Wave of barroom balaceras across Mexico

Seven were killed March 29 when a masked gunman in a bullet-proof vest and black uniform opened fire with an AK-47 in a bar in in the commercial center of Chihuahua City in northern Mexico. Three of the dead were women who worked at the bar, called Mogavi. The city has seen a wave of violence as the Juárez Cartel and Sinaloa Cartel battle for control of the strategic corridor leading to the border town of Ciudad Juárez, immediately up the highway to the north. In a similar incident that night, gunmen opened fire in a bar in Ciudad Altamirano, Guerrero state, killing four civilians and three off-duty federal agents. The previous night, an armed commando raided a nightclub called La Habana in Oaxaca City, in Mexico's south, menacing staff and patrons with AK-47s, shooting up the bar's facade, and abducting one man identified only by his nickname, "El Chiquilín."

Mexico: "community police" seize conflicted town

Following the slaying March 25 of a "Community Police" commander in Tierra Colorada, on the Acapulco-Mexico City highway in Guerrero state, members of the popular militia (usually refered to as "vigilantes" in English-language accounts) set up roadblocks on the town's main arteries, occupied public buildings, and detained 12 of the municipality's "official" police as well as the public security director. The town's mayor, Elizabeth Gutiérrez Paz, was also briefly detained with her bodyguards. The others are still being held to demand justice in the slaying, which the Community Police say was carried out with the complicity of official authorities. The bullet-ridden body of Guadalupe Quinones Carbajal, 28, was found in a nearby town. Guerrero's Prosecutor General Martha Elba Garzón has been dispatched to Tierra Colorada, which is the seat of Juan R. Escudero municipality, to negotiate with the Guerrero Union of Pueblos and Organizations (UPOEG), which coordinates Community Police forces in the state. (Global News Desk, Christian Post, March 28; La Jornada Guerrero, March 27; Sipse, Grupo Fórmula, Reforma, March 26)

Mexico: campesinos bear arms against narcos

Hundreds of campesinos in municipalities of Mexico's southern Guerrero state, including Ayutla de los Libres, Tecoanapa, Florencio Villarreal, Cuautepec and San Marcos, have taken up arms to defend themselves from a drug-trafficking gang that has been terrorizing residents and demanding protection payments. Armed with pistols and shotguns, the "Community Police" self-defense patrols have been setting up checkpoints at the entrances to their villages, and in one case secured the release of a Tecoanapa resident who had been kidnapped. A total of some 40 suspected narco-gunmen have been detained by the self-defense patrols, and await trial by community assemblies. Residents claim legitimacy for the system of justice under the principle of "uses and customs," by which traditional self-government of indigenous territories is permitted in Mexico's constitution.

Mexico: peasant ecologist killed in Guerrero

Juventina Villa Mojica, an environmental activist in the village of Coyuca de Catalán, in Mexico's southern state of Guerrero, was murdered along with her 10-year-old son on Nov. 28, in a mountaintop attack by up to 30 gunmen. Villa had ridden in an all-terrain vehicle with her two children up a mountain to get a cellphone signal, as there are no telephones in the village.  Her seven-year-old daughter survived unharmed. State prosecutors report that the ambush took place despite the presence of 10 state police officers who had been assigned to protect her following death threats on Villa and deadly attacks on her family members. Manuel Olivares Hernández, director of the local Centro Morelos human rights group said Villa was targeted by narco gangs for her efforts to protect the forest. "It's a virgin area with rich forest areas, and the main interest of drug traffickers is cutting down the trees so that once it is deforested they can expand their drug fields," Olivares said.

Mexico: more mass graves in Chihuahua, Guerrero

A total of 19 bodies have been found in clandestine graves in northern Mexico's Chihuahua state, officials from the state prosecutor's office said Nov. 26. The first 11 were discovered in what was described as a deserted area of La Colorada ranch, in the community of Ejido Jesús Carranza, 40 kilometers southeast of Ciudad Juárez near the Texas border. The bodies were said to be two years old. The victims were asphyxiated, shot or beaten, their ages ranged from 18 to 40 years old, and they included US citizens. Information leading to the discovery came from the US consulate in Ciudad Juárez, Chihuahua authorities said. That same day, eight more bodies were unearthed near Rosales, in Chihuahua's interior. These bodies were just two days old, and bore signs of torture. Some had been burned, beaten and had eyes carved out before being shot in the head. Four more bodies were found along the highway near the mountain outpost of Creel.

Mexico: torture and disappearances on the rise

Complaints about abuses by Mexican police and soldiers have increased dramatically over the past seven years, according to testimony by Raúl Plascencia Villanueva, the president of the government's National Human Rights Commission (CNDH), to the Mexican Senate's Human Rights Commission on Nov. 21. Plascencia was reporting principally on the period from Jan. 1, 2005 to July 31, 2012, which overlaps the administration of President Felipe Calderón Hinojosa and his militarization of the "war on drugs." Calderón took office on Dec. 1, 2006; he will be succeeded this Dec. 1 by Enrique Peña Nieto.

Mexico: pressure mounts for drug legalization

A study released late last month by the Mexican Institute for Competitiveness, an elite think-tank based in Mexico City, asserted that proposals to legalize cannabis in Colorado, Washington and Oregon could cut Mexican drug cartels' earnings from traffic to the US by as much as 30%. The study, entitled "If Our Neighbors Legalize," drawing on previous research by the RAND Corporation, predicts that legalization in any US state would help drive down the price of high-quality domestic cannabis, undercutting the cheaper and less potent cartel imports. It calculated a loss of $1.425 billion to the cartels if Colorado legalized, $1.372 billion if Washington legalized, and $1.839 billion if Oregon voted yes. (AP, Nov. 1) In the Nov. 6 vote, initiatives calling for legalization of cannabis under regimes of state control were approved by voters in Colorado and Washington, but rejected in Oregon.

Mexico: victory for campesino struggle against La Parota dam

After nearly 10 years of struggle, Mexican campesinos fighting to protect their lands from the planned La Parota hydro-dam on the Río Papagayo won a definitive victory with the Aug. 16 signing of the "Cacahuatepec Accords" by Guerrero's Gov. Ángel Aguirre Rivero and the Council of Ejidos and Communities in Opposition to La Parota Dam (CECOP). Under  the agreement, Aguirre has committed the state not to approve La Parota dam if affected communities do not accept it, if they are not justly compensated, or it will impact the environment—effectively ending the project. Aguirre is also committed to seek an audience between CECOP and Mexican President Felipe Calderón to assure a commitment to the same principles from the federal government. La Parota dam would have flooded  17,000 hectares, impacting some 100,000 local residents. 

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