Mexico News and Analysis: September 14-20, 2009

1. Paramilitary attack leaves two wounded
2. Attorney General investigates mothers of femicide victims
3. Calderon initiates model rural village
4. Economy shrinks seven percent
5. Border wall a waste of money


1. Paramilitary attack leaves two wounded
The PRI-affiliated paramilitary group OPDDIC (Organization for the Defense of Indigenous and Campesino Rights) attacked a lawyer from the Fray Bartolome Human Rights Center on Friday afternoon.  At least 60 heavily armed members of OPDDIC attacked Ricardo Lagunes Gasca in Jotola, municipality of Chilon, forcing him from his car and beating him before trying to kidnap him.  Lagunes had just informed a group of communal landowners, members of the Other Campaign, about two of their members from a neighboring community who are imprisoned under false pretences by State authorities.  Members of the Other Campaign from Jotola and San Sebastian Bachajon foiled the kidnapping, at which point OPDDIC gunmen opened fire, wounding a Tzeltal youth from San Sebastian Bachejon, Carmen Aguilar Gomez.  Members of OPDDIC were seen meeting with the State Preventative Police earlier in the day at which point the paramilitaries were overheard informing the police that their members would attack the Other Campaign later in the day.  Police were absent during the conflict but arrived several hours later after tensions had calmed somewhat.  The Fray Bartolome Human Rights Center accused Nemesio Ponce Sanchez, a high ranking official in the administration of Governor Juan Sabines Guerrero, of responsibility for the violence.


2. Attorney General investigates mothers of femicide victims
On Friday, the Federal Attorney General (PGR) announced an investigation of the mothers of femicide victims for painting 106 pink crosses on the outer fence of the PGR’s offices in Ciudad Juarez.  The crosses appeared during a recent protest by mothers’ organizations against the naming of Arturo Chavez as the next Federal Attorney General.  Chavez was infamous for blaming women for the femicides and suggesting they learn karate, while resolving no outstanding cases, during his time as Chihuahua State Attorney General.  Pink crosses can be found throughout this border city, a symbol of the government’s ineptitude or unwillingness to thoroughly investigate more than 500 femicides over the past 13 years.  


3. Calderon initiates model rural village
President Felipe Calderon and Chiapas Governor Juan Sabines welcomed 410 families this week to Nuevo Juan de Grijalva, the first in a series of model “sustainable rural cities” planned by the federal government.  Residents of this first experiment come originally from eleven different rural communities, many impacted by severe flooding in 2007.  The “sustainable rural cities” congregate dispersed residents into larger communities with educational facilities, electricity, running water and other amenities.  The model comes from theoretical foundations developed during the Zedillo administration that eventually became the outline of Plan Puebla Panama.  Critics charge that “sustainable rural cities” remove rural residents from their lands, opening them for capitalist development projects and turning campesinos into industrial workers.  At least 25 additional “sustainable rural cities” are planned, mainly in southern and central states.


4. Economy shrinks seven percent
The Mexican economy shrank 7% in the third quarter, following a decrease of 10.3% in the second quarter.  The economy is expected to decline by 7.5% this year, the worst performance since 1932.  Searching for any good news, Deputy Finance Minister Alejandro Werner characterized the 7% decline as an improvement, due in large part to a 2.7% increase in exports to the US in August.  About a third of Mexican production is exported, with 80% destined for the US.  However, oil production was down 7.8% from July.  Oil income provides 38% of the federal budget.  The peso strengthened this week to 13.2 per dollar, though exchange rates are expected to plummet in October when the federal government ends its daily dollar auctions.


5. Border wall a waste of money
A report issued on Thursday by the US Government Accountability Office (GAO) found over 3,000 breaches of a still-unfinished 600-mile border wall which cost more than US$2.4 billion since 2005.  The federal government will have to spend US$6.5 billion over the next 20 years simply to maintain the wall, according to the report.  Despite the high price tag, officials have found no way to determine if the wall is helping to deter undocumented immigration, according to the GAO report.  Academics report that less than half of undocumented immigrants are apprehended on any given trip to the border, and of those, the success rate for a second or third try is around 95%.  “There is no reason to believe that additional investment in the fence project – both physical fencing and the new ‘virtual fence’ – will create effective deterrent,” said Wayne Cornelius, one of the nation’s leading immigration researchers.