Sunday, February 27, 2011

Mexico’s Federal Police Open Fire on Protesters, Throwing Merida Initiative Accountability Into Question

by Kristin Bricker, Upside Down World

Doctors remove a bullet from journalist Gilardo Mota
Figueroa’s leg.
Mexican Federal Police allegedly shot radio journalist Gilardo Mota Figueroa as he covered a protest last Tuesday against President Felipe Calderón’s visit to Oaxaca City. Mota Figueroa told Crónica de Oaxaca that during clashes with Oaxaca’s teachers union, a Federal Police officer opened fire on the crowd from a distance of about six meters (or about twenty feet). One of the bullets struck Mota Figueroa in the leg. Another 2-4 bullets were embedded in an armored SUV that authorities had left parked on the street.

During the protest, Federal Police also fired teargas canistersdirectly at demonstrators at point-blank range, severely injuring at least two people. According to the teachers union, middle school teacher Raymundo Servando Santiago Sánchez was hospitalized with a bruised lung after a teargas canister struck him in the chest. Another canister—this one allegedly fired by state police—struck protester Marcelino Coache in the face fracturing his skull and causing brain trauma. Additionally, two reporters filed charges with the State Attorney General’s Office for physical injuries and damage to their equipment from teargas canisters that struck them during the protest.

Several bullets hit this armored vehicle’s window
when police opened fire on demonstrators.
In order to be considered a “less-than-lethal weapon,” teargas canisters must be fired into the air or onto the ground. Teargas canisters manufactured by Combined Tactical Systems Inc., which produces the teargas launchers used by Federal Police on Tuesday, carry a warning label that states: “Danger: Do not fire directly at person(s). Severe injury or death may result.”

The Federal Police are fully aware that a direct hit from a teargas canister can be lethal. In 2006, during a joint operation between state and federal police in San Salvador Atenco, a teargas canister killed 23-year-old protester Alexis Benhumea when it struck him in the head. As a result of the police’s “illegitimate use” of their weapons during the Atenco operation, the Mexican government’s National Human Rights Commission (CNDH) recommended that the Federal Preventative Police (PFP, which later became the Federal Police) and state police undergo training in “proper use” of their weapons. The head of the PFP rejected the CNDH’s recommendation, and five years later the Federal Police are still shooting teargas canisters at protesters’ heads.

Federal Police fire teargas canisters
directly at demonstrators, which can
cause serious injury or death.
Maureen Meyers of the Washington Office on Latin America (WOLA) argues that the police’s violent response to Tuesday’s protests “underscores the lack of any real accountability mechanisms within the Federal Police.” She notes that the Federal Police currently rank third in the number of human rights complaints filed against government agencies, with 595 complaints filed with the CNDH against the Federal Police in 2010. “There’s been more and more accounts of abuses committed by the Federal Police,” Meyers says. On October 29, 2010, Federal Police shot a young protester in the stomach with live ammunition as he painted graffiti during the 11th “Walk Against Death” in Ciudad Juarez.

More Merida Initiative Funding

Police shot this protester with an unidentified projectile.
He remains hospitalized with a fractured skull
The day before Federal Police opened fire on protesters and the press in Oaxaca, United States President Barack Obama unveiled his 2012 budget request. The budget includes $291.5 million for Merida Initiative programs in Mexico.

Mexico’s Ministry of Public Security (SSP in its Spanish abbreviation) is in charge of the Federal Police, and it is one of the biggest recipients of Merida Initiative funding. Through the Merida Initiative, the Federal Police receive equipment, training (from US and Colombian police, as well as private contractors), and even Black Hawk helicopters. While Obama’s 2012 budget request reduces Mexico’s Merida funding by about $250 million from the previous year, it increased International Narcotics Control and Law Enforcement (INCLE) funding by $500,000. INCLE funding is what funds most—if not all—aid to the Federal Police.

Some Merida Initiative funds are designed to reduce corruption within the Federal Police. That aid, notes Meyers, “focuses more on centros de control de confianza [police recruiting and vetting centers] and polygraph tests. That obviously doesn’t attend to this widespread pattern of abuse.”

Marcelino Coache is recovering
from a fractured skull and brain
trauma after police shot him

the head with a teargas canister.
Meyer notes that there are three accountability mechanisms that would, in theory, assure that Merida Initiative assistance doesn’t fall into the hands of human rights abusers like Federal Police officers who open fire on unarmed demonstrators. The first is the Leahy Amendment, which prohibits any US foreign assistance from funding “any unit of the security forces of a foreign country if the Secretary of State has credible evidence that such unit has committed gross violations of human rights” and hasn’t punished the offender(s). The US Embassy tracks individual human rights abusers in a database, but Meyers points out that the strength of the database depends on the amount of information the US Embassy enters into it. Kent Patterson from the Americas Program has criticized the United States’ enforcement of the Leahy Amendment: “Mexico, like Colombia, sidesteps the question by selecting for training only individuals from tainted units instead of having entire units trained.”

