NEWS AND ANALYSIS AUGUST 1-7, 2011

1 - NEWS FROM THE OTHER CAMPAIGN - HTTP://ENLACEZAPATISTA.EZLN.ORG.MX/
2 - SICILIA BREAKS OFF, THEN RESUMES GOVERNMENT NEGOTIATIONS
3 - TOP PROSECUTORS RESIGN EN MASSE
4 - FEDERAL SECURITY AID RETURNS TO CIUDAD JUAREZ
5 - DRUG DEALER CLAIMS TIES TO DEA
6 - SIXTEEN COUNTRIES OPPOSE ANTI-IMMIGRANT LAW IN ALABAMA
7 - US INCREASES ROLE IN MEXICO’S “WAR ON DRUGS”
8 - SENATE APPROVES NEW MEXICAN AMBASSADOR
9 - NRA CHALLENGES GUN REPORTING REGULATIONS
 
1 - NEWS FROM THE OTHER CAMPAIGN - HTTP://ENLACEZAPATISTA.EZLN.ORG.MX/
•The Junta de Buen Gobierno in La Realidad denounces attempts by political parties and the ejido Monte Redondo to displace Zapatista support bases from their lands in the autonomous municipality Tierra y Libertad.
•Political prisoners from San Sebastian Bachajon who were recently released from prison are suffering harassment and threats.
2 - SICILIA BREAKS OFF, THEN RESUMES GOVERNMENT NEGOTIATIONS
Javier Sicilia, poet, father of a son murdered by cartel members and the moral leader of the Movement for Peace with Justice and Dignity, angrily broke off negotiations with government officials over security reforms on Thursday. Sicilia made the announcement after Deputies from the lower house adopted the broad outline of a new National Security Law proposed by the Senate, directly contradicting agreements reached earlier in the week at a highly publicized meeting between Sicilia and Deputies. The adopted measure, which closely follows the failed logic of President Calderon’s "war on drugs," would give virtual carte blanche to the armed forces and open the door to increased US intervention in Mexico. Politicians who previously scurried to appear in photos with the always willing Sicilia found themselves rapidly backpedalling, calling the approved legislation a "pre-report" and promising a new initiative, if only Sicilia would return to the negotiating table. Sicilia just as quickly complied, characterizing the break as a "pause" not a "rupture" during a meeting Sunday in Mexico City’s Zocalo.

Late last week, one of Sicilia’s closest advisors, former head of the Mexico City Human Rights Commission Emilio Alvarez, bragged the day after the first set of negotiations that "the people" had recovered Congress and this would generate confidence among citizens in the institutional political process. Luis Hernandez Navarro, one of the most respected and observant editorial writers for La Jornada, took Alvarez to task in a piece he penned for Tuesday’s edition. Hernandez characterized Alvarez’s comments as "verbal posturing without foundation. Did the people really recover Congress? Will the Legislature now regain the confidence of the citizenry? Why? Because the Movement for Peace with Justice and Dignity met with the powerful and a few Legislators allowed them to express some of their demands? Please!" Hernandez pointed out that to date, the movement has neither the organizational capacity nor the power of convocation to pressure the political class electorally - and the political class knows it. So far, the "base" of the movement has been the famous twitter users - virtual activists who organize through computer messaging. Hernandez points out that "the tweeters don’t represent anyone... The force of Twitter in today’s Mexican politics is, in part, in the enigma of who are its members. When they call for the citizenry to take to the streets and their call fails, the same thing happens when a professional wrestler is unmasked: as soon as their face becomes public, they lose their magic and charm."

Sicilia still has a great deal of moral authority in Mexico, which has translated into ready access to the media and, in turn, to the political class. But the politics of the movement have been unclear, perhaps on purpose. From the beginning, the Movement for Peace with Justice and Dignity included a broad range of perspectives, from NGOs with a decidedly reformist tilt, to families of victims of the drug war demanding justice, to community activists who see no future in negotiations with the State. Emilio Alvarez, with close ties to the PRD, institutional politics and the world of NGOs, has been a constant presence at Sicilia’s side. Perhaps his unwarranted observations, followed quickly by a "pause" in negotiations, may bring the movement more in line with community efforts rather than institutional politics. There is widespread anger in Mexico, and many people have permanently lost faith in corrupt politics as usual, turning instead to autonomous community efforts to resolve problems. If the movement can turn its focus toward these millions of people and their inherent but unrealized power, it may have a bright future. If not, the movement will be a short-lived flash in the pan as the political class turns its attention to the 2012 presidential elections.

3 - TOP PROSECUTORS RESIGN EN MASSE
Top federal prosecutors in 21 of the country’s 31 states resigned last week, part of a purge carried out by newly appointed Attorney General Marisela Morales. In her first three months in office, Morales fired 462 prosecutors, while 111 face criminal charges for fraud, theft, abuse of power and falsification of documents, and an additional 386 employees are in the process of being dismissed. The federal Attorney General and its state affiliates are the leading legal institution responsible for President Calderon’s "war on drugs," but the notoriously corrupt and inefficient office is better known for its many bungled cases.
 
4 - FEDERAL SECURITY AID RETURNS TO CIUDAD JUAREZ
Federal authorities agreed to continue security funding for police in Ciudad Juarez after abruptly suspending US$5.2 million in aid last week after local officials missed benchmarks for police training and certification. Juarez politicians complained of being "held hostage to political conflicts" between local and federal police who, along with 8,000 army troops, occupy much of the city. Violence in Ciudad Juarez is generally attributed to a battle between the Sinaloa and Juarez cartels for control of lucrative drug markets. For years as much as 90% of the local police force was suspected of being on the payroll of the Juarez cartel, while federal agencies under the direction of the Calderon administration are rumored to favor the Sinaloa cartel.

