dorset chiapas solidarity

December 29, 2016

Frayba Presents its Annual Report “Paths of Resistance”

Filed under: Frayba, Human rights, sipaz, Uncategorized — Tags: , — dorsetchiapassolidarity @ 11:54 am



Frayba Presents its Annual Report “Paths of Resistance”




On December 19, the Fray Bartolome de las Casas Centre for Human Rights (CDHFBC) presented its “Annual Report: Paths of Resistance”, in an event attended by Marina Pages, coordinator of the International Service for Peace (SIPAZ); Ana Valadez Ortega, member of the Centre for Studies for Change in the Mexican Field (CECCAM); Rafael Landerreche Morin, member of the Pastoral Team of Chenalho; Marcelo Perez Perez, parish priest of Simojovel and coordinator of the Social Pastoral of the Chiapas Province, as well as Pedro Faro Navarro, director of CDHFBC.

 The objective of the book is to “make visible the men and women, people and communities organized in the construction of dreams and hopes that crack the system, generate life and dignity, ways of resistance to this cruel and bloodthirsty reality that we live in Mexico.”

It has five chapters: “Detention and Megaprojects, Impacts on Human Rights”, “Forced Displacement in a War Context”, “From Discredit to Repression” (focused on human rights defenders), “From Internal Armed Conflict to Widespread Violence”, and “In the Midst of the Whistling of the Mountains, the Call to Truth and Justice ” (on historical memory and the “Other Justice “).


Posted by Dorset Chiapas Solidarity




April 11, 2016

Anti-Drug War Caravan Arrives in Mexico City en route to New York City

Filed under: caravan — Tags: — dorsetchiapassolidarity @ 11:18 am



Anti-Drug War Caravan Arrives in Mexico City en route to New York City


caravan2.jpg_1718483346Activists on the Caravan for Peace, Life and Justice en route to New York City hold signs reading “Stop the War Against Drugs!”  Photo: PazVidaJusticia via Facebook


U.S. prohibitionist drug policies have failed and a new global discussion around drugs is needed, say the caravan of human rights workers.

Hundreds of people gathered in Mexico City’s central square Sunday to welcome the Caravan of Peace, Life and Justice, a group whose main goal is to end the war on drugs.

The group took off from the Honduran capital of Tegucigalpa on March 28 and intend to arrive in New York City by April 18 when the United Nations will hold a special general assembly on the world drug problem.

The caravan has already travelled through Honduras, El Salvador, Guatemala and much of Mexico, countries that now have some of the highest murder and violence rates in the world, which are largely due to failed policies in those regions meant to attack drug trafficking.

Along its route to New York, one of the caravan’s objectives is to recover testimonies from people who have been affected by violence generated from the drug war and present this to the heads of state at the U.N. assembly, which will take place from April 19-21.

One of the caravan’s main goals is “not only to point out the failure of the war on drugs, but also to denounce the violence, which increases the need to migrate to the US, and the dangers on the road for those forced to leave their countries,” said Ted Lewis, general coordinator of the caravan and director of Global Exchange, to the press upon their departure in March.

According to Lewis, one of the major issues is the prohibitionist anti-drug policies in the U.S., which have “failed.”

“The prohibitionist strategy against this problem will not solve anything, with such a massive consumer market in the U.S. that need tons of illegal drugs and is creating an unsustainable situation in the U.S.,” said Lewis.

The attempt to control consumption has also been used as a pretext to assert military control in Latin America and has led to the overpopulation of prisons, where “more than 2.2 million people are trapped in the prison industry, where nearly half are imprisoned for pure drug possession,” added Lewis.

Lewis suggests the legalization of drugs so that citizens are not so easily criminalized. With this, “there is a possibility for a future of peace in our regions and not a violent solution.”

The Caravan of Peace, Life and Justice seeks to encourage a new conversation around drug policies and new approaches to the issue, and not to politicize the fight against drugs for partisan purposes, they say.




Caravan for Peace, Life and Justice Reaches San Cristobal de Las Casas

Filed under: caravan — Tags: , , , — dorsetchiapassolidarity @ 9:46 am



Caravan for Peace, Life and Justice Reaches San Cristobal de Las Casas




The event in Plaza de la Paz, San Cristobal de las Casas, Photo @ SIPAZ

On April 7, the Caravan for Peace, Life and Justice reached Plaza de La Paz in San Cristobal de Las Casas, where it held a discussion with representatives of various civil organizations which expressed their accompaniment and solidarity. The Caravan is a broad initiative of families of victims of human rights violations, civil society organizations and social movements from different nations, which call for a “halt to the war on drugs.” On their journey, the Caravan has joined a group of some 35 people from seven countries.

It left Honduras on March 28 and will arrive in New York on April 18. According to Otros Mundos, “the route reflects the commitment to raise the voice of the victims and of the heroes of the war on drugs, and it turns out they are the same. From their pain, the victims are becoming in an organized way the people who struggle for peace and justice, for an exit from the war.”

On their way through Mexico, the Caravan entered through the border of Guatemala – Mexico at La Mesilla – Ciudad Cuauhtemoc on April 6. There they held an event in which they listened to the words and struggles in the region of the southern border of Mexico, “invaded by a growing militarization which worsens the human rights situation of the peoples in defense and care of the earth as well as migrants from Central America and Chiapas year after year.” The participants in the Caravan proposed a compilation of testimonies of violations of human rights committed combatting drugs with the aim of presenting it at the special session on narcotics at the General Assembly of the United Nations, to be held from April 19 – 21.

