects, the situation in Guerrero and other parts of the Mexican countryside, both south and north, resembles the era before the 1910 Mexican Revolution when armed bands, heavy-handed government forces and insurgent political forces all rose to the occasion. Then, as now, foreign companies commanded key sectors of the economy.

Ironically, the huge copper mine in Cananea, Sonora, which witnessed one of the historic, runner-up battles to the 1910 revolt, has been the scene of a mounting conflict during the last two years between the mineworkers union led by exiled leader Napoleon GĂłmez on one side and the CalderĂłn administration and owners Grupo Mexico on the other. Internationally, GĂłmez’s group has received important backing from the United Steel Workers and other labor organizations.

The Cananea strike almost erupted into a bloody showdown just as US President Barack Obama was preparing to visit Mexico last month. Attempting to break the strike, Grupo Mexico announced the firing of more than 1,000 workers. Hundreds of federal police then began saturating the area around the mine defended by miners and a women’s defense force.

In solidarity with the Sonora strikers, mine and metal industry workers blockaded shipments of containers scheduled for export from the Pacific Coast port of Lazaro Cardenas, Michoacan, near the border with Guerrero.

Back in Sonora, miners took over a highway toll booth. At one demonstration, the Cananea strikers cried out: “If there is no solution, there will be revolution!”

As the Cananea strike approached its second anniversary, Sonora Governor Eduardo Bours appealed on the federal government to find a solution amicable to all parties.


This story first appeared May 14 on Frontera NorteSur.

See also:

Low-Intensity War in Michoacán and Guerrero
from Frontera NorteSur
World War 4 Report, March 2009

From our Daily Report:

Mexican miners take action to protest mass firing at Cananea
World War 4 Report, April 30, 2009

Mexico: feds probe “forced disappearance” of leftist militants
World War 4 Report, Aug. 17, 2008

Mexico: guerilla convicts’ sentences reduced
World War 4 Report, March 10, 2008


Reprinted by World War 4 Report, June 1, 2009
Reprinting permissible with attribution



by Peter Gorman, Fort Worth Weekly

The drug war raging along the US-Mexico border might seem distant to many in North Texas, but it landed squarely in one Fort Worth woman’s living room in late February, when her grown son, a US citizen, was kidnapped by armed gunman in the central Mexican state of Zacatecas.

Two months later, she still has not heard a word from the kidnappers regarding a ransom and believes that her 19-year-old son and two other relatives may have been taken to serve as slave labor in some drug boss’ operation. It’s a better outcome to imagine than believing her son has been killed.

Unfortunately, she’s not alone in her worries: A recent US State Department travel alert notes that “In recent years, dozens of U.S. citizens have been kidnapped in Mexico,” in crimes believed to be the work of drug gangs. Some have been heard from, and others haven’t. The travel alert noted that many of the cases remain unresolved. In fact, such kidnappings by drug gangs are epidemic in Mexico. Sylvia, who is being identified only by her first name, said other members of her own family in Mexico have already disappeared in similar incidents.

Names are withheld to protect Sylvia and her son from retaliation. Rather than give either of her son’s names, he is referred to in this story as Julio.

“In my heart I don’t believe my son is dead,” Sylvia said. “I believe he is being forced to work for the cartels. Those who are not dead must work to earn their food, and as no one has asked the family there or sent word to me for a ransom, that’s what I’m praying has happened.”

Julio, she said, was visiting relatives in the small village of Sombrerete when a caravan of late-model vehicles roared up to the ranch house. The armed men who emerged ordered everyone inside to get in the cars. In addition to Julio, two of his male cousins, ages 15 and 21, three women from the family, and one infant were taken.

The kidnappers are believed to be members of the Zetas, the US-trained Mexican drug war soldiers who years ago changed their allegiance, became notoriously violent enforcers for the Gulf Cartel, and now in some areas are believed to have broken off and formed their own cartel.