5 - DRUG DEALER CLAIMS TIES TO DEA
The son of a leader of the Sinaloa cartel who is awaiting trial in Chicago on drug charges claimed immunity from prosecution this week after revealing he worked for the US Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA). DEA officials rushed to deny the allegations. Jesus Zambada Niebla is the son of Ismael “El Mayo” Zambada, generally assumed to be second in command of the Sinaloa cartel, Mexico’s largest mafia. The younger Zambada was arrested two years ago in Mexico City, then extradited to the US where he faces federal charges for cocaine and heroin trafficking and money laundering. Cartel attorney Humberto Loya reportedly struck a deal with the DEA and Justice Department in 1998, providing immunity for top cartel chiefs in exchange for information on rivals. In documents filed with the court, Zambada claims to have taken over as “primary liaison on behalf of the Sinaloa cartel with the United States government” in 2008. Zambada claims to have personally reached agreements with regional directors of the DEA for Latin America and Mexico at a Mexico City hotel shortly before he was arrested.

The claims are consistent with persistent rumors in Mexico that the Calderon administration favors the Sinaloa cartel in its “war on drugs.” The cartel has been largely immune from army or federal police raids, and their stronghold in the northwest state of Sinaloa has little federal law enforcement presence. “The federal government is betting on the consolidation of a single criminal group, and not because officials necessarily receive bribes, but rather because they are convinced that the consolidation of a single criminal group, by definition, will lessen the levels of violence and their high social impact,” said Edgardo Buscaglia, a lawyer, economist, professor at the Instituto Tecnológico Autónomo de México, and expert on drug trafficking. “So in the case of Chihuahua, they have given the Sinaloa cartel a green light. When you have Sinaloa winning in Ciudad Juarez, you have a solution along the lines of Russia, that is, the institutionalization of a mafia, and if you do this, as is the case with President Calderon, you lower the homicides, but the citizenry remains captive to a criminal group that is in control.” Chapo Guzman, leader of the Sinaloa cartel, escaped from a high security federal prison during the initial weeks of the Fox administration. Since then, his cartel has become the richest and most powerful in Mexico. Guzman made last year’s Forbe’s list of the richest men in the world.

In related news, Jose Antonio Acosta Hernandez, a leader of the Juarez cartel reportedly responsible for ordering at least 1,500 murders, claimed links to state and municipal police in Chihuahua this week. “I don’t know their names,” Acosta said, “only that there were some officials who helped us by giving us information. They told us where the checkpoints were located, where federal authorities were, and even where the investigative police and local police were.” Acosta, aka “el Diego,” was captured last weekend with the help of US officials and is in federal custody. He admitted to ordering the murder of Sandra Salas, an internal affairs investigator for the Chihuahua state police, because he thought she worked for a rival gang and “had ordered too many arrests.”

6 - SIXTEEN COUNTRIES OPPOSE ANTI-IMMIGRANT LAW IN ALABAMA
Mexico joined 15 other countries in filing legal briefs against an Alabama law that requires public schools, prospective employers and law enforcement officials to root out undocumented workers through document checks. House Bill 56, aka the Alabama Taxpayer and Citizen Protection Act, requires public schools and employers to use the federal E-Verify program to check immigration status. In practice the law would most likely be applied only to Latinos. The Obama administration filed a suit opposing the law, with Mexico and other Latin American countries joining with amicus briefs. Latinos make up only 3.9% of Alabama’s population, and only 2.9% of the state’s residents are foreign born. State politicians are searching for easy scapegoats in a state economy with 9.1% unemployment.

7 - US INCREASES ROLE IN MEXICO’S “WAR ON DRUGS”
The US is sending CIA agents and retired military personnel across the border - and is considering the use of private security firms - to conduct wiretaps, oversee informant networks and interrogate suspects. Mexico’s constitution prohibits the presence of foreign security personnel on national territory, yet US personnel are posted at a northern Mexican military base where they oversee the use of high tech surveillance equipment, according to a report by the New York Times. The "fusion intelligence center" is modeled after similar outposts operating in Iraq and Afghanistan. The new initiatives follow on the heels of the largely ineffective Merida Initiative which provided US$1.4 billion in US training, land and air vehicles and surveillance equipment over the past three years for President Calderon’s "war on drugs."

8 - SENATE APPROVES NEW MEXICAN AMBASSADOR
The US Senate on Tuesday unanimously confirmed Earl Anthony Wayne as the new ambassador to Mexico. Wayne previously served as deputy ambassador in Afghanistan.

9 - NRA CHALLENGES GUN REPORTING REGULATIONS
On Wednesday, the National Rifle Association filed a lawsuit challenging the Obama administration’s efforts to monitor bulk sales of military style weapons at gun shops in states along the Mexico border. New regulations issued last month by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) require gun dealers in California, Arizona, New Mexico and Texas to report within five days sales of more than one semiautomatic rifle to the same purchaser. There are about 8,479 licensed firearms dealers active in the four border states. Mexican cartels obtain as much as 90% of their heavy weapons through “straw buyers” who legally purchase guns in the US, then export them illegally to Mexico.

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