During the event in San Cristobal de Las Casas, some civil organizations, among them Otros Mundos, The Civil Society of Las Abejas of Acteal, and Mesoamerican Voices shared their words. They demanded “that justice be done for the killing of the coordinator of the Council of Popular and Indigenous Organizations (COPINH), Berta Caceres, murdered on March 3 last in Honduras.” The Colombian Alex Serra, who coordinated the passage of the Caravan through Honduras, El Salvador and Guatemala reiterated that, “one of our principal demands is that justice be done because she was part of the Caravan and with her murder, we are in mourning.” In commemoration of the Honduran leader, there was a minute of applause during the event. Las Abejas de Acteal underlined that if “there is insecurity for the life of the population of Honduras, migration and pillage of our mother earth, it is not only in Honduras, there is also a wave of violence and injustice here in Chiapas and in Mexico, the youth of Ayotzinapa being a clear example.” Marco Castillo of the Popular Assembly of Migrant Families and coordinator of the Caravan in Mexico, sustained that, “it would appear that the great gain of the war is not security but the control of territory, terrorism in the population, such that it is undeniable that the security policy has failed.”

The Caravan left at noon on the same day to Oaxaca, from where it will travel to Morelos to have a meeting with Javier Sicilia, leader of the Movement for Peace with Justice and Dignity. From there it will continue its way to the seat of the United Nations Organization (UNO) in New York to demand justice and dignity.



December 18, 2015

Tribunal Finds Mexico And US Jointly Responsible For Human Rights Crisis Linked To Drug War

Filed under: Human rights, Uncategorized — Tags: — dorsetchiapassolidarity @ 4:11 pm




Tribunal Finds Mexico and US Jointly Responsible for Human Rights Crisis Linked to Drug War




By Camilo Perez Bustillo and Azadeh N. Shahshahani

An international jury [1] of independent human rights experts and advocates has found Mexico, the US and key countries of origin [2] of migrants in transit jointly responsible for widespread human rights violations in Mexico, based on hearings held at New York University (NYU) in September 2015. The jury has called for the suspension of US military and police aid to Mexico. [3]

The verdict of the International Tribunal of Conscience (Tribunal) is based on testimony and documentation regarding the cases of the 43 disappeared students from Ayotzinapa, the San Fernando massacre and mass graves of August 2010 and April 2011; the Acteal massacre of December 1997; as well as the systematic violation of migrants’ rights in detention centres and along the migratory route.

The tribunal’s verdict also draws attention to attacks on journalists and freedom of expression, such as those faced by Anabel Hernández, who was a key expert witness for the tribunal regarding her investigation of the Ayotzinapa case. The verdict also highlights the relationship between human rights violations in Mexico and violations in the US in the context of racism, femicide and gender violence; the criminalization of youth; mass incarceration; detentions; deportations; and the abuse of force by police and military authorities on both sides of the border. All of this has been reinforced recently by the scapegoating of migrants and refugees in Europe and the US, and of Muslims and Arabs in particular, as inherent dangers to national security.

The hearings in September coincided with the first anniversary of the Ayotzinapa case, Mexican president Enrique Peña Nieto’s visit to New York to speak before the annual opening session of the UN General Assembly, and Pope Francis’ visit to the US. Witnesses included spokespersons for immigrants’ rights organizations, such as Movimiento por Justicia del Barrio (Movement for Justice in El Barrio), the Asamblea Popular de Familias Migrantes (APOFAM, Popular Assembly of Migrant Families) and the Alianza de ExBraceros del Norte 1942-1964 (Northern Alliance of Ex Braceros). Father Alejandro Solalinde, founding director of the migrant shelter “Hermanos en el Camino” in Ixtepec, Oaxaca, testified on corruption and abuses by Mexican authorities.

Witnesses also included representatives of human rights groups based in Chiapas and Oaxaca, and human rights defenders based in the US-Mexico border region in Las Cruces, El Paso and Ciudad Júarez.

The UN’s High Commissioner for Human Rights, Zeid Raad al Hussein of Jordan [4] has recently highlighted the “staggering” numbers of victims in Mexico (more than 150,000 dead and 26,000 disappeared since 2007), following an official visit there. Al Hussein underlined that, “While some of the violence can be laid at the door of the country’s powerful and ruthless organized crime groups, many enforced disappearances, acts of torture and extrajudicial killings are alleged to have been carried out by federal, state and municipal authorities, including the police and some segments of the army, either acting in their own interests or in collusion with organized criminal groups.” The UN official emphasized that the scale of Mexico’s violence was especially notable, given that it is not a country normally classified with those characterized by armed conflicts (such as Colombia or Syria).

The US has recently announced the suspension of $5 million in aid to Mexico through the Mérida Initiative, which includes $195 million currently appropriated, as part of over $2.5 billion in aid related to the drug war which has flowed since 2008. [5] The Leahy Law restricts US aid to regimes and military units deemed responsible for generalized violations of internationally recognized human rights standards. UN monitoring bodies such as the Committee Against Torture and on Enforced Disappearances, and international human rights organizations such as Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch have expressed similar concerns.

The Tribunal noted a large gap between Mexico’s proactive stance at the UN as a supposed champion of the rights of migrants and Indigenous peoples – two of the sectors most gravely affected by the violations documented in the sources cited above – and the reality as presented in testimony to the jury.

An increasing cascade of mass human rights crimes in Mexico has intensified concerns within Mexico and beyond. This includes the Aguas Blancas, Acteal and El Charco massacres in 1995, 1997 and 1998; the San Fernando massacre in 2010; and mass graves in 2011. This also includes several incidents since the Tlatlaya Massacre (22 dead, state of Mexico) in late June 2014; followed by the disappearance of the 43 students from the Ayotzinapa Rural Teachers’ College (Guerrero) in September 2014; and in the first half of 2015, several atrocities between January and May with a total of over 100 victims in Apatzingán (January, 16 dead, Michoacán), Villa Purificación (May, 43 dead, Jalisco), and Tanhuato (also May, 43 dead, Michoacán).

