Mexico News and Analysis, Jan 26 - Feb 8, 2009

1. Zapatistas announce Women’s Encounter March 7-8
2. Apizaco police arrest UPADI members
3. Ex Drug Czar arrested
4. Mexico City cuts water supplies
5. Cartels agree to peace treaty?
6. Media Outlets broadcast “unusual” political ads
7. Miners win raise, Officials issue warrant for union president

1. Zapatistas announce Women’s Encounter March 7-8

Translation El Kilombo Intergalactico

EZLN, January 28, 2009
To the compañeras of the Other Campaign, the Zezta Internacional, and all women who are adherents of the Sixth Declaration:

As part of the celebrations for the next International Day of Women in Struggle, the Comandantas of the CCRI-CG of the EZLN are organizing a sporting, cultural, and political event for March 7 and 8, 2009, in the Caracol of Oventik, Altos of Chiapas.

As the Comandantas were still discussing the characteristics of this encounter of Women in Struggle, we got news of the death of our compañera in the Other Campaign in Chihuahua, Doña Concepción García de Corral.

"Mamá Corral" we called her, we the Zapatistas, to this woman, mother of social strugglers fallen in combat and tenacious struggler herself for the return of those disappeared for political reasons. She took us in as her sons and daughters without conditions or opportunism, and with a care and affection that had nothing to do with stages and photos. When those of us who make up the Sixth Commission met her personally, we felt in her the strength that has surely held up more than once our compañeras Mothers of the Disappeared of Chihuahua, our mothers in the struggle.

Although the event was originally planned for Zapatista women, the Comandantas were thinking they would also invite OTHER women that are also our compañeras in Mexico and in the world, and, when we found out about the death of Doña Concepción García de Corral, they decided to give this celebration the nom de guerre that we knew and know her by: MAMÁ CORRAL, in order to honor women who are mothers and that, regardless of age, do not give up, do not sell out, do not give in.

And so, carrying out the orders of our bosses, the Comandantas Zapatistas, we send you an invitation to the: MAMÁ CORRAL Political, Sporting, Cultural, and Artistic Event

To be held March 7 and 8, 2009, in the Caracol of Oventik, Chiapas, and which will have the following characteristics:

- Only WOMEN can participate directly in the sporting events and artistic and cultural acts, and they may participate regardless of age, race, religious belief, language, nationality, or sexual preference.

- The men who attend can only participate by cooking, taking care of children, cleaning, or working to support the event.

- There will be 3 sports: Basketball, Volleyball, and Soccer

- There will be cultural acts like songs, poetry, theater, mural newspapers, and dances.

- The women's teams that form to participate in the sports should register on the Enlace Zapatista webpage, including which sport they want to participate in, how many women are on their team, their team name, and what their uniform will be if it is the case that they are going to wear uniforms. This is in order to organize the games in the tournament.

- The women or groups of women that are going to participate in the cultural performances should also register on the Enlace Zapatista webpage, including what they are going to perform, how many people will perform, and what they are calling themselves if they are calling themselves something, so that we can program the event.

- The sporting events will start March 7, 2009 on the courts of the Caracol of Oventik and, if there are a lot of teams, will continue on March 8, 2009.

- The cultural acts will be scheduled for the evening of March 7 and the afternoon and evening of March 8, according to how many numbers are programmed.

- On March 8, 2009, the Comandantas Zapatistas will give a message of struggle.

That's all for now.

Liberty and Justice for Atenco!

Liberty, Justice, and Safe Return of the Political Prisoners and the Disappeared!

From the mountains of the Mexican Southeast

For the Indigenous Revolutionary Clandestine Committee-General Command of the Zapatista Army for National Liberation

Subcomandante Insurgente Marcos.
Mexico, January 2009.

2. Apizaco police arrest UPADI members
Police in the market town of Apizaco, the second largest city in the central state of Tlaxcala, cracked down on activists from the Popular Democratic and Independent Union of Apizaco (UPADI) this week for conducting a street poll on the question of local garbage collection.  Apizaco politicians want to privatize the city’s garbage collection, while members of UPADI argue that the concession process has been corrupt and will cost residents more for worse service.  At least four UPADI members were arrested as they conducted a poll with pedestrians in the city center.  Apizaco political leaders have a long history of brutal and illegal repression of peaceful social movements, including several police actions over the past two years directed at legal sex workers.  Recent reports indicate that police are receiving special training to deal with UPADI members.  UPADI is a member of the Zapatista-initiated Other Campaign.  The Mexico Solidarity Network joins hundreds of organizations affiliated with the Other Campaign in denouncing the illegal repression of peaceful protest in Apizaco.  We call on the city President to release all UPADI prisoners and end police actions against UPADI.

3. Ex Drug Czar arrested
Mariano Herran Salvatti, former Chiapas Minister of Justice, ex national Drug Czar during the Fox administration, and most recently Chiapas Secretary of Economy, was arrested last week and charged with misuse of government funds, criminal association and abuse of government powers.  Herran served for six years as federal Drug Czar where he enjoyed the strong support of the US Drug Enforcement Administration.  Recently, informants linked Herran to cartels based in Cancun, which may help to account for some of his massive unexplained wealth.  Officials searched several of Herran’s multiple properties, including two luxury apartments in Mexico City, a ranch and house in Chiapas, and a beachside residence in Acapulco.  Herran is currently in El Amate prison in Chiapas, the same prison where he sent dozens of campesinos and activists who opposed the administration of Governor Pablo Salazar.

