FEBRUARY 18-24, 2008

1. STATE PUBLISHES ARTICLE CONDEMNING FOREIGN HUMAN RIGHTS OBSERVERS
2. PEMEX INCOME SETS MONTHLY RECORD
3. CONTROVERSIAL JUDICIAL REFORM APPEARS IMMINENT


1. STATE PUBLISHES ARTICLE CONDEMNING FOREIGN HUMAN RIGHTS OBSERVERS
In a worrying escalation of government and paramilitary activities in the Agua Azul region, the State published a paid article in La Jornada, one of Mexico’s leading daily newspapers, condemning foreign human rights observers for participating in the kidnapping of local police.  “News articles” paid for by government agencies are common in Mexican newspapers, and they are easily identified in La Jornada because the headlines appear in italics.  The article in question, published on Friday under the headline “Zapatistas Commanded by Foreigners Detain Journalist and Police,” is particularly troublesome because it appears to be part of an orchestrated effort to lay the groundwork for the expulsion of foreign human rights observers.  The article claims “a journalist and four state police were illegally detained by Zapatista base communities – under the command of five foreigners – in Agua Azul.”  The article continued, “The foreigners, who gave orders to 20 masked Zapatistas, detained the journalist and police – making a routine trip along the road to Agua Azul – who were relieved of their weapons and the photographer’s camera equipment…  It’s important to note that the police, who offered no resistance, were tied up and beaten.  During the course of events, the foreigners incited violence against the reporter and the police.”  Later press reports citing government sources clarified that the police entered the Zapatista community Bolom Ajaw heavily armed, and the “journalist” was a member of the Center for Investigation and National Security (Cisen), the army’s intelligence unit, taking photos of disputed lands.  Anyone who has visited a Zapatista community would quickly appreciate the absurdity of foreigners “commanding” Zapatistas.

The article appears only a week after a group of foreign human rights observers filed a formal complaint against paramilitary groups in Agua Azul who threatened them with a pistol and detained their vehicle.  The entire confrontation was documented on video.


2. PEMEX INCOME SETS MONTHLY RECORD
Despite efforts by the Calderon administration to portray Pemex as broke and incapable of producing oil, the state-owned petroleum monopoly earned US$3.5 billion in export sales in January, setting a record for January sales.  Privatization of energy is high on the Calderon agenda, yet the President faces many contradictions as he tries to prepare the nation for eventual foreign ownership in the petroleum sector.  While at home, Calderon laments limited proven petroleum reserves, estimated to run out in nine years, but during last week’s visit to the US, he dangled stories of energy wealth in untapped deposits in the Gulf of Mexico.  Calderon argues that Mexico has to import gasoline, while Pemex has not built a new refinery in the past three decades due to decapitalization of the State-owned oil giant over successive PRI and PAN administrations.  Pemex currently provides more than 40% of the federal budget.  Efforts to privatize energy are expected to come to a head this Spring when the Calderon administration presents a report on the petroleum sector and the PRI defines its position regarding energy privatization.  The energy sector is constitutionally public property and changes would require constitutional amendments or creative interpretation of existing laws.


3. CONTROVERSIAL JUDICIAL REFORM APPEARS IMMINENT
A judicial reform package that would allow warrantless house searches, preventative detentions and special investigative rules for organized crime which could be applied to social movements is nearly ready for approval by a PAN-PRI alliance in the lower house.  Human rights organizations and NGOs called on the Inter-American Human Rights Commission to make a public declaration condemning the law.