Mexico News and Analysis, Nov 17-23, 2008

1. GOVERNMENT OFFICIALS UNDER INVESTIGATION FOR DRUG TIES
2. NEW INVESTIGATION INTO DIGNA OCHOA DEATH
3. ZAPATISTAS CELEBRATE 25 YEARS OF EZLN
4. NEW CHIAPAS POLITICAL LEADER – BACK TO THE PAST
5. CALDERON REJECTS RENEGOTIATION OF NAFTA
6. IMMIGRATION DROPS 42% IN TWO YEARS
7. MSN PROGRAM HIGHLIGHTS (Contact MSN [at] MexicoSolidarity [dot] org)

1. GOVERNMENT OFFICIALS UNDER INVESTIGATION FOR DRUG TIES
2. NEW INVESTIGATION INTO DIGNA OCHOA DEATH
3. ZAPATISTAS CELEBRATE 25 YEARS OF EZLN
4. NEW CHIAPAS POLITICAL LEADER – BACK TO THE PAST
5. CALDERON REJECTS RENEGOTIATION OF NAFTA
6. IMMIGRATION DROPS 42% IN TWO YEARS
7. MSN PROGRAM HIGHLIGHTS (Contact MSN [at] MexicoSolidarity [dot] org)


1. GOVERNMENT OFFICIALS UNDER INVESTIGATION FOR DRUG TIES
With the detention of drug czar Noe Ramirez and two former heads of Interpol in Mexico, President Felipe Calderon’s war on drugs may be on the verge of falling apart.  In an interview this weekend with a Spanish newspaper, Attorney General Eduardo Medina Mora was forced to answer probing questions in the negative: “The institutional capacity has not been destroyed.  The fact that we eliminated these people does not destroy the institution.  They are infiltrators, but there is absolutely no institutional collapse.  It’s these same institutions that are carrying out the cleanup.”  But with many of Mexico’s most powerful anti-drug officials under investigation, including Ricardo Gutierrez Vargas, Director of Interpol Mexico, and Rodolfo de la Guardia Garcia, the number two official at the Federal Investigative Agency from 2003 to 2005, the war on drugs may be crumbling in the face of massive narco-bribes.  Gutierrez Vargas enjoyed access to an international database on narcotics trafficking, and reportedly received as much as US$450,000 per month for turning over information to the Sinaloa Cartel. 

Former federal police commissioner Gerardo Garay, Miguel Colorado Gonzalez and Fernando Rivera Hernandez, both members of the Attorney’s General organized crime task force (SIEDO), Javier Herrera Valles, former Coordinator of Regional Security for the Federal Preventative Police, and four military officers are among the high level officials accused in recent weeks of working for the cartels.  The case of Herrera Valles is particularly complicated.  The former police official has accused Genaro Garcia Luna, the Secretary of Public Security in Calderon’s cabinet, of a series of irregularities, and claims the charges against him are retribution by the Calderon administration.  While there is currently no investigation of Garcia Luna, the name of his former personal secretary, Mario Velarde Martinez, surfaced recently in a related investigation of narcotics trafficking.  Garcia Luna has been publicly critical of the number of investigations touching the highest levels of his department, indicating a potentially nasty feud between the Secretary of Public Security and the federal Attorney General.

Corrupt officials are nothing new in Mexico.  Ten years ago, the first drug czar, Jesus Gutierrez Rebollo, who presided over the now defunct National Institute for Combating Drugs, was detained for links to the Juarez Cartel.


2. NEW INVESTIGATION INTO DIGNA OCHOA DEATH
Mexico City’s Attorney General opened a new investigation this week into the death of Digna Ochoa, an internationally known human rights lawyer who was murdered in 2001.  In 2003, former Special Investigator Margartia Guerra characterized the death as “simulated suicide,” a controversial finding that depended on questionable post-mortem psychological evaluations of the victim.  The finding was disputed by human rights organizations, including the Mexico Solidarity Network.  In September 2007, two campesinos from Guerrero provided testimony to the Attorney General, accusing Rogaciano Alvarez, the former mayor of Petatlan, Guerrero, and a notorious power broker from the region, of ordering the assassination of Ochoa.  Digna was investigating human rights violations in Guerrero around the time of her death.    


3. ZAPATISTAS CELEBRATE 25 YEARS OF EZLN
The Zapatista movement celebrated the 25th anniversary of the founding of the Zapatista National Liberation Army on November 17 with food and music in Oventic, one of five Zapatista cultural/political centers.  Lore has it that the EZLN was founded by six people, three indigenous and three meztizos, in 1983.  From these humble beginnings, the movement has grown to arguably the most important popular movement in Latin America.