The other two accountability mechanisms that apply to US drug war assistance to Mexico are attached to the Merida Initiative itself. A mere fifteen percent of Merida Initative assistance is conditioned upon Mexico improving accountability and transparency in the Federal Police and military. Additionally, in order to receive the conditioned funds, Mexico must demonstrate that it is investigating and trying soldiers and Federal Police who are credibly accused of human rights violations. “The latter is where we really haven’t seen any cases that we’re aware of where Federal Police who have been implicated in abuses have been effectively investigated and sanctioned,” says Meyers.

Despite the rampant impunity for security forces’ human rights abuses, Merida’s human rights conditions have not significantly affected the flow of drug war aid to Mexico. The US Congress has symbolically withheld some of the funds, but thus far the human rights conditions haven't delayed Merida Initiative money for much longer than standard bureaucratic red tape has held up the other 85% of unconditioned funds.

Monday, February 14, 2011

About the Wars: A Fragment of the First Letter from Subcomandante Marcos to Don Luis Villoro, beginning the correspondence about Ethics and Politics

March 21, 2011 Update: The complete letter has been published and is now available in English.  My earlier translation of the second fragment continues below.

by Subcomandante Marcos

January-February 2011

Part 2 of the 4 that make up the first letter, which will appear in its entirety in the next issue of Rebeldía magazine.

As Mexican native peoples and as the EZLN, we have something to say about war.  Above all if it is carried out in our geography and in this calendar: Mexico, in the beginning of the 21st century…


"I would welcome almost any war because I believe that this country needs one." Theodore Roosevelt.

And now our national reality is invaded by war.  A war that is not only not far away from those who were accustomed to see war in distant geographies or calendars, but also one that begins to determine the decisions and indecisions of those who thought that wars were only in the news and in places so far away like…Iraq, Afghanistan,…Chiapas.

And in all of Mexico, thanks to Felipe Calderón Hinojosa's sponsorship, we don't have to look towards the Middle East to critically reflect on war.  It is no longer necessary to turn the calendar back to Vietnam, the Bay of Pigs, always Palestine.

I don't mention Chiapas and the war against Zapatista indigenous communities, because it is known that they aren't fashionable (that's why the Chiapas state government has spent so much money so that the media no longer puts it on war's horizon, instead, it publishes the "advances" in biodiesel production, its "good" treatment of migrants, the agricultural "successes" and other deceiving stories that are sold to editorial boards who put their own names on poorly edited and argued governmental press releases).

The war's interruption of daily life in current-day Mexico doesn't stem from an insurrection, nor from independent or revolutionary movements that compete for their reprint in the calendar 100 or 200 years later.    It comes from, as all wars of conquest, from above, from the Power.

And this war has in Felipe Calderón Hinojosa its initiator and its institutional (and now embarrassing) promoter.

The man who took possession of the title of President by de facto wasn't satisfied with the media backing he received, and he had to turn to something else to distract people's attention and avoid the massive controversy regarding his legitimacy: war.

When Felipe Calderón Hinojosa made Theodore Roosevelt's proclamation that "this country needs a war" his own (although some credit the sentence to Henry Cabot Lodge), he was met with fearful distrust from Mexican businessmen, enthusiastic approval from high-ranking military officials, and hearty applause from that which really rules: foreign capital.

Criticism of this national catastrophe called the "war on organized crime" should be completed with a profound analysis of its economic enablers.  I'm not only referring to the old axiom that in times of crisis and war, the consumption of luxury goods increases.  Nor am I only referring to the extra pay that soldiers receive (in Chiapas, high-ranking military officials received, or receive, an extra salary of 130% for being in "a war zone").  It would be necessary to also look at the patents, the suppliers, and the international credits that aren't in the so-called "Merida Initiative."

If Felipe Calderón Hinojosa's war (even though he's tried, in vain, to get all Mexicans to endorse it) is a business (which it is), we must respond to the questions of for whom is it a business, and what monetary figure it reaches.

Some Economic Estimates

It's not insignificant what's at stake:

(note: the quantities listed are not exact due to the fact that there is not clarity in the official governmental data.  which is why in some cases the source was the Official Diary of the Federation [the federal government's official publication], and it was complemented by data from [government] agencies and serious journalistic information).

