FEBRUARY 11-17, 2008

1. OAXACA TEACHERS ON STRIKE
2. IFE CANCELS INVESTIGATION OF ILLEGAL ADVERTISING
3. ARIZONA TO BEGIN IMMIGRATION RAIDS IN MARCH
4. NATIONAL HUMAN RIGHTS COMMISSION CRITICIZED
5. BOMB EXPLODES IN TOURIST ZONE IN MEXICO CITY
6. CALDERON VISITS US


1. OAXACA TEACHERS ON STRIKE
70,000 Oaxaca teachers affiliated with Section 22 of the National Union of Education Workers (SNTE) went on strike this week demanding the union’s Executive Committee convene immediate internal elections.  The teachers also demanded freedom for political prisoners from the 2006 popular uprising in Oaxaca, cancellation of arrest warrants issued against teachers who participated in the uprising, and the return of several dozen schools occupied by a rival union local, Section 59, created by local PRI bosses to counteract the power of Section 22.  Members of the Popular Assembly of the Peoples of Oaxaca (APPO) accompanied Section 22 in marches and meetings in most of Oaxaca’s major cities.  The widely unpopular Governor Ulises Ruiz, whose removal was the central focus of the 2006 uprising, claims to have the situation in hand, though he made similar claims throughout 2006.


2. IFE CANCELS INVESTIGATION OF ILLEGAL ADVERTISING
The Federal Election Institute (IFE), led by three recently elected members, canceled the investigation of thousands of illegal ads paid for by political parties and private sources during the 2006 presidential campaign.  Leonardo Valdes, the new IFE president, offered a three minute argument for canceling the investigation and instead leveling modest fines against the major political parties before seven of the nine IFE members voted to support the proposal.  The move is apparently an effort to begin the newly revised IFE with a clean slate rather than returning to issues raised during the highly polemic 2006 presidential campaign in which PANista Felipe Calderon assumed the presidency after a fraudulent election.  The IFE must still decide whether to destroy the ballots from the 2006 election.


3. ARIZONA TO BEGIN IMMIGRATION RAIDS IN MARCH
Authorities in Arizona will initiate state-wide operations in March directed at work places that hire undocumented workers, according to the Consul General in Phoenix.  Arizona recently passed the most stringent anti-immigrant laws in the US.  Police throughout the state will search work sites for undocumented workers, leveling hefty fines against employers found to hire undocumented immigrants.  An estimated 120,000 undocumented Mexicans live in Arizona.  Businesses are challenging the new laws in court and there is still a slight chance that they will be found unconstitutional.


4. NATIONAL HUMAN RIGHTS COMMISSION CRITICIZED
US-based Human Rights Watch issued a scathing critique of Mexico’s National Human Rights Commission (CNDH), accusing the government agency of malfeasance and ineptitude in the protection of human rights.  Human Rights Watch recognized the CNDH for its often comprehensive reports on human rights violations, but condemned the Commission for negotiating with responsible government agencies while leaving the victims of abuses on the sidelines, and for a general lack of follow-up that left government agencies with little reason to rectify abuses or change ingrained habits.  In general, Human Rights Watch found the CNDH to “have a limited impact,” despite an annual budget of US$79 million dollars, the largest budget of any human rights organization worldwide, and over 100 staff members.

In related news, the CNDH issued its annual human rights report on Friday, condemning the government for “grave” violations over the past year.  President Felipe Calderon attended the formal presentation, the first time a sitting Mexican president has ever attended a CNDH annual report.  Most observers interpreted this as an effort to shore up the CNDH in light of the Human Rights Watch criticisms.  With the army carrying out law enforcement in cities throughout Mexico as part of Calderon’s war on drugs, human rights abuses increased dramatically last year.  Calderon’s presence at the annual report sends the message that the government supports a toothless yet comprehensive human rights reporting system that allows the President to take a public stand in support of human rights while largely ignoring the reality of his government’s actions on the ground.

And in further related news, more than 5,500 Mexicans sought political asylum in Canada last year, surpassing Colombia, Afghanistan and China.  Canada rejected the vast majority of the petitions.  Canadian lawyers sited hundreds of examples of Mexican citizens with little choice but to seek asylum in another country.  Many of the cases involved corrupt police or government officials who threatened the lives of citizens.  For example, a police officer was forced to choose between a bribe from a drug cartel or a death sentence if he rejected the offer.  A woman who was beaten by her husband was beaten again by police officers, friends of the husband, after she reported the crime.  A kidnapping victim decided to bring charges against his kidnappers, only to be threatened by the same kidnappers after police informed them of the charges.  And a public employee received death threats after reporting corruption by former Mexico State Governor Arturo Montiel.


5. BOMB EXPLODES IN TOURIST ZONE IN MEXICO CITY
A homemade bomb of limited capacity exploded in Mexico City’s tourist zone near a police headquarters on Friday afternoon, leaving one person dead and one seriously wounded.  As of this writing, police are withholding the identity of the victim, who was probably carrying the bomb when it exploded.  The bombing is most likely the work of drug cartels upset at recent police actions in Mexico City and the border region that decommissioned significant catches of drugs and weapons.


6. CALDERON VISITS US
President Felipe Calderon visited California and New York this week.  Aside from inviting US petroleum companies to weigh in on the current debate in Mexico around privatization of the national oil monopoly PEMEX, the President said little of interest and accomplished even less.  Calderon has repeatedly made the argument that Mexico must rely on private foreign investment in the energy sector because the country only has nine years of proven petroleum reserves.  Yet speaking at a press conference, Calderon assured US oil companies that Mexico “has a lot or petroleum, a treasure under the ocean.”