Two additional incidents along similar lines took place in July in Calera, Zacatecas (seven farmworkers – four men and three women, all youths – forcibly disappeared by military personnel and found dead several days later in a mass grave, four of them with bullets to the head), and in the town of San Miguel Ostula in the municipality of Aquila in Michoacán, where a 12-year-old child was killed and several others injured when military personnel opened fire on community residents who had blocked local roads in protest of the arrest the day before of a leader of their Indigenous community police force.

All of these involve significant numbers of civilian victims and varying degrees of direct or indirect participation by federal, state and local police together with the military as key actors, in contexts related to the country’s “drug war.” Several of these cases were presented before the tribunal.

There is a widespread tendency to describe Mexico’s “drug war” as a process of “Colombianization.” [6] Mexico’s “drug war” today is, in effect, a strategic, territorial and conceptual extension of Colombia’s in the 1980s and 1990s, through the Mérida Initiative. This arose within the framework of the national security component of NAFTA known as the Security and Prosperity Partnership of North America. The initiative was originally referred to in US government circles as Plan Mexico, emphasizing its origins as the Mexican version of Plan Colombia

These trends provide a road map leading from the 1997 Acteal massacre in Chiapas, to the San Fernando massacre of migrants in transit in August 2010 and mass graves of April 2011, and most recently to the September 2014 case of the 43 disappeared students of Ayotzinapa. In each of these cases, the direct responsibility of paramilitary and narco-paramilitary forces for such crimes has been combined with decisive dimensions of state complicity.

The sheer number and seriousness of the human rights violations against migrants and other vulnerable sectors, such as the ones above, led the jury to find an overall pattern of state terror and state criminality.

The US, through its massive military and diplomatic aid for the government of Mexico, is enabling the continuation of egregious and systematic human rights violations. We must demand an end to this complicity.


  1. Jurors included (organizations listed solely for purposes of identfication): Cruz Reynoso (former Associate Justice, Calif. Supreme Court), Jorge Bustamante (former UN Special Rapporteur for Migrant Rights), Azadeh Shahshahani (immediate past president, National Lawyers’ Guild), Jeanne Mirer (President, International Association of Democratic Lawyers- IADL), Gill Boehringer (former Dean, Macquarie Law School, Australia: representative, International Association of Peoples’ Lawyers- IAPL), Arturo Viscarra (School of the Americas- SOA Watch), Wilma Reverón-Collazo (MINH/ACLU, Puerto Rico), Laura Carlsen (Americas Project, Center for International Policy, Mexico City), Julia Camagong (International Migrants’ Alliance- IMA), Roberto Márquez (Professor Emeritus, Latin American and Caribbean Studies, Mt. Holyoke College), Katrina Abarcar (International Coalition for Human Rights in the Philippines-ICHRP), Sandra Trujillo (former Deputy Director, Childrens’ Defense Fund-CDF), Katherine Culliton-González (Advancement Project), Terrence Vallens (National Alliance for Filipino Concerns- NAFCON), Aaron Ceravoy (Ibon Foundation, the Philippines), Johanna Fernández and Sophia Williams (Bring Mumia Home Campaign), Peter Clark (International Leonard Peltier Defense Committee), Kerry McLean (NY chapter NLG).
  2. Such as Honduras, El Salvador, Guatemala, Ecuador, and Brazil.
  3. The tribunal’s verdict will be widely disseminated and eventually published. It will be translated and distributed meanwhile to international human rights organizations and defenders in the US, Mexico and elsewhere in the world, and presented publicly in both New York and Mexico City.
  4. Al Hussein was Jordan’s Ambassador to the US and Mexico from 2007 to 2010.
  5. Other US aid and benefits related to Mexico’s membership in the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA).
  6. See discussion of analogies and differences between the cases of Colombia and Mexico in publications by Llorente and McDermott et. al (2014):; Scherlen (2009):; and reports by the International Crisis Group focusing on Colombia and Mexico such as:, and:

Camilo Perez-Bustillo is Visiting Professor at the Government Department, New Mexico State University, and coordinator of the legal commission of the International Tribunal of Conscience.

Azadeh N. Shahshahani is a human rights attorney based in Atlanta and former president of the National Lawyers Guild. Shahshahani was a member of the jury for the International Tribunal of Conscience, which met in September 2015. In August 2013, Shahshahani travelled to Mexico City to serve as part of the jury for the Permanent People’s Tribunal’s inquiry into the San Fernando Massacre and other human rights violations committed against migrants in Mexico en route to the United States. You can follow her on Twitter @ashahshahani.

This piece first appeared in Truthout.




April 30, 2015

7 Months After: investigative journalists talk about the Ayotzinapa Case

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , — dorsetchiapassolidarity @ 6:47 pm

7 Months After: investigative journalists talk about the Ayotzinapa Case 


Graphic for Caravana43 in New York City by JR

Seven months after the attack on Ayotzinapa students, I remembered that unspeakable crime by attending a talk at my local branch library (Temescal) in Oakland. For several hours last Saturday, Anabel Hernández and Steve Fisher talked about their work as investigative journalists. Both are postgraduate fellows at the University of California Berkeley’s School of Journalism in the Investigative Reporting Program. [1] They are currently investigating the Ayotzinapa Case and have written several articles for the Mexican weeklyProceso.