In the first four years of the "war against organized crime" (2007-2010), the main governmental entities in charge (the National Defense Ministry--that is, army and air force--, the Navy, the Federal Attorney General's Office, and the Ministry of Public Security) received over $366 billion pesos (about $30 billion dollars at the current exchange rate) from the Federal Budget.  The four federal government ministries received: in 2007 over $71 billion pesos; in 2008 over $80 billion pesos; in 2009 over $113 billion pesos; and in 2010 over $102 billion pesos.  Add to that the over $121 billion pesos (some $10 billion dollars) that they will receive in 2011.

The Ministry of Public Security alone went from receiving a budget of $13 billion pesos in 2007 to receiving one of over $35 billion pesos in 2011 (perhaps because cinematic productions are more costly).

According to the [federal] Government's Third [Annual] Report in September 2009, in June of that year, the federal armed forces had 254,705 soldiers (202,355 in the Army and Air Force and 52,350 in the Navy).

In 2009 the budget for the [Ministry of] National Defense was $43,623,321,860 pesos, to which was added $8,762,315,960 pesos (25.14% more), in total: over $52 billion pesos for the Army and the Air Force.  The Navy: over $16 billion pesos; Public Security: almost $33 billion pesos; and the Federal Attorney General's Office: over $12 billion pesos.

The "war on organized crime's" total budget in 2009: over $113 billion pesos.

In 2010, an Army private earned about $46,380 pesos per year; a major general received $1,603,080 pesos per year, and the Secretary of National Defense received an annual income of $1,859,712 pesos.

If my math is correct, with 2009's total war budget ($113 billion pesos for the four ministries) could have paid the annual salaries of 2.5 million Army privates; or 70,500 major generals; or 60,700 Secretaries of National Defense.

But, of course, not all that is budgeted goes towards salaries and benefits.  Weapons, equipment, bullets are needed…because those that they already have don't work anymore or they're obsolete.

"If the Mexican Army were to engage in combat with its over 150,000 weapons and its 331.3 million cartridges against an internal or external enemy, its firepower would only last on average 12 days of continuous combat, according to the Joint Chiefs of Staff's estimates for the Army's and Air Force's weapons.  According to the predictions, the gunfire from 105mm howitzers (artillery) would last, for example, 5.5 days of combat if that weapon's 15 grenades were shot continuously.  The armored units, according to the analysis, have 2,662 75mm grenades.

In combat, the armored troops would use up all of their rounds in nine days.  In the Air Force, it is said that there are a little over 1.7 million 7.62mm cartridges that are used by the PC-7 and PC-9 planes, and by the Bell 212 and MD-530 helicopters.  In a war, those 1.7 million cartridges would be used up in five days of aerial fire, according to the Ministry of National Defense's calculations.  The Ministry warns that the 594 night vision goggles and the 3,095 GPS used by the Special Forces to combat drug cartels "have already completed their service."

The shortages and the wear in the Army and Air Forces' ranks are evident and have reached unimaginable levels in practically all of the institution's operative areas.  The National Defense [Ministry's] analysis states that the night vision goggles and the GPS are between five and thirteen years old, and "they have already completed their service."  The same goes for the "150,392 combat helmets" that the troops use.  70% reached their estimated lifespan in 2008, and the 41,160 bulletproof vests will do so in 2009.
In this panorama, the Air Force is the sector most affected by technological backwardness and overseas dependency, on the United States and Israel in particular.  According to the National Defense Ministry, the Air Force's arms depots have 753 bombs that weigh 250-1,000 lbs. each.  The F-5 and PC-7 Pilatus planes use those weapons.  The 753 that are in existence would last in air-to-land combat for one day.  The 87,740 20mm grenades for F-5 jets would combat internal or external enemies for six days.  Finally, the National Defense Ministry reveals that the air-to-air missiles for the F-5 planes only number 45, which represents only one day of aerial fire." -- Jorge Alejandro Medellín in "El Universal", Mexico, January 2, 2009.

This was made known in 2009, two years after the federal government's so-called "war."  Let's leave aside the obvious question of how it was possible that the commander-in-chief of the armed forces, Felipe Calderón Hinojosa, could launch a war ("long-term" he says) without having the minimal material conditions to sustain it, let alone "win it."  So let's ask: What war industries will benefit from the sales of weapons, equipment, and vehicles?