4. Mexico City cuts water supplies
Authorities shut down a major water pipeline in Mexico City last Sunday, cutting service temporarily to 2 million residents after water levels in reservoirs dropped to their lowest levels in 16 years.  Water shortages are expected to continue until at least May when the rainy season might offer some relief.  Most residents with reserve tanks will not suffer shortages as the tanks can be filled during hours when water service is functioning.  This includes most wealthy and middle class residences, hotels and businesses.  Up to 40% of the city’s potable water is lost through leaks in aging underground pipes, hence the need for a partial shutdown rather than a rationing system.  Most of the capitol’s rainwater is channeled into the sewer system, which ends up in the Gulf of Mexico rather than replenishing aquifers which supply most of the city’s fresh water.  The cutoff became necessary when seven reservoirs that make up the Cutzamala system, which provides a quarter of the city’s water, were reduced to 63% capacity after last year’s sparse rainy season. 

5. Cartels agree to peace treaty?
Riodice, a local weekly news magazine in Sinaloa dedicated mainly to news on narcotics trafficking, reports that the country’s leading drug cartels held a meeting in December where they agreed to suspend armed confrontations over control of territory and concentrate instead on rebuilding their businesses.  However, sources close to the cartels were pessimistic that such a truce could last.  The article noted that high level military authorities are aware of the pact.  Sinaloa has been at the center of some of the worst battles between cartels, but the number of violent incidents has decreased in the state since January.  Simultaneously, the military has abandoned checkpoints and lifted armed patrols across most of the state.

Serious inter-cartel battles began in April, 2008, when the Beltran Leyva brothers split from the Sinaloa cartel and joined forces with Vicente Carrillo Fuentes, who is allied with the notorious Zetas.  These three groups then began a battle against the Sinaloa Cartel for control of territory, trafficking routes and markets.  Last year more than 5,500 people were killed in drug wars across Mexico, with 1,156 murders in Sinaloa.

Apparently the truce doesn’t apply to Mexico’s southeast, where cartel gunmen killed retired army Brigadier General Mauro Tello Quinones, who was acting as an advisor to local police in the cartel-infested county of Benito Juarez near Cancun.  Tello is the highest ranking military official killed so far in President Calderon’s war on drugs.  Tello was in charge of training two groups of police, including one dedicated to intelligence gathering activities.  Benito Juarez is a tourist center and is considered one of the major transfer points for Colombian cocaine shipments.  According to the Secretary of Defense, at least 202 military personnel have been killed in the war on drugs during the Fox and Calderon administrations.

6. Media Outlets broadcast “unusual” political ads
Mexico’s powerful television duopoly, Televisa and TV Azteca, joined by two major cable companies, broadcast a series of federally mandated political ads in the middle of two nationally televised soccer games, the Super Bowl and children’s programming on Sunday, January 26.  The stations broadcast the ads in packets of several minutes, interrupting the games and preceded by an announcement that the broadcast was mandated by the Federal Electoral Institute (IFE), which regulates elections.  The coordinated action was a protest against recent electoral reforms that require stations to broadcast free political ads during prime time.  The IFE probably expected the ads to run during normal commercial breaks.  The new law mandates 48 minutes per day of free political ads, totaling about 23.5 million ads on hundreds of media outlets leading up to this summer’s federal election cycle.  Political parties used to pay for their ads, which cost about two billion pesos during the 2006 election cycle.  The electoral reform was intended to level the playing field for all competing parties and limit, to some extent, the influence of media giants in elections.

The three major political parties were generally muted in their criticism of the protest, not wanting to anger the powerful media giants just before upcoming federal elections.  Most of the ads in question were prepared by political parties to promote candidates for Congressional, state and local elections scheduled for this summer.  Sports fans were livid, directing much of their anger at the IFE, while the rest of the mainstream media, with the exception of La Jornada, generally supported the protest action.  The IFE carefully scrutinized the ad packets, and late this week, after a meeting with the television stations brokered by none other than Interior Secretary Fernando Gomez Mont, announced that all four stations would face sanctions.  The IFE used to be one of Mexico’s most respected federal agencies until the Institute joined Felipe Calderon and the PAN in perpetrating electoral fraud that brought the current President to power in 2006.  The media giants apparently expected the public to side with them instead of the largely discredited IFE.  Given the importance of soccer in Mexico and the unquestioned ability of the television duopoly to form public opinion, their calculations are probably correct.

7. Miners win raise, Officials issue warrant for union president
Mineworkers won a 9% pay raise this week, more than double the unofficial guidelines recommended by the Calderon administration.  Coincidentally, the next day federal officials formally requested the extradition of union president Napoleon Gomez Urrutia from Canada.  Gomez is accused of misusing some US$55 million in union funds.  He fled to Canada in February 2006, shortly after a mine collapse killed 65 workers at Pasta de Conchos in Coahuila.  Federal officials and mine owners tried to use the charges against Gomez to divert attention from the mine disaster and the lack of federal safety oversight at mining operations.