Hernández and Fisher have debunked the federal government’s official version of the Ayotzinapa Case piece by piece. For example, the federal government denied that the Federal Police were involved. Hernández and Fisher obtained a key piece of evidence that told a different story: the September 26, 2014 monitoring record from the Center for Control, Command, Communications and Computation (C4), a computer-monitoring center connected to both state and federal police. That C4 monitoring record showed that the students were monitored from the minute they left Ayotzinapa for Iguala and that their location was reported to the Federal Police.

Perhaps the most interesting part of the government’s official version concerned the alleged “motive” for such a heinous crime: José Luis Abarca, Iguala’s mayor at the time in question, supposedly ordered the attack because he was afraid that the students would disrupt his wife’s presentation of her DIF [2] activities. The official version goes on to say: following the mayor’s orders, municipal police from Iguala and from the neighboring municipality of Cocula attacked and captured the students while the United Warriors (Guerreros Unidos) criminal gang murdered and then incinerated them, without the knowledge of the federal agents and soldiers stationed in the zone.

Hernández made a big point of saying that there is no way the mayor of Iguala and his small municipal police force, even with the aid of Cocula’s municipal police and “Guerreros Unidos,” had the ability to pull off an operation like the disappearance of 43 college students and the attack that preceded it. She stressed that the mayor was a “nobody” and Guerreros Unidos were never even heard of before this tragedy. She emphasized that Iguala was a place where large federal institutions dominated: the federal police, the Army and offices of federal agencies like Governance (SG) and the Attorney General (PGR).

It has been reported in the Mexican press that no murder or kidnapping charges have been brought against Abarca because there is no evidence to support either charge. A member of Caravana43 stated the same thing in a talk at Boalt Hall, the UC Berkeley Law School, and Hernández emphasized it. She added that Abarca’s wife, María de los Ángeles Pineda Villa, had finished her presentation and left the area by the time the student’s reached Iguala. The presentation of Abarca’s wife was not the motive for the attack!

As for the “confessions” from alleged members of Guerreros Unidos, Hernández said that photos of their appearances before a judge showed obvious signs of torture. The significance of this is that their confessions were obtained under torture and, therefore, should not be upheld up in court of law.

So what actually did happen? Who ordered and/or planned the attack and the disappearances and why? That is what Hernández and Fisher continue investigating. They want answers. So far, they have obtained information from the reconstruction of the crime, pieced together by the parents’ lawyers with survivors of the attack, as well as from cell-phone videos taken by survivors. They have obtained government documents and interviewed both survivors and detainees. They stated that they are planning to investigate why the EPR (Ejército Popular Revolucionario, EPR) issued a statement shortly after the attack pointing fingers at the Mexican Army as responsible for the murders and enforced disappearances. A baseless accusation or does the EPR know something? The parents certainly seem to believe that the Army was responsible. At the talk I attended in Berkeley a member of Caravana43 specifically said the parents and survivors believe the Army is responsible.

There was a hint in the first Proceso article by Hernández and Fisher that the leftist politics of the school may have been a motive:

“Moreover, according to the information obtained by Proceso at the Ayotzinapa Teachers College, the attack and disappearance of the students was directed specifically at the institution’s ideological structure and government, because of the 43 disappeared one was part of the Committee of Student Struggle, the maximum organ of the school’s government and 10 (others) were “political activists in formation” with the Political and Ideological Orientation Committee (Comité de Orientación Política e Ideológica, COPI).” [3]

And there was also an implication in the Saturday talk that the government suspected a connection between the students and the EPR or the ERPI [4] and that could have been the government’s motive.

The question and answer session was interesting. One of the questions that is always asked at public discussions involving the Drug War in Mexico is whether legalizing drugs here in the United States would solve the problem of violence in Mexico. What seemed to be of greater concern than legalizing drugs, at least from the journalists’ perspective, was ending the military aid that trains soldiers and police how to kill more effectively and provides them with the weapons needed to do so. Hernández believes those weapons and training are not used against drug traffickers or organized crime, but rather against the (innocent) civilian population.

Why has the Ayotzinapa case won so much support in Mexico and the world? Anabel Hernández answered that question by saying that since the beginning of Mexico’s Drug War, the federal government has generally blamed the victims; in other words, when government security forces (Army, Navy or federal police) cause civilian deaths, the federal government alleges that those civilians were working for drug trafficking gangs or had a family member involved in drug trafficking. She went on to say that the government likewise tried accusing the Ayotzinapa students, but it was so ridiculous that it wasn’t believed. Because the government could not connect these students to organized crime, the students represent the hundreds of thousands of innocent victims of the government’s Drug War and all those citizens that live in fear of the next massacre or disappearance. Thus, the parents of the dead and disappeared students and the survivors of the attack speak with an unprecedented moral authority.

The passion with which Anabel Hernández spoke was contagious and many of those asking questions were also passionate. A final thought I came away with was that Mexico’s Drug War affects everyone, regardless of skin color, economic status or social class.

I also came away with a question I have had for several years and one that was asked by another member of Saturday’s audience: Why isn’t there more of an effort in the U.S. to end the Merida Initiative and stop the supply of weapons to Mexico?

Submitted by Mary Ann Tenuto-Sánchez


[1] For more information about Hernández and Fisher and the program see:

[2] DIF – These are initials for the National System for Integral Family Development, a welfare program for families administered through the President, Governor and Mayor’s offices. The wives of the president, governor or mayor are usually the ones responsible for carrying out these responsibilities.