If the main promotor of this war is the empire of stripes and cloudy stars (keeping note that, in reality the only congratulations that Felipe Calderón Hinojosa has received have come from the US government), we can't lose sight of the fact that north of the Rio Grande, help is not granted; rather, they make investments, that is, business.

Victories and Defeats

Does the United States win with this "local" war?  The answer is: yes.  Leaving aside the economic gains and the monetary investment in weapons, vehicles, and equipment (let's not forget that the USA is the main provider of all of this to two contenders: the authorities and the "criminals."  The "war on organized crime" is a lucrative business for the North American military industry), there is, as a result of this war, a destruction/depopulation and a geopolitical reconstruction/rearrangement that benefits them.

This war (which was lost from the moment it was conceived, not as a solution to an insecurity problem, but rather a problem of questioned legitimacy) is destroying the last redoubt that the Nation had: the social fabric.

What better war for the United States than one that grants it profits, territory, and political and military control without the uncomfortable body bags and cripples that arrived, before, from Vietnam and now from Iraq and Afghanistan?

Wikileaks' revelations about high-ranking US officials' opinions about the "deficiencies" in the Mexican repressive apparatus (its ineffectiveness and its complicity with organized crime) are not new.  Not only amongst the people, but also in the highest circles of government and Power in Mexico, this is a certainty.  The joke that it is an unequal war because organized crime is organized and the Mexican government is disorganized is a gloomy truth.

On December 11, 2006, this war formally began with "Joint Operation Michoacan."  Seven thousand soldiers from the army, the navy, and the federal police launched an offensive (commonly known as the michoacanazo) that, when the media's euphoria passed, turned out to be a failure.  The military official in charge was Gen. Manuel García Ruiz, and the man in charge of the operation was Gerardo Garay Cadena of the Ministry of Public Security.  Today, and since December 2008, Gerardo Garay Cadena is imprisoned in a maximum security prison in Tepic, Nayarit, accused of colluding with "el Chapo" Guzmán Loera.

And, with each step that is taken in this war, the federal government finds it more difficult to explain where the enemy is.

Jorge Alejandro Medellín is a journalist who collaborates with various media outlets--Contralinea magazine, the weekly Acentoveintiuno, and Eje Central, amongst others--and he's specialized in militarism, armed forces, national security, and drug trafficking.  In October 2010 he received death threats because of an article where he pointed to possible links between drug traffickers and Gen. Felipe de Jesús Espitia, ex-commander of the V Military Zone and ex-chief of the Seventh Section--Operations against Drug Trafficking--during Vicente Fox's administration, and in charge of the Drug Museum located in the offices of the Seventh Section.  Gen. Espitia was removed as commander of the V Military Zone following the tumultuous failure of the operations he ordered in Ciudad Juarez and for his poor response to the massacres committed in the border city.

But the failure of the federal war against "organized crime," the crown jewel of Felipe Calderón Hinojosa's government, is not a destiny that the Power in the USA laments: it is a goal to reach.

As much as corporate media tried to present resounding successes for legality, the skirmishes that take place every day in the nation's territory aren't convincing.

And not just because the corporate media have been surpassed by the forms of information exchange used by a large portion of the population (not only, but also the social networks and cell phones), also, and above all, because the tone of the government's propaganda has gone from an attempt to deceive to an attempt to mock (from the "even though it doesn't appear as though we're winning" to "[drug traffickers are] a ridiculous minority," which passes as barroom boasting for the president).

About this other defeat for the written, radio, and television press, I will get back to that in another missive.  For now, and regarding the current issue, its enough to remind people that the "nothing's happening in Tamaulipas" that was extolled by the media (namely radio and television), was defeated by the videos shot by citizens with cell phones and portable cameras and shared on the Internet.

But let's get back to the war that, according to Felipe Calderón Hinojosa, he never said was a war.  He never said it, right?

"Let's see if this is or isn't a war: on December 5, 2006, Felipe Calderón said: "We work to win the war on crime…". On December 2007, during breakfast with naval personnel, Mr. Calderón used the term 'war' on four occasions in a single speech.  He said, "Society recognizes in a special manner the important role our marines play in the war my Government leads against insecurity…", "The loyalty and the efficiency of the Armed Forces are one of the most powerful weapons in the war we fight…", "When I started this frontal war against crime I stated that this would be a long-term struggle," "…that is precisely how wars are…".  But there's more: on September 12, 2008, during the the Commencement Ceremonies of the Military Education System, the self-proclaimed "president of employment" really shined when he said war on crime a half a dozen times: "Today our country fights a war that is very different from those that the insurgents fought in 1810, a war that is different from that which the cadets from the Military College fought 161 years ago…" "…it is the duty of all of Mexicans of our generation to declare war on Mexico's enemies… That's why, in this war on crime…" "It is essential that all of us who join this common front go beyond words to acts and that we really declare war on Mexico's enemies…" "I am convinced that we will win this war…" (Alberto Vieyra Gómez. Agencia Mexicana de Noticias, January 27, 2011).