“The Zetas just move into the town, and they take whatever they want,” said Sylvia. “They just tell people to move out if they want a house or tell farmers to give them a cow if they want one. And no one will stand up to them, because if they do the men will come and kill them. It’s very bad there now.”

An official in an investigative agency of the Zacatecas government, who would not give his name, said that, until about a year ago, Sombrerete was out of the range of the drug war. But with Mexico’s push to clamp down on the cartels, the town, like many others in rural Mexico, was essentially invaded by young gang members looking for a place where the military and other gangs wouldn’t search for them. “The disruption caused by the drug war is causing all sorts of movement through the country,” said the official. “We’re seeing cartel members cropping up in places we never have before.”

The description of the kidnapping came from one of the women who were abducted. After driving through the hillsides for more than two hours, she said, she, the other women, and the baby were released. The woman told Sylvia that she counted 15 cars in the caravan. She said the men were dressed in military-looking uniforms and carrying automatic weapons.

It’s not the first time the Zetas have preyed on her family, Sylvia said. “Last summer the father of the family [in Sombrerete] was kidnapped, and his oldest son brought a ransom. Neither of them has been seen since. And now they’ve taken that family’s two other sons and my son as well. I don’t know how the word does not get out about what’s happening in Zacatecas, but maybe it’s because the people who write the news are afraid to report about it because they’ll be killed if they do.”

Sylvia said she begged Julio not to visit his cousins. “After he graduated high school last year in Oakland, California, I decided we should move here to Fort Worth. It’s just three of us: Julio, his eight-year-old brother, and me. And Julio found work building houses and saved money. But when they stopped building houses here, he got restless and wanted to go. I told him not to, that it wasn’t safe.”

She said Julio promised her that nothing would happen to him because he doesn’t do the things that would get him in trouble. “He doesn’t fight or even drink beer,” she said. “I told him if he had to go, then to make it a short visit. But then he found a girlfriend and decided to stay a little longer, and then this happened.”

After learning of her son’s abduction, Sylvia got in touch with a community activist on Fort Worth’s East Side. Together they contacted authorities in Mexico to report what had happened. Mexico responded by sending the equivalent of an assistant district attorney to Fort Worth to talk with them.

“The woman who came was very nice, but I don’t think she’ll do anything,” said the activist, who also asked not to be named. “The situation is so bad in some places that the government really can’t do anything.”

Andy Laney, a spokesman for the State Department, said his agency has known about the incident since shortly after it happened. “I am told that the FBI office in Dallas has been involved in the case, and the FBI takes the lead on cases involving kidnapping of American citizens in Mexico,” he said. But the Washington, DC-based official said he had no knowledge of what had happened to the young men in Sombrerete.

Typically, kidnappings are followed by ransom demands, often after the abductees have been tortured into telling their kidnappers about relatives in the United States who might be able to raise ransom money.

In other cases, however, no ransom demand is ever delivered, either because the victims have been killed or because they are being forced to work for the drug lords. The forced-labor movement is well known in Mexico but has not received much coverage in this country.

One kidnapping that did make the US news occurred on Nov. 10, 2008, when 27 farm workers were abducted in Sinaloa state just outside the capital of Culiacán. According to a New York Times report, the men were thought to have been taken to work under duress on marijuana plantations.

The anonymous Zacatecan investigative official acknowledged that forced labor is becoming more common throughout certain areas of Mexico. But he added, “We have had no confirmed cases of it happening here in Zacatecas.”

Author and freelance investigative journalist Bill Weinberg, whose specialty is Latin America, said that while it’s often difficult to prove, “There is strong reason to believe” that some people are being kidnapped to work in marijuana or opium fields. Others are used to move drugs for the cartels or as inductees into groups like the Zetas and others, he said.

“There is a history of forced labor in Mexico since colonial times,” he said. “Recently, where drugs are concerned, it’s mostly gone on in remote areas where the indigenous are held in semi-feudalism to the local bosses. But now, with Mexico spinning out of control and with drug-war kidnapping at epic proportions all over the country, it simply stands to reason that this is happening.”