[4] Ejército Revolucionario del Pueblo Insurgente, an armed group in Guerrero



November 18, 2014

Mexico Reels, And the U.S. Looks Away

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , — dorsetchiapassolidarity @ 7:02 am


Mexico Reels, And the U.S. Looks Away

Los Angeles Times Op-Ed, By RUBÉN MARTÍNEZ


In Mexico City, demonstrators march with signs saying "It was the state" and showing images of Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto, right, and Atty. Gen. Jesus Murillo Karam in a protest over the disappearance of 43 college students. (Eduardo Verdugo / Associated Press)

In Mexico City, demonstrators march with signs saying “It was the state” and showing images of Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto, right, and Atty. Gen. Jesus Murillo Karam in a protest over the disappearance of 43 college students. (Eduardo Verdugo / Associated Press)


The violent disappearance of 43 students from the Ayotzinapa teachers college in Guerrero state has caused a political earthquake the likes of which Mexico has not seen in generations – perhaps even since the revolution of 1910.

That makes it all the more baffling how little attention most people in the U.S. have paid to the unfolding tragedy. To understand the historical significance – and the moral and political gravity – of what is occurring, think of 9/11, of Sandy Hook, of the day JFK was assassinated. Mexico is a nation in shock – horrified, pained, bewildered.

Mexicans gather with candles demanding justice for 43 missing students and the end of violence in the country. (Sashenka Gutierrez / European Pressphoto Agency)

Mexicans gather with candles demanding justice for 43 missing students and the end of violence in the country. (Sashenka Gutierrez / European Pressphoto Agency)

These emotions have been swelling since late September but have become overpowering since Mexican Atty. Gen. Jesus Murillo Karam held a news conference this month detailing the federal government’s investigation into the students’ disappearance, which relies heavily on testimony from men who allegedly participated in their slayings.

Within hours of the media event, a spontaneous vigil formed at the Angel of Independence, an iconic monument in downtown Mexico City usually reserved for raucous soccer victory parties. The vigil later became a march to Murillo Karam’s headquarters. Nationwide there have been dozens of major demonstrations since the students went missing – most of them have been peaceful, but a significant few have turned violent.

Mexico is on the brink, and America is largely oblivious.

Murillo Karam’s announcement that the students were almost certainly murdered was a devastating blow to the national psyche. Until then, Mexicans had nurtured their slim hopes that the students were still alive (a hope stoked by the parents of the missing, who have tenaciously agitated on behalf of their children).

Now people are struggling to grasp the enormity of a case that pulls together all the forces that feed the monstrous violence of the drug wars. In light of what happened, it is no longer possible to ignore the close links between virtually all the country’s political institutions and organized crime.

Jose Luis Abarca and his wife, Maria de los Angeles Pineda, the then-mayor and first lady of Iguala, the city where the abductions took place, have been dubbed the “imperial couple.” On Sept. 26, authorities say, Pineda was upset that protesting students had commandeered buses to attend a demonstration, worrying that their actions might disrupt an important political event she was headlining.

Her husband gave local police the order to make sure that didn’t happen. After shooting six students and wounding several others, witnesses said, police handed the remaining 43 over to a local drug gang, Guerreros Unidos, to finish the job. Students who survived the attack said army personnel were in the area and aware of what was happening, yet did nothing to stop the massacre.

The fact that the local and state governments were both run by the leftist opposition Democratic Revolution Party, or PRD, decimated for many the fantasy that the modern Mexican left is a viable alternative to the centre and right parties that have held the presidency in recent years. There is a sense that the entire ideological spectrum of the political class is tainted.

Finally, the portrait that emerged of the 43 disappeared – rural first-year teaching students from one of the poorest states in Mexico – made clear that they were not, as former president Felipe Calderon had intimated of the tens of thousands of victims during the early years of the drug war he initiated, corrupt and somehow deserving of their fate. They were simply innocent victims.

It was against this backdrop that Murillo Karam strode to the podium and began his news conference. How could he be perceived as anything other than the embodiment of a thoroughly contaminated state, one in which the narco is the politico is the police is the army? As he laid out the evidence, which included horrific descriptions of the assassins’ attempt to leave no evidence, in the eyes of many Mexicans he might as well have been confessing to the crime himself.

A few hours after the news conference, the flames of a Molotov cocktail erupted before the National Palace in the grand Zocalo, or central square, of Mexico City, where a huge sign declared, “Fue el Estado” – “It was the State.” By and large, the leaderless civil society movement has proceeded peacefully, but on occasion, protesters have given the tainted state a dose of what they consider to be its own medicine – the very flames that burned the flesh of the students.

So if there is so much pain and passion in Mexico, our neighbor, a country with which we share a 2,000-mile-long border as well as profound economic and cultural ties, why such American indifference?

It has become something of a truism to point to how deeply the United States is implicated in the drug war. American demand, Mexican supply. American guns, Mexican bloodbath.

And yet the merciless violence south of the border – which Mexicans now see as the State mutilating its own people – makes it easy to think of the drug war as Mexico acting out its dark obsessions.

What Americans can’t face is precisely that we’ve broken bad together with Mexico: that corruption is a bi-national affair, extending to rotten apples among our Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents and to an American political class that cynically keeps in place the amoral machinery of the drug war.

Shortly before Murillo Karam’s news conference, the parents of the Ayotzinapa students, already informed of what was about to be revealed publicly, exhorted the world, “No nos dejen solos” – “don’t leave us alone” – because no one can face such trauma without others.

On Thursday, Nov. 20, the civil society movement will celebrate the 104th anniversary of the Mexican Revolution with a national day of marches and work stoppages. Will Americans notice?


[Rubén Martínez is a professor of literature and writing at Loyola Marymount University. He is the author, most recently, of “Desert America: A Journey Across Our Most Divided Landscape.”]