By contradicting himself, taking advantage of the calendar, Felipe Calderón Hinojosa neither corrects his mistakes nor corrects himself conceptually.  No, what happens is that wars are won or lost (in this case, lost) and the federal government doesn't want to recognize that the central focus of this administration has failed militarily and politically.  

Endless War? The Difference Between Reality… and Videogames

Faced with the undeniable failure of his warmongering policies, will Felipe Calderón Hinojosa change his strategy?

The answer is NO.  And not just because war from above is a business, and like any other business, it is maintained as long as it is profitable.

Felipe Calderón de Hinojosa, the commander-in-chief of the armed forces, the fervent admirer of [former Spanish Prime Minister] José María Aznar, the self-proclaimed "disobedient son," the friend of Antonio Solá[1], the "winner" of the presidential elections by a half a percentage point thanks to Elba Esther Gordillo's alchemy[2], the man of authoritarian rudeness that is close to a tantrum ("Get down here or I'll make them bring you down here!"[3], he who wants to cover up the murdered children in the ABC Daycare Center in Hermosillo, Sonora, with more blood[4], he who has accompanied his military war with a war on dignified work and just salaries, he who has calculated autism when faced with the murders of Marisela Escobedo[5] and Susana Chávez Castillo[6], he who hands out toe tags that say "members of organized crime" to little boys and girls and men and women[7] who were and are murdered by him because, yes, because they happened to be in the wrong calendar and the wrong geography, and they aren't even named because no one keeps track, not even the press, not even the social networks.

He, Felipe Calderón Hinojosa, is also a fan of military strategy video games.

Felipe Calderón Hinojosa is the "gamer" "who in four years turned the country into a mundane version of The Age of Empire--his favorite videogame--,(…) a lover--and bad strategist--of war." (Diego Osorno in Milenio, October 3, 2010).

It is he who leads us to ask: Is Mexico being governed videogame-style?  (I believe that I can ask these sorts of controversial questions without them firing me for violating an "ethics code" that is determined by paid advertising[8]).

Felipe Calderón Hinojosa won't stop.  And not only because the armed forces won't let him (business is business), but also for the obstinacy that has characterized the political life of the "commander-in-chief" of the Mexican armed forces.

Let's remember: In March 2001, when Felipe Calderón Hinojosa was the parliamentarian coordinator of the National Action Party's federal deputies [in Congress], that unfortunate spectacle took place when the National Action Party (PAN) did not let a joint indigenous delegation from the National Indigenous Congress and the EZLN take the podium in Congress during the "March of the Color of the Earth."

Despite the fact that he was making the PAN out to be a racist and intolerant political organization (which it is) by denying the indigenous people the right to be heard, Felipe Calderón Hinojosa stood firm.  Everything told him it was an error to take that position, but the then-coordinator of the PAN deputies refused to cede (and he wound up hiding, along with Diego Fernández Cevallos and other distinguished PAN members, in one of the chamber's private halls, watching on television as the indigenous people spoke in a space that the political class reserves for its comedy sketches).

"No matter the political cost," Felipe Calderón Hinojosa would have said at the time.

Now he says the same, although now it's not about the political costs that a political party assumes, but rather the human costs that the entire country pays for that stubbornness. 

At the point of ending this missive, I found the statements of the US Secretary of Homeland Security, Janet Napolitano, speculating about the possible alliances between Al Qaeda and Mexican drug cartels.  One day prior, the undersecretary of the United States Army, Joseph Westphal, declared that in Mexico there is a form of insurgency lead by the drug cartels that could potentially take over the government, which would imply a US military response.  He added that he didn't want to see a situation in which US soldiers were sent to fight an insurgency "on our border…or having to send them to across the border" into Mexico.  

Meanwhile, Felipe Calderón Hinojosa was attending a rescue simulation in a simulated town in Chihuahua, and he boarded an F-5 combat plane and he sat in the pilot's seat and joked with a "fire missiles."

From the strategy video games to the "aerial combat simulation" and "first-person shots"?  From Age of Empires to HAWX?

