Mexico: AMLO declares drug war 'over' —but is it?

Two months into his term, Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador declared an end to his country's "war on drugs," announcing that the army would no longer prioritize capturing cartel bosses. The new populist president made his declaration Jan. 30, at the end of his second month in office. He told gathered reporters at a press conference that the "guerra contra el narcotráfico," launched in 2006 by then-president Felipe Calderón, has come to and end. "Officially now, there is no war; we are going to prusue peace," he said.

Mexico: one dead as Yaqui protest pipeline

Yaqui indigenous communities on opposite sides over a proposed gas pipeline through Mexico's Sonora state clashed Oct. 21, leaving at least one dead by gunfire. The confrontation involved close to 300 people from the neighboring communities of Loma de Bácum (Bácum municipality) and Loma de Guámuchil (Cajeme). The former community is opposed to the pipeline project, while the latter is in favor. Bácum community leaders won an amparo (injunction) against the pipeline, which resulted in temporary suspension of construction in the area, and Bácum residents set up a protest camp at the idled construction site. The clash erupted when company workers arrived to resume construction—allegedly in violation of the amparo, and with the support of Guámuchil leaders and local politicians. Accounts are unlcear as to which side the fatality was on, but 13 vehicles belonging to Bácum residents were torched. There were also several injuries, and reports of a second death still not acknowledged by state authorities. The battle lasted three hours before a mixed force of state and federal police backed up by army troops intervened.

Mexico: Cananea toxic spills continue

The State Civil Protection Unit (UEPC) of the northern Mexican state of Sonora issued a new alert on Sept. 21 warning some 25,000 residents about likely contamination in the Bacanuchi and Sonora rivers from the giant Buenavista del Cobre copper mine in Cananea. According to Arizpe municipality president Vidal Vázquez Chacón, who reported the contamination a day earlier, the source was a leak in the temporary dam set up to stop the overflow of toxic substances after 40,000 cubic meters of copper sulfate acid solution spilled from the mine into the two rivers on Aug. 6. Spokespeople for Grupo México, the company that owns and operates the mine, said the latest overflow was caused by heavy rains associated with Hurricane Odile in mid-September. The 115-year-old mine makes $1 billion annually by producing some 200,000 tons of copper each year. (La Jornada, Mexico, Sept. 21; Associated Press, Sept. 21, via Salon)

Mexico: unionists protest Cananea toxic spill

At least 800 members of Section 65 of the National Union of Mine and Metal Workers and the Like of the Mexican Republic (SNTMMSRM, "Los Mineros") began blocking the three main entrances to the giant Buenavista del Cobre copper mine in Cananea, near the US border in the northwestern state of Sonora, on Aug. 20 to protest environmental damage caused two weeks earlier when about 40,000 cubic meters of copper sulfate acid solution spilled from the mine into the Bacanuchi and Sonora rivers. Most of the unionists lost their jobs four years ago when the mine's owner, Grupo México S.A.B. de C.V., broke a 2007-2010 strike over health and safety issues. "During the strike we made several complaints about the improper and inadequate measures Grupo México implemented for preventing overflows from the dams" for chemicals and heavy metals, Section 65 director Sergio Tolano Lizárraga told the national daily La Jornada. He said the blockade would continue until the company recognized the workers' old contract. (LJ, Aug. 22)

Sonora: mining threatens disappearing waters

Authorities on Aug. 10 imposed restrictions on the water supply to seven municipalities in northwest Mexico's Sonora state, after 40,000 cubic meters (10 million gallons) of toxic leached copper from the Buenavista del Cobre mine turned the Río Bacanuchi orange, killing fish and livestock. Among the towns cut off by order of the National Water Commission (Conagua) is the state capital, Hermosillo, home to nearly 800,000 people. The Bacanuchi is a tributary of the Río Sonora, the state's principal river. Sonora state civil defense director Carlos Arias accused mine owner Grupo México of not reporting the spill in a timely manner.

Mexico: Cananea strike broken, miners left jobless

The giant Buenavista del Cobre copper mine in Cananea, near the US border in the northwestern state of Sonora, is in full operation again, a little more than three years after a police assault ended a 2007-2010 strike over health and safety conditions by Section 65 of the National Union of Mine and Metal Workers and the Like of the Mexican Republic (SNTMMSRM, "Los Mineros"). The mine produced earnings of $288.69 million for its owner, Grupo México (GM), in the second quarter of this year, according to an article in the left-leaning Mexican daily La Jornada. But the town itself hasn't prospered. The article reports that the past 10 years have brought an increase in "organized crime, unemployment, shortages of drinkable water, a growing incidence of different types of cancer and acute respiratory diseases, ecological deterioration, alcoholism, and, because of a large transient population, problems with housing and urban infrastructure."

Mexico rolls back 'drug war' cooperation with US

President Barack Obama said April 30 he will wait until he meets with his Mexican counterpart Enrique Peña Nieto this week to discuss Mexico's decision to curtail access of US security agencies. "I'm not going to yet judge how this will alter the relationship between the United States and Mexico until I've heard directly from them to see what exactly are they trying to accomplish," Obama said in Washington. Mexico confirmed days earlier that it has ended direct access by US law enforcement agents to their Mexican counterparts; now all communication is to be routed through the federal interior ministry, Gobernación.

Border Patrol shot youth in back, autopsy confirms

José Antonio Elena Rodríguez, a 16-year-old Mexican shot dead by US Border Patrol agents at the Mexico-US border near Nogales, Arizona, the night of Oct. 10, 2012, was hit by at least eight bullets and maybe as many as 11, according to an autopsy report made available to reporters on Feb. 7. The report, prepared by doctors for the Sonora State Attorney General's Office, found that at least seven of the bullets hit the unarmed teenager in the back. The shooting came a week after an Oct. 2 incident in which a Border Patrol agent was shot dead by other agents in the dark near the border in Cochise County, Arizona.

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