January 16, 2014

Behind a New Armed Conflict in Mexico

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , , — dorsetchiapassolidarity @ 6:20 pm


Behind a New Armed Conflict in Mexico
Written by Héctor Agredano Rivera
Mexican army troops on patrol in Michoacán

In an already tense scenario unfolding in the south of Mexico, the presence of the Mexican Army is only producing more violence.


In the southwestern state of Michoacán in Mexico, the armed citizen’s group known as the Consejo de Autodefensas Unidas de Michoacán (Council of United Self-Defense Groups of Michoacán)–or autodefensas for short–has taken over several towns in the region of Tierra Caliente.

Over the weekend, the autodefensas advanced on the towns of Nueva Italia and Antúnez, and by Monday, they had surrounded their target, the city of Apatzingán, the stronghold of the Caballeros Templarios (Knights Templar) crime cartel.

As this story was being written, the Mexican Army was being deployed in large numbers throughout the region. The Army’s confrontations with citizens have already resulted in four deaths, while the government was pursuing negotiations with the autodefensas to disarm them.

– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –

OVER THE last year, armed citizen’s groups have been carrying out raids on Templario territory, aiming to liberate towns from the cartel. These self-defense groups are deeply embedded in the local communities where they operate. Their latest actions forced the Mexican Army to intervene.

The Tierra Caliente region of Michoacán is located in the Sierra Madre del Sur mountain range and has been connected historically to the drug economy. Control has always changed hands between competing cartels–until the arrival of the autodefensas, the region was controlled by the Knights Templar, a split from the Familia Michoacana cartel.

As a predominantly agrarian region with several commercial and few industrial operations, most people rely on farming, fruit production and small commercial activities to make a living. The region also has a long history of its residents migrating to the U.S.–many people rely on remittances from their families north of the border.

Since 2006, the Knights Templar cartel has held control of the region and the drug economy. Over time, it began instituting quotas and rent payments from citizens and local businesses. All sectors of society were affected by this system of payments, from farmers and businessmen to students and taxi drivers.

According to Dr. José Manuel Mireles, head of the autodefensas council, in his town of Tepalcatepec, most people tolerated the quota system, but when the cartel began breaking into people’s houses and raping women, the situation changed. Seeing the inaction and open collaboration of local governments with the Templarios, local townspeople began meeting in secret in the fall of 2012 and devised a plan of action to expel the cartels.

On February 24 of last year, the towns of Tepalcatepec and Buenavista rose up in arms, and the autodefensas conducted a citizen’s arrest of dozens of people who worked for the cartel. Attempting to stay within the framework of the law, the autodefensas turned in those they arrested to the regional Army command in the city of Apatzingán. To their disappointment, all cartel operatives arrested on the 24th were released from jail without charges within 24 hours of their capture.

Infuriated by the actions of the Army, the autodefensas continued to organize throughout the region, and as the year progressed, more people rallied to the cause, forming their own self-defense groups and coordinating their operations through the Council of United Self-Defense Groups of Michoacán.

During this time, government forces were nowhere to be seen. Only with the escalation of the conflict over the weekend was the state forced to deploy the Army and state police to take control of Apatzingán and its surroundings.

So far, the large presence of state forces has already resulted in the death of four people–one of them an 11-year-old girl–in the town of Antúnez. Accustomed to complete submission from the population, the military attempted to enter the liberated territories to disarm the autodefensas. But when they were met with large protests and resistance in Antúnez, soldiers fired on the crowd and killed the four people.

The government deployment of armed forces has only served to increase existing tensions to a fever pitch. In the last 24 hours, pictures of heavy artillery and armored personnel vehicles being unloaded in the port of Lazaro Cardenas have been published in social media–it is almost certain these will be deployed in Tierra Caliente. It is unclear if the government intends to arrest members of the Templarios cartel or disarm the autodefensas by force.

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IN MEXICO and in Mexican communities in the U.S., all eyes are on Michoacán to see how the government responds.

The autodefensas in Michoacán are technically illegal and considered vigilantes by the state and by foreign policy analysts. As opposed to the constitutionally protected community police forces in the neighboring state of Guerrero, the autodefensas have operated outside the law, but their popular support is so widespread that the government has been unable to disarm them so far.

This appeal has turned into financial support from Mexicans locally and in the U.S., who fundraise to support their activities and purchase weapons. The most organized autodefensa units have a strong presence on social media networks and rely on these networks to disseminate news and information to thousands of followers. Many on social media compare them to revolutionaries, and the appeal of their cause has garnered them widespread backing.

In Guerrero, teachers who protested the federal government’s neoliberal education “reform” law passed last year, making their state one of the strongholds of a militant movement that spread across Mexico, developed close collaboration with the community police movement.

By contrast, the autodefensas of Michoacán have not formed an alliance with left organizations or unions. Despite the involvement of elected officials at the local level, they do not identify as a political force.

In a January 14 interview with journalist Carmen Aristegui on her morning radio program for MVS News, Estanislao Beltrán, a spokesperson for the autodefensas of Michoacán, explained their reasons for taking up arms:

Let it be clear that our goal is not to control anybody…Our main objective and the reason why we are fighting is to clean up the 103 municipalities of the state of Michoacán from the organized crime of the Caballeros Templarios. As soon as we clean up all organized crime from our state, we will turn in our weapons to whoever asks for them.

We are not criminals. We are working people. We are not interested in becoming the police or commanders. We are dedicated to our work, we are people with families, and we love our families. But we are fed up with this situation. We are tired of living humiliated. 