HAWX is an aerial combat video game where, in a not-so-distant future, private military companies have replaced governmental militaries in various countries.  The video game's first mission is to bomb Ciudad Juarez, Chihuahua, Mexico, because the "rebel forces" have taken over the territory and threaten to cross into US territory.

Not in the video game, but in Iraq, one of the private military companies contracted by the US State Department and the Central Intelligence Agency was "Blackwater USA," which later changed its name to "Blackwater Worldwide."  Its personnel committed serious abuses in Iraq, including murdering civilians.  Now it has changed its name to "Xe Services LLC" and is the biggest private security contractor the US State Department has.  At least 90% of its profits come from contracts with the US government.

The same day that Felipe Calderón Hinojosa was joking in the combat plane (February 10, 2011), and also in the state of Chihuahua, an 8-year-old girl died when she was hit by a bullet from a shoot-out between armed people and members of the military.

When will this war end?

When will "Game Over" appear on the federal government's screen, followed by the credits, with the producers and sponsors of the war?

When will Felipe Calderón be able to say "we won the war, we've imposed our will upon the enemy, we've destroyed its material and moral combat abilities, we've (re)conquered the territories that were under its control"?

Ever since it was conceived, this war has no end, and it is also lost.

There will not be a Mexican victor in these lands (unlike the government, the foreign Power does have a plan to reconstruct-reorganize the territory), and the defeat will be the the last corner of the dying National State in Mexico: the social relations that, providing a common identity, are the base of a Nation.

Even before the supposed end, the social fabric will be completely broken.

Results: the War Above and the Death Below

Let's see what the federal Ministry of the Interior reports about Felipe Calderón Hinojosa's "not-war":

"2010 was the most violent year during the current administration, accumulating 15,273 murders linked to organized crime, 58% more than the 9,614 registered during 2009, according to statistics published this Wednesday by the Federal Government.  From December 2006 up to the end of 2010 34,612 murders were counted, of which 30,913 were reported as "executions"; 3,153 are listed as "clashes" and 544 are listed as "homicides-attacks."  Alejandro Poiré, the National Security Council's technical secretary, presented an official database created by experts that will show, beginning now, "monthly disaggregated information at the state and municipal level" about violence in the whole country." (Vanguardia, Coahuila, Mexico, January 13, 2011)

Let's ask: Of those 34,612 murders, how many were criminals?  And the more than one thousand little boys and girls murdered (which the Secretary of the Interior "forgot" to itemize in his account), were they also organized crime "hitmen"?  When the federal government proclaims that "we're winning," against which drug cartel are they referring to?  How many tens of thousands more make up this "ridiculous minority" that is the enemy that must be defeated?

While up there they uselessly try to tone down this war's murders with statistics, it is important to note that the social fabric is also being destroyed in almost all of the national territory.

The Nation's collective identity is being destroyed and it is being supplanted by another.

Because "a collective identity is no more than an image that a people forges of itself in order to recognize itself has belonging to that people.  Collective identity is those features in which an individual recognizes himself or herself as belonging to a community.  And the community accepts this individual as part of it.  This image that the people forge is not necessarily the persistence of an inherited traditional image, but rather, generally it is forged by the individual insofar as s/he belongs to a culture, to make his/her past and current life consistent with the projects that s/he has for that community.
So identity is not a mere legacy that is inherited, rather, it is an imagine that is constructed, that each people creates, and therefore is variable and changeable according to historical circumstances." (Luis Villoro, November 1999, interview with Bertold Bernreuter, Aachen, Germany).

In a good part of the national territory's collective identity, there is no (as they wish us to believe) dispute between the national anthem and the narco-corrido ["narco-ballad"] (if you don't support the government you support organized crime, and vice-versa.  


What exists is an imposition, by the force of weapons, of fear as a collective image, of uncertainty and vulnerability as mirrors in which those collectives are reflected.

What social relationships can be maintained or woven if fear is the dominant image which which a social group can identify itself, if the sense of community is broken by the cry "Save yourself if you can"?

The results of this war won't only be thousands of dead… and juicy economic gains.

Also, and above all, it will result in a nation destroyed, depopulated, and irreversibly broken.


Alright, Don Luis.  Cheers, and let critical reflection inspire new steps.

From the mountains in the Mexican Southeast.

Subcomandante Insurgente Marcos.
Mexico, January-February 2011.