A spokesperson for the FBI in Washington DC said that the kidnapping of US citizens in Mexico, particularly along the border, is a frequent problem, but she could not confirm any cases of US citizens kidnapped into forced labor in Mexico. She confirmed that the agency is investigating dozens of kidnap-for-ransom cases but said she had no statistics to show how many other cases might involve family squabbles or child custody, for instance, versus drug cartel activity.

“We cannot be under the illusion that the war in Mexico is not crossing the border,” said the Fort Worth activist who is helping Sylvia. “It is affecting the United States. This is just one case, but there are hundreds more around the country.”


This story first appeared April 29 in the Fort Worth Weekly.

From our Daily Report:

Mexico: shake-up in wake of Zacatecas jailbreak
World War 4 Report, May 23, 2009

Mexico: gunmen kill reporter, kidnap farmworkers
World War 4 Report, Nov. 15, 2008

Marcos: forced labor camps in Sonora
World War 4 Report, Oct. 26, 2006


Reprinted by World War 4 Report, June 1, 2009
Reprinting permissible with attribution

Continue ReadingKIDNAP, NO RANSOM 


from Frontera NorteSur

A high-ranking delegation of political, business and legal leaders from Ciudad Juárez and the state of Chihuahua returned to Mexico late last month after completing a May 21 trip to Colombia. The visit netted commitments by the Colombian government to train Chihuahua police and help implement new social welfare programs.

The accords cover Colombian training of a planned Chihuahua state police group of 50 rapid response, anti-kidnapping personnel, assistance in improving police investigative and surveillance techniques and help in establishing four social welfare programs in Ciudad Juárez modeled after similar ones developed in Medellín, Colombia. Colombian trainers for the new Chihuahua anti-kidnapping squad could be in Ciudad Juárez as early as next month.

“It will be a very interesting experience to talk with President Alvaro Uribe to find out his experiences over the course of the years,” said Chihuahua Governor JosĂ© Reyes Baeza in the run-up to the trip.

A major Colombian product—cocaine—has played a tremendous role in shaping the history of Ciudad Juárez and Chihuahua during the last 30 years.

Led by Reyes Baeza, the 31-person Mexican delegation included State Attorney General Patricia González, federal Congressman Octavio Fuentes, Autonomous University of Ciudad Juárez rector Jorge Quintana Silveyra, state lawmaker and Mexican Green Party (PVEM) regional leader Maria Avila Serna, businessman Luis Carlos Baeza, Ciudad Juárez Chamber of Commerce president Daniel Murguia Lardizabal, and the mayors of Ciudad Juárez and Chihuahua City, among numerous others. The invited list read almost like a Who’s Who of Chihuahua society and politics.

Oddly enough, Antonia González Acosta, the coordinator for the state anti-kidnapping unit in Ciudad Juárez, allegedly shot herself to death on the eve of the state delegation’s visit to Colombia. González was reportedly pregnant.

In Colombia, the Mexican visitors met with President Alvaro Uribe, National Police Chief Oscar Naranjo Trujillo, Interior Minister Fabio Valencia, and Attorney General Mario Iguaran. The Chihuahua delegation also met with judges and prosecutors to discuss Colombia’s experience with oral trials, a new legal model that is now in place in Chihuahua.

According to Ciudad Juárez Mayor Jose Reyes Ferriz, Medellín-style social programs will be launched in his city with the twin goal of reducing delinquency and creating social opportunities.

“We are going to apply the programs the Colombians have in Ciudad Juárez,” Reyes said, “since the conditions in the city of MedellĂ­n are similar to this border.”

Split among the municipal, state and federal governments, the programs will cost about $4.5 million, Reyes said, but did not immediately offer other details. The border mayor said he invited his counterpart from Medellin to visit Ciudad Juárez.

Coming at a time of economic depression and an immediate budget deficit ofnearly $7 million for Ciudad Juárez alone, the costs of the Colombia trip were questioned by local reporters and some members of the public.