There are rumors that the autodefensas are connected to the Cartel de Jalisco, a rival cartel that has been vying for control of the region since before the autodefensas took up arms last year. In the same interview, Aristegui asked Beltrán what the autodefensas would do about other cartels. He replied:

We will not allow any cartel to enter. We will remain organized so that we do not allow any cartel to exist in the sate of Michoacán. We are tired–we are fed up of living in these conditions.

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THIS LATEST round of armed violence in Michoacán and the rise to prominence of the autodefensas demonstrates the state’s inability to maintain control throughout the country. Despite the attempts by President Enrique Peña Nieto and the ruling Institutional Revolutionary Party to keep drug-related violence and insecurity in the background, events in Tierra Caliente have forced it to the forefront of people’s minds.

Furthermore, the refusal of the autodefensas to put down their weapons demonstrates the widespread mistrust of the government by people in the region–a mistrust that is shared by a majority of Mexicans inside and outside the country.

The armed offensive by the autodefensas against organized crime has placed them at the center of a debate in Mexico about the state’s role in maintaining the rule of law. What’s more, in the face of the state’s widespread collusion with the cartels and its absolute incompetence in guaranteeing the safety of Mexicans, the autodefensas’ strategy of armed self-defense begs the question if this is the correct model for citizens to pursue in the “war on organized crime.”

Regardless of what happens in Michoacán, it’s clear the conditions that produced the situation in Tierra Caliente exist in many other parts of the country. Poverty, unemployment and violence are all results of a class war waged against Mexican peasants and workers, with increasing intensity since implementation of the North American Free Trade Agreement 20 years ago this month. The rise of the drug economies is a result of such free trade agreements as well as U.S. drug policy.

Until major changes occur regarding drug policy and the economic course in Mexico and the U.S., we will continue to see more armed conflicts in Mexico.



November 8, 2013

Hiding Mexico’s Dead: drug war deaths go under-reported in the US media

Filed under: Marcos — Tags: — dorsetchiapassolidarity @ 6:37 pm

Hiding Mexico’s Dead: drug war deaths go under-reported in the US media

By: Mary Ann Tenuto Sánchez*

It is essential that we understand the United States Drug War policy for exactly what it is: a tool for social control and repression. In the United States, the Drug War has been used against people of colour, migrants, legal immigrants and activists. It is now a large contributor to the overcrowding of criminal courts, local jails and the flourishing prison-industrial complex, at a cost to the taxpayer of billions of dollars. It has also been used to pressure Latin American governments and support deadly “Drug Wars” in Colombia and, currently, in Mexico, the latter of which is spilling over into Central America. Consequently, many of us have reason for wanting to end this repressive policy. This is written with the hope that we can get together and find ways to end it.

As a member of a Zapatista solidarity group, my focus is on Mexico. I am alarmed at what’s happening in Mexico as a result of the US-backed “Drug War.” Each day I read the Mexican online media closely for news about the Zapatistas, Sexta adherents and social movements (those from below). While doing so, I am hit over the head with the daily horror that is called a Drug War and its under-reporting in the United States.

Perhaps the most frustrating thing about following news about the so-called “Drug War” in Mexico is obtaining accurate information on the approximate number of deaths that have resulted from it. The Mexican president and his cabinet officials want to hide or minimize the violence, so they do not publicize accurate numbers of dead. In the United States, the Obama administration, like the Bush administration, seems to be head over heels in love with the Drug War (they say it’s a “security” issue), but they also want to hide its horrors. Consequently, misinformation abounds! Journalists, especially in the US, tend to simply repeat what someone else has written without any explanation of how the numbers were calculated.

Molly Molloy shares this frustration. Molloy is a research librarian and Border and Latin American specialist at the New Mexico State University Library in Las Cruces, NM. She is the creator and editor of the Frontera List, a forum for news and discussion of border issues. Since 2008 she has provided detailed documentation of homicides in Mexico, with an emphasis on Ciudad Juarez. She translated and co-edited El Sicario: The Autobiography of a Mexican Assassin (Nation Books, 2011) and has written for The Nation, Phoenix New Times, Narco News and other publications.

One of the many examples of media misinformation about Mexico’s “Drug War” comes from none other than the Council on Foreign Relations, which published a February 13, 2013 video using the number of 50,000 deaths without saying how it arrived at that number. [1] Just a few months prior to that, Molloy was reporting 110,000 deaths! [2] Under-reporting Mexico’s drug war death toll minimizes the urgency of the situation and does a disservice to the unreported victims!

While acknowledging that a precise number is impossible to calculate, there are official statistics and news reports available that provide guidance. Molloy spells out her sources and methodology in a recent article published in the online Small Wars Journal. Entitled The Mexican Undead: Toward a New History of the “Drug War” Killing Fields, [3] the article begins, in part, with the following words:

“Power in Mexico works as a system of arrangements between government, business and narco-trafficking. The drug business has functioned pretty well for decades, generating huge sums of money and funnelling it into government and legitimate businesses. Violence was always part of its corporate culture as there is no way to enforce contracts in the drug business without murder. For years this level of violence seemed acceptable to those in power. Starting in December 2006, President Calderón deployed the army, and lethal violence in Mexico exploded. He said he was fighting drug trafficking, but the flow of drugs and money continues unimpeded. In 2010, Calderón said it was not exactly a war on drugs, but rather a crusade for public safety. There is evidence of social cleansing aimed at those deemed worthless to society: los malandros. At least 130, 000 Mexicans have been killed and kidnapping, extortion and murder plague civil society at all socio-economic levels.” [Emphasis added.]