Translated by Kristin Bricker

Translator's Notes:
[1] Antonio Solá is a Spaniard who was in charge of Felipe Calderón's "Image" during his presidential campaign.
[2] Elba Esther Gordillo is the despised (and arguably self-imposed) president of the National Education Workers Union (SNTE), one of the largest unions in Mexico.  Critics argue that thanks to Gordillo, the teachers' vote gave Calderón the 0.5% advantage he needed in the 2006 elections. 
[3] In October 2007, Calderón visited Villahermosa, Tabasco, to inspect flood-damaged areas.  He helped fill sandbags for a few minutes, then yelled, "Get down here or I'll make them bring you down here!" to observers on a bridge.  He then sent the military to get them so that they would help fill sandbags.  
[4] On June 5, 2009, the ABC Daycare Center in Hermosillo, Sonora, caught on fire, killing 49 children and injuring another 76, all between five months and five years old.  The daycare caught fire when an adjoining file warehouse belonging to the Sonora state government caught on fire.  A lack of fire alarms, fire extinguishers, and emergency exists lead to the enormous loss of life.  The children's parents continue their fight for justice and accountability. 
[5] Marisela Escobedo fought for justice in the disappearance and murder of her daughter, Rubí.  Rubí's boyfriend admitted to murdering her and directing authorities to her body, but he was released for lack of evidence.  Marisela campaigned unsuccessfully to have him imprisoned until she herself was assassinated in front of the Chihuahua municipal palace on December 16, 2010.
[6] Susana Chávez Castillo was a poet from Chihuahua who coined the slogan "Not one more [murdered woman]" ("Ni una más").  She was mutilated and murdered in January 2011.
[7] Mexico is in the midst of a "false positives" scandal in which soldiers murder civilians and then the government issues press releases arguing that the dead were members of organized crime who attacked the soldiers.  Such is the case of five-year-old Bryan and nine-year-old Martin Salazar, shot by soldiers at a checkpoint and accused of being members of organized crime; and US citizen Joseph Proctor.  Soldiers murdered Proctor at a checkpoint and then planted a weapon in his hands to argue that he had opened fire on the soldiers…except that the gun was registered to the soldiers, and not even Rambo can drive a minivan and shoot an assault rifle at the same time. 
[8] Radio and TV journalist Carmen Aristegui, a critic of Calderón, was fired in February 2011 for having asked on air if Calderón has a drinking problem. 

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Mexican Military Raids Social Organization’s Office in Oaxaca

by Kristin Bricker, Upside Down World

CODEP members stand in front
of the door that the military broke
 down in a warrantless raid.
 Photo by Santiago Navarro.
On Tuesday, January 11, at about 6:45 pm, the Mexican Army raided the Oaxaca City office of the Committee for the Defense of the People's Rights (CODEP) and the Committee for the Defense of Women's Rights (CODEM). According to CODEP members who were present during the raid, approximately 20 uniformed soldiers in an official vehicle pulled up in front of the organizations' building, broke down a makeshift sheet metal door, and searched their offices. After the soldiers broke down the door, they held CODEP member Patrocino Martinez at gunpoint. Martinez says that he demanded a search warrant, but that the soldiers pushed him and rushed up the stairs of the building, which is currently under construction.

Other members of the organization managed to lock the doors of the offices that contained their computers, copiers, and files, so the soldiers were unable to search those offices. However, the soldiers entered other unlocked offices, which included a dormitory and a screen-printing workshop. According to Martinez, the soldiers took photos of those offices. However, the soldiers did not remove any items from the building, nor did they make any arrests.

CODEP members who were present during the raid say that the soldiers questioned them at gunpoint about the organization's work and organized crime. Ernesto Lopez says that the soldiers’ commander, who identified himself only as “Carlos,” told him that they received an “anonymous tip” that “organized crime held meetings” in the building. Meanwhile, other soldiers questioned neighbors about possible criminal or drug trafficking activity in or near the building.

During the raid, the soldiers never showed a search warrant, and they refused to identify themselves. However, one CODEP member did manage to get the vehicle number off of the large military convoy-style truck that the soldiers used in the raid.

The Mexican military leaves CODEP's office
following the warrantless raid. Photo: CODEP.
In the days following the raid, CODEP and CODEM called a member of Congress who contacted the military about the raid. The legislator told them that the military would only say that it had "detected something" in the neighborhood, triggering the raid.

CODEP and CODEM have filed formal complaints with the state and national human rights commissions and the Mexican Congress’ human rights commission, requesting that those three entities investigate the raid and provide CODEP with information as to why it occurred.
History of Repression
In an interview with Upside Down World, CODEP and CODEM members appeared unfazed by the recent nighttime raid on their offices by soldiers armed with high-powered assault rifles. This is because this wasn’t the first time they’ve had run-ins with government forces, nor is it the worst attack they’ve suffered. In this latest raid, “they controlled themselves,” says CODEM leader Claudia Tapia. “They used to unleash unimaginable violence upon us.”