4. NEW CHIAPAS POLITICAL LEADER – BACK TO THE PAST
With the designation of Noe Castañon as state Interior Secretary, Chiapas Governor Juan Sabines is returning to his PRI roots – and returning Chiapas to the violence and corruption of the late 1990s.  Elected in 2006 under the PRD ticket, Sabines has turned to his former party mates in the PRI to fill the most influential positions in the state bureaucracy.  Castañon served as head of the state Supreme Court under former Governor Roberto Albores, the principle promoter of the 1998 rezonification of Chiapas which gave local PRI powerbrokers and ex-military officials more control of areas with heavy Zapatista influence.  Castañon orchestrated several high profile Zapatista “desertions” in 1999 and 2000, though the “deserters” turned out to be imposters and, in some cases, former criminals.  Former Governor Pablo Salazar accused Castañon of corruption in 2001, but the investigation never prospered.  Today the most powerful positions in state government are dominated by PRI powerbrokers interested mainly in eco-tourism and capturing foreign investment.  Castañon reportedly is close to Calderon’s newly appointed federal Interior Secretary, Fernando Gomez Mont, who represented Albores during a corruption investigation in 2001.


5. CALDERON REJECTS RENEGOTIATION OF NAFTA
President Calderon rejected President-elect Barak Obama’s campaign pledge to renegotiate NAFTA, calling the plan an “error.”  In a move that may come back to haunt him, Calderon threatened Obama with consequences: “The day the US closes off access to Mexican products, immigrants are going to jump the river or the fence or whatever is put in their path.”  Despite repeated calls by millions of Mexicans to renegotiate NAFTA, particularly those in the agricultural sector, Calderon rejected the possibility at an APEC meeting this week.  Mexico’s president, known for appointing loyal but inexperienced cabinet members, tossed a veiled criticism at the newly forming Obama cabinet: “I hope they have sufficient talent and common sense.”


6. IMMIGRATION DROPS 42% IN TWO YEARS
Mexican immigration to the US dropped 42% over the past two years, according to a study published by the National Institute of Statistics and Geography (INEGI).  About eight of every 1,000 Mexicans emigrated between February and May of this year, a reduction of 42% from the same period in 2006, but still nearly one percent of the country’s population.  During 2007, about 814,000 Mexicans emigrated to the US, compared to 1.2 million in 2006.  The numbers include both documented and undocumented emigration.  The study found no change in the number of immigrants returning home, but emigration dropped to such an extent that by the end of 2007, more Mexicans were returning home than leaving the country for the first time in recent memory.


7. MSN PROGRAM HIGHLIGHTS (Contact MSN [at] MexicoSolidarity [dot] org)

STUDY ABROAD PROGRAM:
Mexico Solidarity Network study abroad programs are accredited at the undergraduate and masters level by the Universidad Autonoma Metropolitana, one of Mexico’s most prestigious public universities.  Hampshire College is the US school of record and provides official transcripts.

Fall 2008, September 7 – December 13: Study in Chiapas, Tlaxcala, Mexico City and Ciudad Juarez, focusing on the theory and practice of Mexican social movements, including indigenous movements, campesino organizations, and urban movements.  The 14-week, 16-credit program includes intensive Spanish language courses and alternative study options for native Spanish speakers.

Spring 2009, January 25 – May 2: Study in Chiapas, Tlaxcala, Mexico City and Ciudad Juarez, focusing on the theory and practice of Mexican social movements, including indigenous movements, campesino organizations, and urban movements.  The 14-week, 16-credit program includes intensive Spanish language courses and alternative study options for native Spanish speakers.

Summer 2009, June 7 – August 1: Study Mexico’s most important social movements in Chiapas, Mexico City and Tlaxcala.  The eight-week, 11-credit program includes intensive Spanish classes and alternative study options for native Spanish speakers.

Summer 2009, June 14 – July 25: The Border Dynamics program focuses on US-Mexico border dynamics viewed through a third world feminist lens.  The six-week, 8-credit program is Spanish immersion.

Fall 2009, September 6 – December 12: Study in Chiapas, Tlaxcala, Mexico City and Ciudad Juarez, focusing on the theory and practice of Mexican social movements, including indigenous movements, campesino organizations, and urban movements.  The 14-week, 16-credit program includes intensive Spanish language courses and alternative study options for native Spanish speakers.


CHICAGO AUTONOMOUS CENTER (3460 W. LAWRENCE AVE.)
ESL and Spanish Literacy classes: Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday evenings, and Saturday mornings.  Classes utilize popular education strategies to increase conversational English capacity and basic reading and writing skills in Spanish.

