Despite his boast to have "ended" the drug war and pledge to explore cannabis legalization, Mexico's new populist president is seeking to create a special anti-drug "National Guard" drawing from the military and police forces. This plan is moving rapidly ahead—and the military is still being sent against campesino cannabis growers and small traffickers.
An indigenous environmental activist was killed in Mexico's south-central state of Morelos on Feb. 20—three days ahead of a planned referendum on an energy development project that he opposed. Samir Flores Soberanes was a leader of the local Peoples in Defense of Land and Water Front (FPDTA) and community radio station Amilzinko. He was slain by unknown gunmen in an attack at his home in the village of Amilcingo, Temoac municipality. He was a longtime figure in local opposition to the planned Huexca power plant and associated natural-gas pipeline, pushed by the government under the Morelos Integral Project (PIM).
Speaking at a ceremony marking the 25th anniversary of their New Year's Day 1994 uprising in Mexico's southern state of Chiapas, leaders of the Zapatista rebels pledged their opposition to Mexico's new left-populist president, Andrés Manuel López Obrador. Anger was particularly directed at the planned "Maya Train" project, which would link the tourist resort of Cancún on the Caribbean coast with the Palenque archeological site in Chiapas, spearheading a new thrust of tourism mega-development. At the New Year's Eve ceremony, held at the rebel-controlled settlement of La Realidad and dubbed the "Meeting of the Networks of Resistance and Rebellion," thousands of supporters from across Mexico gathered to watch Zapatista troops march in formation—although wielding symbolic bastónes (staffs) rather than rifles.
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 US Supreme Court on Nov. 30 denied (PDF) certiorari in an appeal by Mexican states attempting to sue BP over the 2010 Gulf of Mexico oil spill. The court let stand a lower court ruling in Veracruz, Mexico, et al. v. BP, P.L.C., et al, finding that the states of Veracruz, Tamaulipas and Quintana Roo cannot bring suit against BP because Mexico's federal government owns the affected property. The lawsuit sought damages for the cost of responding to the spill, contamination of the water and shoreline and lost tourism. The Mexican federal government filed a similar suit in 2013, which is currently being heard.
A district court judge in the eastern Mexican state of Yucatán ruled in July against a license that the federal Agriculture Secretariat (Sagarpa) had granted the Missouri-based multinational Monsanto Company in 2012 for sowing 253,500 hectares with genetically modified (GM) soy in Yucatán and six other states. A group of campesinos from the Maya indigenous group filed a suit charging that the license endangered the traditional production of organic honey in a region including the Yucatán communities of Ticul, Santa Elena, Oxkutzcab, Tzucacab, Tekax, Peto and Tizimin. The judge's ruling was "a great achievement because there is recognition of our legitimate right to make decisions about our territory and our livelihood," Maya farmer Lorenzo Itzá Ek said. "[B]eekeeping is the main traditional economic activity we carry out, and we don't want our honey contaminated with transgenics or with toxic products like agrochemicals that kill our bees."
Six people were strangled to death and one decapitated in the Mexican tourist resort of Cancún April 14—the latest mass killing to strike the city in the last few weeks. Police found the bodies of the five men and two women in a shack in the outskirts of the Yucatan Peninsula city, which has largely escaped the drug-related violence that has rocked Acapulco, a faded tourist destination on the Pacific coast. Quintana Roo authorities said the vicitms were small-scale drug dealers. In a separate incident that day, police found the body of another man in Cancún who had been gagged, bound and wrapped in sheets. (AP, April 15) The slayings come one month after seven were killed when gunmen burst into Cancún's La Sirenita (Little Mermaid) bar, targeting members of the city's taxi-drivers who were holding a meeting there. Several Cancún taxi drivers had been arrested recently for selling drugs or participating in drug-related killings, authorities said. (AP, Univision, March 15)
New Age tourists will be flocking to Mexico's Yucatan Penninsula this week for the "end of the Maya calendar" (sic). But Yucatecan Maya elder José Manrique Esquivel protests that he and his followers will be barred from performing ceremonies at the peninsula's ancient Maya sites. "We would like to do these ceremonies in the archaeological sites, but unfortunately they won't let us enter," Esquivel told the AP. "It makes us angry, but that's the way it is... We perform our rituals in patios, in fields, in vacant lots, wherever we can." Francisco de Anda, press director for the government's National Institute of Anthropology and History (INAH), offers two reasons for the ban: "In part it is for visitor safety, and also for preservation of the sites, especially on dates when there are massive numbers of visitors... Many of the groups that want to hold ceremonies bring braziers and want to burn incense, and that simply isn't allowed."