In their eighteen years of organizing women, peasants, taxi drivers, and indigenous peoples, CODEP and member organizations like CODEM have faced stiff opposition from the state government—and former governor Ulises Ruiz Ortiz in particular. “From his days as a Senator, we knew what sort of person [Ruiz] was,” says Tapia. “So we opposed him from the beginning of his [gubernatorial] campaign.”

CODEP members inspect damage to their sheet metal door,
which soldiers kicked down to enter the building.
Photo: CODEP
In February 2005, during the lead-up to the 2006 popular uprising that nearly toppled Ruiz, Mexico’s national human rights ombudsman at the time, José Luiz Soberanes, organized negotiations between the Oaxacan state government and CODEP. CODEP wished to negotiate the release of a political prisoner who had been arrested immediately after Ruiz took office. “However,” recounts Tapia, “instead of Ulises Ruiz arriving [at the negotiations] as he had agreed to do, he sent the police, and they detained our compañeros.” The police raided the hotel where the negotiations were to be held, as well as a CODEP office, arresting a total of seven CODEP members, some of whom spent months in prison.

CODEP, incensed, continued to organize against the Ruiz administration. In May 2006, when Oaxaca’s teachers union decided to strike for better conditions in their schools, CODEP joined their protest encampment in Oaxaca City’s main square. CODEP members and their children where in the protest encampment on June 14, the infamous day that Ruiz sent state police to violently break up the teachers’ protest encampment without warning.

CODEP is a founding member of the Popular Assembly of the Peoples of Oaxaca (APPO), the conglomeration of organizations, communities, and individuals that arose from the June 14 repression to oust Gov. Ruiz. When then-president Vicente Fox sent federal police to violently break the APPO’s hold on Oaxaca City on November 25, 2006, CODEP member 
Marcos Garcia traveled to sympathetic Oaxacan communities to rally them to defend the capital. On November 27, as he was traveling to a community, Garcia came under fire by a group CODEP identifies as a paramilitary death squad, one of the many that operated in the state at that time. They attacked Garcia with high-powered assault rifles, riddling his vehicle with 177 bullets, eight of which struck him. Miraculously, he survived the attack.

State repression against CODEP has continued since the 2006 uprising. On October 25, 2008, around twenty federal police raided a house in Oaxaca City where CODEP members worked and lived. The raid, according to the police, was an anti-organized crime operation. The police tortured CODEP member Luis Ramón González López for an hour. They beat him, put a plastic bag over his head, and applied the infamoustehuacanazo, a torture tactic that is popular amongst Mexican police. The tehuacanazoinvolves squirting mineral water (sometimes mixed with chile peppers) up the victim’s nose, which creates a drowning feeling and an intense burning sensation, sometimes causing the victim to lose consciousness. The torture session left González López with a broken rib and a punctured lung. During the interrogation, the police demanded that González López tell them the location of a “suitcase full of money,” a request that puzzles CODEP to this day. “That house is so humble that the question doesn’t even make sense,” argues Tapia. “They just want to terrorize us.” At the end of the torture session, the police confiscated a laptop, two cell phones, and documents and newspaper clippings about the 2006 uprising.
The Drug War is the New Cold War
CODEP knows that it’s no coincidence that this is the second drug war raid they’ve suffered since President Felipe Calderón deployed the military to battle drug cartels in late 2006. In a press release about the raid, CODEP argued: “There is no doubt that this strategy of state terrorism that is being advanced in our country is part of the Merida Initiative [a drug war aid package] and the Mesoamerica Project [formerly known as Plan Puebla-Panama, a neoliberal “development” project] that the [Mexican] government signed with the United States… with the goal of destroying human rights and social organizations who oppose the continuation of the destruction of our nation and the violation of our national sovereignty by foreign interests.”

“This isn’t new,” Lopez argues. “We saw this already with the Cold War and other wars. Now the United States doesn’t have a pretext or a fictitious enemy like it had in the 1970s, where the enemy was communism. When the Soviet Block fell, there was no longer an enemy to use to invent a war. So now the enemy that they created is drug trafficking and organized crime. Now, those who fight to demand their rights from the government, they are organized crime too. In Mexico, with the Merida Initiative, the US wants to have military control over the territory…and it won’t permit a social movement like that which occurred in Oaxaca in 2006 or in Chiapas [with the Zapatistas] in the 1990s. The US wants to control our government and control our country so that it can appropriate Mexico’s natural resources.”

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