World oil prices remain depressed, now hovering at around $60 per barrel, although they did experience an uptick this month, probably driven by the escalating crisis in Venezuela and fears of a US-China trade war. (Xinhua, Jan. 27; OilPrice, Jan. 18) Yet this month also saw Zimbabwe explode into angry protests over fuel prices. A three-day nationwide strike was declared by the trade unions, and the government responded with bullets and a total Internet shut-down. At least 12 were killed and hundreds arbitrarily arrested. The unrest was sparked when the government doubled fuel prices, making gasoline sold in Zimbabwe the most expensive in the world. President Emmerson Mnangagwa said the price rise was aimed at tackling shortages caused by an increase in fuel use and "rampant" illegal trading. (FT, Jan. 18; Amnesty International, Jan. 15; BBC News, OilPrice, Jan. 14)
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.
Mexico’s highest court ruled Nov. 15 that the recently enacted "military policing" law is unconstitutional. Mexico passed the controversial Internal Security Law in December 2017, establishing a legal framework for employing the national army and navy in place of civilian police forces in order to combat increasing violence in the country. Legislators argued that many of the local police forces had become corrupted by drug cartels and that drastic measures were required. The bill drew widespread criticism from a wide variety of sources, including human rights groups and the UN.
Julián Carrillo Martínez, a Tarahumara indigenous leader at the community of Coloradas de la Virgen, Guadalupe y Calvo municipality, in northern Mexico's Chihuahua state, was assassinated by unknown assailants Oct. 24, according to local advocacy group Alianza Sierra Madre. Carrillo Martínez was leading an effort by Coloradas de la Virgen to recover usurped traditional lands, with a case pending before the Agrarian Tribunal for the local district 5. Community residents were also petitioning Mexico's Secretariat of the Environment and Natural Resources (SEMARNAT) to halt logging operations in forested areas of the disputed lands. (La Jornada, Amnesty International, Oct. 25) Several community residents have been assassinated in Coloradas de la Virgen since the community began its land recovery effort.
Mexican federal police and the military have taken over policing duties in Acapulco, after the entire municipal force was disarmed Sept. 25 due to suspected co-optation by criminal gangs. The city’s police chief, Max Sedano Román, and five of his commanders were detained by Mexican naval troops. Two of the commanders were arrested "for their probable responsibility in the crime of homicide." Their weapons and other equipment of the city police force have bee seized by Guerrero state authorities. The Guerrero government said it took the step "because of suspicion that the force had probably been infiltrated by criminal groups" and "the complete inaction of the municipal police in fighting the crime wave." Acapulco had a homicide rate of 103 per 100,000 inhabitants last year, one of the highest rates in Mexico and the world. The Washington Post last year described the resort city as Mexico’s murder capital.
US President Donald Trump announced Aug. 27 that the US and Mexico have reached an agreement on a new trade deal called the United States-Mexico Trade Agreement, which will ultimately terminate the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). While sitting at the resolute desk, Trump called Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto to announce the new pact, which Trump described as "a really good deal for both countries [and] something that is very special for our manufacturers and farmers." Among a number of changes to NAFTA, both parties agreed to a provision that would require a significant portion of vehicles to be made in high-wage factories, a measure aimed to discourage factory jobs from leaving the US. Peña Nieto agreed with Trump while on speaker phone, stating, "I think this is something very positive for the United States and Mexico." The Mexican president further stated that he wanted Canada to be involved in the agreement.
Turkey's TRT World runs a report Aug. 15 recalling the Chontal Maya blockades of the Pemex oil installations in Mexico's southern state of Tabasco in 1996, to protest the pollution of their lands and waters. This is a struggle that is still being waged today by the Chontal of Tabasco, but back in 1996 the figurehead of the movement was Andrés Manuel López Obrador (known as AMLO)—now Mexico's left-populist president-elect. The report asks if AMLO as president will remain true to the indigenous struggle that first put him on Mexico's political map. In a segment exploring this question, TRT World speaks with Melissa Ortiz Massó of the Business and Human Rights Resource Centre and CounterVortex editor Bill Weinberg.
Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador—known by his initials AMLO—will be Mexico's next president, following his victory in the July 1 election. By any measure, this is historic—it is the first time a candidate of the left has had his victory honored, after three tries. In 1988, Cuauhtémoc Cárdenas of the Democratic Revolutionary Party (PRD) almost certainly had his victory stolen by fraud. Then, in 2006, AMLO himself, then running with the PRD, claimed his victory was similalry stolen. His supporters launched a protest occupation of Mexico City's central plaza, the Zocalo, and there was talk of forming a "parallel government." Now AMLO, running with his new vehicle, the National Regeneration Movement (Morena), has made it. There is a sense of a real break with Mexico's traditional political parties, The once-hegemonic Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) is again discredited, as narco-violence only escalated under the incumbent President Enrique Peña Nieto. AMLO's old vehicle the PRD meanwhile formed an unlikely coalition with the right-wing National Action Party (PAN).