Molloy explains her methodology in that article. It includes using figures on intentional homicides from INEGI, Mexico’s National Institute of Statistics and Geography. She also looks at statistics reported by the National System of Public Security. In order to separate out intentional homicides due to domestic violence, armed robberies or land disputes from those committed as a result of the Drug War, statistics from the years prior to the Drug War are compared to those after the Drug War began. Molloy cites a result similar to hers from the Trans-Border Institute (TBI), University of San Diego. [4] The TBI report states: “… our estimate is that the total number of homicides during the Calderón administration was likely around 120,000 to 125,000 people killed, depending on whether the INEGI data or the National System of Public Security data are used.”

Forced disappearances

Molloy’s article also addresses other Drug War-related issues; such as, forced disappearances, death squads, torture, the collusion between government and organized crime, and the impunity with which these crimes take place. She publishes the government’s official number of those forcibly disappeared, which is placed at approximately 27,000, and also gives examples of death squads, torture, the government’s collusion with organized crime and the near total impunity of the perpetrators. And, she wonders why none of this is accurately reported in the US media, citing many examples of under-reporting. Although Molloy does not address the issue of the tens of thousands of Mexicans displaced from their homes and communities by the violence, she does introduce the issue of what she calls “social cleansing” through several examples from the Juárez area. Those being “cleansed” are often the folks she terms “los malandros,” which very loosely could be translated into “the riffraff,” or in Zapatista-speak: those from below (los de abajo).

How the Zapatistas see the war

In a March 2011 letter exchange between Subcomandante Marcos of the EZLN and the Mexican philosopher Luis Villoro, [5] Marcos discusses war in general. He says the bottom line of any war is control of territory.  Marcos reviews a history of wars and says that nuclear weapons have changed the nature of wars from the World Wars in the first half of the 20th Century to regional or smaller wars, whereby a stronger force dominates a weaker one and the communications media legitimize the rational for the domination.

In reference to the current war in Mexico (“The war from above”), domination is the imposition of capitalism’s will. “In the current era, the will that capitalism attempts to impose is to destroy/depopulate and reconstruct/reorder the conquered territory.”

“Yes, war today is not content to conquer a territory and demand tribute from the defeated force. In the current era of capitalism it is necessary to destroy the conquered territory and depopulate it, that is, destroy its social fabric. I am speaking here of the annihilation of everything that gives cohesion to a society.” Marcos believes that the United States is the one that will benefit from the Drug War because Mexico’s social fabric will be destroyed.

What we are witnessing is not really a war on drugs; it is the militarization of Mexico in order to clear the way for transnational capital to accumulate wealth via mining, mono-crop agriculture and real estate development, all of which involve the displacement of people. Thus, it is a war against people. As Marcos points out: “We have said before that war is inherent to capitalism and that the struggle for peace is anticapitalist.”

Let’s End the Drug War in the US and in Latin America

The thought of the US government supporting a war that is killing approximately 130,000 people in a neighbouring country with which we share a 2,000-mile border, forcibly disappearing at least 27,000 (they are all presumed dead), and displacing tens of thousands, perhaps hundreds of thousands, offends my sense of social justice, as does the mass incarceration of people of colour in the United States. Under-reporting hides the human tragedy caused by this deadly war. Ya basta! (Enough!) It is my hope that the groups, collectives and organizations that represent people affected by this repressive policy can work together to end it both at home and abroad and that we can all use numbers that truly represent the tragedy both here at home and in Latin America, where Mexico is the largest current victim.


* Mary Ann Tenuto Sánchez compiles the monthly Zapatista News Summary for the Chiapas Support Committee. The News Summary is distributed to the group’s information list, Facebook page and Compañero Manuel blog. She is also a member of the Latin America Solidarity Coalition (LASC) Drug War Working Group.

Author’s Notes




4. The Justice in Mexico Project Releases its Report “Drug Violence in Mexico: Data and Analysis Through 2012,” February 5, 2013.



Petition to End US Drug War Funding in Mexico and Cental America

To the US Congress and President Barack Obama:

“We call on you to end funding to the bloody war on drugs in Mexico and Central America, which has led to the death and disappearance of more than 100,000 Mexicans and the dangerous militarization of the region. Instead of continuing to waste billions of taxpayer dollars through the Merida Initiative and the Central American Regional Security Initiative, we urge you to join citizens and governments of the region in the search for more just, effective and humane alternatives to the drug war at home and abroad.”


This campaign is critical–the Mesoamerican Working Group will be presenting the first round of signatures to Congress next week! Please send to all your lists as soon as possible.

Mexico and Central America face extreme levels of violence since the war on drugs was intensified in the region. The rule of law has deteriorated as a result of the battles between drug cartels with the involvement of often corrupt state security forces. The use of torture, violence against women, human rights violations and extrajudicial executions have risen since U.S. policies began to support a militarized approach to combating drug trafficking in the region.

Relatives who have lost loved ones in the drug war have traveled throughout the United States to plead for an end to the U.S.-backed war. In Central America, militarization under the pretext of the war on drugs has led to persecution of indigenous and grassroots leaders, human rights violations, illegal land grabs and extra-judicial executions, too often at the hands of the very forces funded under U.S. aid programs.

By every conceivable measure (reducing availability of drugs, decreasing crime and the power of drug cartels, increasing public security, effective use of taxes), the “war on drugs” in Mexico and Central America has been an abject and costly failure.

As we take a close look at budget priorities, we need a bipartisan effort in Congress to carry out a fact-based evaluation and seriously rethink the war on drugs. It is time to put human rights and well-being first and re-channel drug war aid to programs for drug abuse prevention and treatment, reduction of arms trafficking, prosecution of money-laundering and drug policy reform within the United States.


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