APRIL 21 – MAY 4, 2008

1. LOW INTENSITY WAR AGAINST ZAPATISTAS INCLUDES MEDICINE
2. SECOND ANNIVERSARY OF ATENCO POLICE ACTIONS
3. ARMY INVADES CIUDAD JUAREZ
4. REMITTANCES DECREASING
5. EPR OFFERS TALKS WITH GOVERNMENT
6. PRD SINKS FURTHER INTO DISARRAY
7. PEMEX DEBATE
8. MAY DAY MARCHES SMALL BUT SPIRITED


1. LOW INTENSITY WAR AGAINST ZAPATISTAS INCLUDES MEDICINE
Low intensity war waged against the Zapatista movement is spreading to the medical sector.  While medical authorities in Chiapas have never provided first class treatment for indigenous patients, there appears to be a coordinated campaign recently to deny medical care for Zapatista support bases.  In an April 27 article published in La Jornada, journalist Hermann Bellinghausen documents a series of recent cases in which Zapatistas were denied adequate medical treatment at State hospitals, resulting in the death of at least one patient.  “In recent days, indigenous patients sent by Zapatista [health promoters] from El Bosque, San Andres, Simojovel and Teopisca have been mistreated or abandoned at the regional hospital in San Cristobal,” according to Bellinghausen.  For example, “on April 25, Miguel Diaz Perez arrived with acute appendicitis which requires immediate surgery.  Inexplicably, [hospital officials] made him wait twelve hours.”  While medical attention has always been less than stellar for indigenous patients, who often don’t even receive clear explanations for their illnesses – “why, they don’t understand in any case,” according to one hospital official – the new attitude appears to be a concerted attack on Zapatista support bases sent to State hospitals when the cases cannot be treated in the autonomous clinics.


2. SECOND ANNIVERSARY OF ATENCO POLICE ACTIONS
May 3 marked the second anniversary of coordinated police actions by local, state and federal authorities in San Salvador Atenco, in which at least 26 women suffered rape or sexual abuse.  Authorities arrested more than 200 people, subjecting the majority to severe beatings and torture.  At least two people died at the hands of police, yet to date not a single police officer is in prison.  Instead, three leaders of the Popular Front in Defense of the Land (FPDT) remain in federal prison, sentenced to 67 years, while at least 15 members of the FPDT will complete two years in a State prison while their cases work their way through the tortuously slow judicial process.  Amnesty International accused authorities of enjoying “impunity” after participating in “acts of torture,” and characterized the Atenco case as “paradigmatic” of state-sponsored violence.


3. ARMY INVADES CIUDAD JUAREZ
Federal forces led by the Army and the Federal Preventative Police invaded Ciudad Juarez on March 27.  Chihuahua Governor Jose Reyes requested the operation after narco-traffickers murdered 93 people in February, including 10 local police, two state police, one member of the Investigative Police and one Army troop.  The dramatic increase in violence appears to be the result of a battle between the Carrillo Fuentes family, traditional leaders of the Juarez Cartel, and Chapo Guzman, leader of the Sinaloa Cartel also known locally as “La Linea,” for control of the lucrative Juarez market.  The Juarez Cartel currently exercises effective control over local police forces through a combination of bribes and violence.  To date, “Operation Chihuahua” has resulted in the arrest of 167 people, including at least 29 local police.  None of those arrested are reportedly cartel leaders.  The most important actions appear to be directed against local police, calling into question the logic of the operation.  Is it possible that the Calderon administration is taking sides in the war on drugs?  In the case of Juarez, are federal officials dismantling a network of police support for the Juarez Cartel so the Sinaloa Cartel can easily take over?  If not, why aren’t cartel leaders among those arrested, and why has the Army seized only modest, some might say symbolic, catches of marijuana and cocaine?


4. REMITTANCES DECREASING
Immigrant remittances from the US decreased during the first three months of 2008, the first decrease registered since officials began tracking remittances.  A recent poll conducted by Inter-American Bank (IAB) found that only half of Latin American immigrants sent remittances to families in home countries during 2008, compared to 73% in a poll conducted in 2006.  The IAB attributed the decrease to the US recession, which disproportionately affects immigrants, particularly undocumented workers.  There are about 19 million immigrants born in Latin America currently living in the US, while Latinos, who number 45.5 million, account for 15% of the total population.  Forty percent of immigrants reported incomes lower in 2008 than 2007, and more than two-thirds suffered discrimination, compared to only 37% in 2001 poll.


5. EPR OFFERS TALKS WITH GOVERNMENT
In a surprising move, the Popular Revolutionary Army (EPR) offered mediated talks with the Calderon administration.  In an April 24 communiqué, the guerrilla group suggested former Chiapas Bishop Samuel Ruiz, author Carlos Montemayor, journalist Miguel Angel Granados Chapa and anthropologist/activist Gilberto Lopez y Rivas as intermediaries.  All four accepted the initiative with the understanding that the EPR would cease military actions during the negotiations (this was part of the EPR’s initial proposal) and the federal government would move quickly to clarify the status of two EPR members who disappeared nine months ago.  The Calderon administration responded with suggestions for direct talks accompanied by “social witnesses.”  Interior Secretary Juan Mouriño set several pre-conditions, including a permanent end to all guerilla activity and talks that would not be limited to the disappeared activists.  In an apparent effort to derail talks before they begin, PAN President German Martinez boasted the pre-conditions were equivalent to surrender, leading many to wonder if the government was serious about negotiations.  In a later communiqué, the EPR also suggested Deputy Rosario Ibarra, whose son disappeared during the 1970s dirty war.  Ibarra is perhaps the most visible human rights activist in Mexico and a close ally of former PRD presidential candidate Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador.  The Calderon administration rejected Ibarra as a potential “social witness,” largely because of her close relationship with Lopez Obrador.