Writing for the Lapolaka news website, Eduardo SalmerĂłn warned of corruption tainting the new training program.

“It scares me to think they continue importing models that correspond to other realities and try to implement them in our contexts,” SalmerĂłn wrote. “What guarantee are we going to have that this group won’t contaminate a structure which is full of vice?”

Earlier taking exception to the cost issue, Governor Reyes Baeza said the expenses, which were paid by trip participants or their employers, will reap many benefits in greater security. The Colombians, he said, are offering their services for “practically free,” with the Mexicans expected to pay nominal transportation and lodging costs. According to the Chihuahua governor, local members of the new anti-kidnapping group will be carefully selected.

An important issue not raised by the Chihuahua press was the relationship between human rights and security training. The Colombian government’s human rights record has been repeatedly criticized by international rights organizations like Amnesty International.

The Chihuahua-Colombia agreements fit in with a growing synchronicity between the conservative CalderĂłn and Uribe administrations on important economic, political and security issues in a hemisphere that is titling to the left. Together with the Peruvian government of Alan GarcĂ­a, the CalderĂłn and Uribe administrations are vocal defenders of a free trade model that has fallen into disrepute in much of Latin America.

On a geo-political scale, the Chihuahua-Colombia accords complement the anti-drug, US-Mexico MĂ©rida Initiative that will provide hundreds of millions of US dollars in security and military aid to the Calderon administration

Politically, the Mexico City-Bogotá connection was evident last month when the Mexican government expelled a Colombian sociologist, Miguel Angel Beltran, who was accused by Bogotá of being an important member of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC)

The growing Mexico-Colombia cooperation is viewed with suspicion by the Mexican left. Among the sore points is the Colombian army’s sneak attack on a FARC encampment in Ecuador last year that killed guerrilla leader Raul Reyes and 24 others, including four young Mexican visitors who were ostensibly researching the FARC for academic purposes.

A fifth Mexican national, National Autonomous University of Mexico student Lucia Moret, survived the attack and was given temporary asylum in Nicaragua before returning to Mexico. Moret currently faces prosecution in an Ecuadoran court for infringing on the country’s national security.

The March 2008 attack on the FARC encampment led Ecuador and Venezuela to break diplomatic relations with Colombia, and even threatened to erupt into a regional war.

The Chihuahua-Colombia alliance unfolds amid a rise in kidnappings in Ciudad Juárez and other parts of Chihuahua. Kidnappings have sparked multiple political crises for the state government in recent weeks. Earlier last month, hundreds of members of the Mormon and Mennonite communities of northwestern Chihuahua camped out for days in front of the Governor’s office in Chihuahua City to protest the kidnapping-for-ransom of 16-year-old Eric LeBaron, who was later freed unharmed.

On May 19, hundreds of residents of AscensiĂłn, an agricultural municipality located south of the New Mexico border, occupied the town hall to demand the deployment of the army and other actions directed against kidnappers and violent criminals.

“There are not three or five or 20 kidnappings,” said Alfredo Frias Reyes, municipal government secretary. “We are more than 20,000 people who have been sequestered and we cannot continue like this.”

As in Ciudad Juárez, shop owners in Ascensión are putting up their businesses for sale or trying to rent out storefronts. Residents are reportedly fleeing to the United States and other parts of Chihuahua. Following the Ascensión protest, the Mexican army and Chihuahua state police increased patrols in the zone.


This story first appeared May 27 on Frontera NorteSur.

RESOURCES—Periodismo en Caliente!

From our Daily Report:

Mexico: more army troops to Juárez in wake of prison massacre
World War 4 Report, March 7, 2009

Mexico: bomb threats shut Ciudad Juárez airport
World War 4 Report, Feb. 26, 2009

Colombian “farcpolĂ­tica” scandal hits Nicaragua
World War 4 Report, May 23, 2008


Reprinted by World War 4 Report, June 1, 2009
Reprinting permissible with attribution