JANUARY 7-27, 2008

1. SEVEN ATENCO PRISONERS LIBERATED
2. MEXICO LEADS WORLD IN MIGRATION
3. HALLIBURTON LEADS FOREIGN INVESTMENT IN PEMEX
4. ARMY TAKES OVER POLICING ACTIVITIES IN BAJA CALIFORNIA
5. CALDERON NAMES NEW SECRETARY OF GOVERNANCE


1. SEVEN ATENCO PRISONERS LIBERATED
Seven members of the People’s Front in Defense of the Land (FPDT) were released from the Molino de Flores prison on January 25 after spending one year and eight months behind bars on trumped up charges related to the May 3-4, 2006, police violence in San Salvador Atenco.  A federal judge found insufficient evidence to hold the seven on charges of kidnapping and blocking highways.  FPDT supporters, who maintain a 24-hour vigil in front of the prison, celebrated with an impromptu party including live music and fireworks.  A judge ordered the release several weeks ago, but federal authorities challenged the ruling, thereby prolonging the release.  Guillermo Selvas Pineda and his daughter Mariana Selvas Gómez, David Medina Neri, Vicente García Munguía, Martín Garrido Romero, Cecilio Ramírez Espinosa and Jorge Armando Ramírez Aguilar left the prison to chants of “free the other prisoners,” a reference to 16 members of the FPDT who remain jailed. 

Federal, state and local police entered Atenco early on the morning of May 4, 2006, breaking into dozens of houses without warrants, beating arrestees and sexually assaulting at least two dozen women.  Police murdered two people, a college student and a high school student, but to date no official has been charged with a crime.


2. MEXICO LEADS WORLD IN MIGRATION
Mexico leads the world in migration, with 11.5 million Mexicans leaving their homeland since 2000, the vast majority headed for the US, according to a report by the World Bank entitled “Migration ad Remittances Factbook.”  Mexico is also third in migrant remittances, receiving US$25 billion in 2007.  The “US-Mexico corridor” is the most traveled immigration route in the world, according to the report.


3. HALLIBURTON LEADS FOREIGN INVESTMENT IN PEMEX
US-based Halliburton is the leading foreign investor in Mexico’s petroleum sector with 160 contracts worth more than US$2 billion.  Halliburton accounts for one-fifth of all foreign investment in the petroleum sector.  Sixty-five contracts deal with drilling and maintenance, including a contract signed recently in which the company will drill 58 wells in southern Mexico at a cost of US$683 million.  Vice President Richard Cheney is the former CEO of Halliburton.  PEMEX reported petroleum exports totaling US$38 billion in 2007, the highest annual export income ever reported by the national oil company.


4. ARMY TAKES OVER POLICING ACTIVITIES IN BAJA CALIFORNIA
In an historically unprecedented and unconstitutional action, the army assumed responsibility for criminal investigations and prosecutions on January 16 in Baja California.  The Secretary of Defense announced the moves a day after three municipal police chiefs were assassinated, presumably by drug cartels operating in the Tijuana region.  Baja California has seen increased drug-related violence over the past year as cartels, local police and the army battle for turf and influence.

In related news, drug dealers killed a US Border Patrol agent near Yuma, Arizona, as they tried to enter the US near Interstate 8 with a truckload of narcotics.  Michael Chertoff, Secretary of Homeland Security, was “scandalized by this abject act of violence” and demanded immediate action from the Mexican government.


5. CALDERON NAMES NEW SECRETARY OF GOVERNANCE
President Felipe Calderon appointed Juan Camilo Mouriño Terrazo as his new Secretary of Governance, the second most powerful position in the Mexican government.  In his first public comments, Mouriño rejected negotiations with former PRD presidential candidate Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador as well as the Popular Revolutionary Army (EPR).  Historically the post has been a stepping stone to the presidency, but Mouriño is the son of a Spanish father, possibly inhibiting his ability to run for the nation’s highest office.  Mauriño was formally head of the President’s Office and played a key role in Calderon’s presidential campaign.