On April 26, federal officials arrested two Oaxacan police officials, Commander Pedro Hernandez and Angel Cruz, who apparently kidnapped two EPR members, Edmundo Reyes and Gabriel Cruz, on May 25, 2007, in Oaxaca City.  The EPR claimed government officials and/or the army were responsible for the disappearances, and sabotaged a series of important oil pipelines last July and September, demanding release of their comrades.  Until this week, officials claimed to have no knowledge of the disappeared activists.  According to testimony offered by an employee of the Oaxaca Attorney General office, police took the two activists into custody under an arrest warrant issued by state authorities, but never presented them for formal investigation, holding them instead for ransom.  Their current disposition is unknown.  Hernandez and Cruz are well-known for kidnapping and disappearing local activists involved in activities organized by the Popular Assembly of the People of Oaxaca (APPO).

During the oil pipeline campaign, the EPR characterized the Calderon administration as illegitimate and threatened an unending series of armed actions until their comrades were released.  In this context, the recent communiqués can be understood as a response to changing political conditions in Mexico.  Calderon’s recent proposal to privatize Pemex appears to be headed for defeat, which may account for the administration’s quick, and relatively positive, response to the EPR initiative.  If Calderon’s most important political initiative is headed for failure, perhaps negotiations with the EPR can distract the public while salvaging some level of legitimacy for an administration under attack since its first days in power.  From the beginning, the EPR recognized the two disappeared activists as members of the guerilla group while claiming their activities were legal, perhaps trying to claim new political space, similar to that enjoyed by the EZLN.  EZLN leaders travel the country and hold press conferences, while the EPR is a largely isolated armed movement with highly secretive influence in limited rural communities in Oaxaca, Guerrero and perhaps a few other states.  They may be looking for political space amidst a media frenzy that would certainly accompany negotiations, in addition to seeing political gain from the release of their kidnapped comrades.


6. PRD SINKS FURTHER INTO DISARRAY
Struggle for control of the PRD left the party this week without a president and the strong possibility that internal elections for party leaders held in March would be annulled.  The Technical Electoral Commission released “final” results, naming Alejandro Encinas winner of the disputed presidential contest after tabulating only 84% of polling places.  Partial results from nine states were excluded from the final results, including all the polling stations in Chiapas, for various irregularities, including sites that reported more than 1,000 votes (each station was limited to 1,000 ballots), polling stations that issued reports but never officially opened, and election boxes that reported more than 90% in favor of one candidate.  The National Commission of Guarantees, an independent party entity that oversees ethical issues, confirmed the results, giving both sides an opportunity to challenge polling stations that were not included in the final tabulation. 

Jesus Ortega immediately contested the results, claiming his own victory by a margin of 17,000 votes if all national polling sites are counted.  Representatives of both candidates met this week with the Federal Electoral Tribunal (TEPJF) to make their cases.  Encinas, supported by former PRD presidential candidate Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, is hesitant to formally recognize the authority of the TEPJF because the Tribunal was largely responsible for manipulating the fraudulent 2006 presidential elections that brought Felipe Calderon to power.  Ortega, who is closely aligned with more conservative party operatives and has an icy relationship with Lopez Obrador, shares no such concerns.  Late in the week, Ortega refused to meet with Encinas, leaving the party without spaces to negotiate the escalating conflict.  On Sunday, the National Commission, the party’s highest authority, named Guadalupe Acosta Naranjo and Martha Dalia Gastelum as interim President and General Secretary.  Both are close allies of Jesus Ortega.  Alejandro Encinas refused to recognize the appointments.


7. PEMEX DEBATE
The Frente Amplio Pregresista (FAP) ended their sixteen day occupation of Congress, agreeing to a 71-day national debate on privatization of Pemex.  The PAN, PRI and FAP agreed to a series of debates, to be held largely in the halls of Congress, on energy reform measures introduced by the Calderon administration three weeks ago.  The debate will begin on May 13 and end on July 23.  There also appears to be a tacit agreement that the PAN and PRI will not call for a special Congressional session in August, leaving energy reform legislation until the regular September Congressional sessions.  FAP Senators and Deputies celebrated the “victory,” while popular forces opposed to the privatization of Pemex warned that this is only the first step in a long and contested institutional process.  PAN leaders claimed energy reform measures are “on track,” while most political analysts found Calderon’s most important initiative to date in serious trouble.   

Meanwhile, the Center for the Study of Law and Parliamentary Investigations (CEDIP), an official Congressional body under the direction of PRI Deputy Alfredo Rios, declared Calderon’s energy reform to be “unconstitutional.”  The CEDIP accused the government of “converting the petroleum industry into a vast business arena for the private sector, particularly foreign investors, by invading key areas of oil exploration through the use of multiple service contracts in a way that private businesses are participating in activities that are constitutionally reserved for the State.”  


8. MAY DAY MARCHES SMALL BUT SPIRITED
National May Day marches focused on immigrant rights were smaller than the historic 2006 demonstrations, but offered a spirited call for normalization of immigration status for 13 million undocumented workers currently living in the US.  About 20,000 demonstrators turned out in Chicago.  The lower turnouts are likely due to increased repression by federal authorities as ICE agents step up worksite raids in anticipation of the 2008 presidential campaigns.