Cultural events and political workshops:
For a full schedule of cultural events and political workshops, contact the Mexico Solidarity Network at 773-583-7728 or visit the Centro Autonomo webpage


SPEAKING TOURS:
Contact MSN [at] MexicoSolidarity [dot] org to schedule an event in your city.

January 5-16, 2009 (New England): Dr. Thomas Hansen, co-founder of the Mexico Solidarity Network, holds a doctorate in rural development from the Universidad Autonoma Metropolitana in Mexico City, where his academic work focused on the theory and practice of social movements.  He has 25 years of experience working in Mexico, Cuba and Central America. Tom will speak on one of three topics, depending on the venue: 
- Dynamics of Mexican social movements
- Zapatismo
- Role of "new social actors" in social movements, with particular emphasis on US-based university students

February 8-21, 2009 (Mid Atlantic): Border dynamics.  Veronica Leyva, a native of Ciudad Juarez, will speak about maquiladoras, immigration and struggles for land along the border, with particular emphasis on the Lomas de Poleo struggle.  Veronia is the MSN staff person in Ciudad Juarez.  She worked for seven years in maquiladoras and six years as a labor/community organizer before joining the MSN staff in 2004.

February 15-28, 2009 (Mid Atlantic): Edith López Ovalle is a 25-year-old artist and a member of Hijos por la Identidad y la Justicia contra el Olvido y el Silencio (HIJOS) where she Works with the Committee on Art and Politics.  HIJOS is a member of the Otra Campaña and works around questions of human rights, particularly the death and disappearance of social actors.  The parents of most of the members of HIJOS were political prisoners, and many were killed or disappeared in the 60s, 70s and 80s.  HIJOS is a multi-national organization founded in Argentina and with chapters in Guatemala, El Salvador, Colombia, Chile and Mexico.  HIJOS works at the cultural level with innovative public events like “escraches” that draw attention to human rights violators.  In “escraches,” protestors hold vigils or demonstrations in front of the homes or offices of human rights violators, calling public attention to their illegal acts in front of neighbors and fellow workers.  HIJOS also renames streets, replacing the names of known human rights violators with dissident heroes.  For more information on HIJOS, see www.hijosmexico.org.

March 22 – April 4, 2009 (Midwest): Immigration dynamics, featuring migrant workers from the Midwest.

March 29 – April 11, 2009 (New York, Pennsylvania, Ohio): Jorge Santiago is the former Director of Desarrollo Económico y Social de los Méxicanos Indígenas (DESMI) where he spent much of the past three decades developing economic alternatives in Chiapas indigenous communities.  Jorge was active in the Diocese of San Cristóbal from 1970 to 2000 under the leadership of former Bishop Samuel Ruiz.  Jorge has traveled extensively in Latin America and Europe discussing alternative indigenous development in Chiapas, and he is a leader in the “solidarity economy” movement.  He was born in San Cristobal and has lived in Chiapas most of his life.  Jorge will talk about alternative development in indigenous communities and the broad historical context of the Zapatista movement.

April 5-18, 2009 (California): Patricia Hernández is a member of the organizations Educación para la Liberación de Nuestros Pueblos (OZELNP) and Espacio de Encuentro de Mujeres “tejedoras de resistencias.”  Both organizations are adherents to the Sixth Declaration of the Selva Lacandona and members of the Otra Campaña.  Patricia is a sociologist with a specialty in gender and education.  She will talk about her work in Zapatista communities as an education promoter and the role of urban activists in the Otra Campaña.


ALTERNATIVE ECONOMY INTERNSHIPS:
Develop markets for artisanry produced by women's cooperatives in Chiapas and make public presentations on the struggle for justice and dignity in Zapatista communities.

Interns are currently active in:  New York City; El Paso, TX; Salt Lake City, UT; Rochester, NY; Albuquerque, NM; Washington, DC; Chico, CA; Stonington, ME; Minneapolis, MN; Berkeley, CA; Grand Rapids, MI; Salem, OR; Santa Cruz, CA; Chatham, NJ; Rutland, MA; Chicago, IL; Corpus Christi, TX; and Houston, TX



Please accept our apologies if you have received this email in error. To be removed from the Mexico Solidarity Network mailing list, please send a blank message to allies-unsubscribe [at] mexicosolidarity [dot] prometdevelopment [dot] com

If this message has been forwarded to you and you would like to subscribe to the Mexico Solidarity Network mailing list, please visit mexicosolidarity.prometdevelopment.com and use the subscription feature provided, or send a blank message to allies-subscribe@mexicos