Mexico News and Analysis: December 5-11, 2011

1 - NEWS FROM THE OTHER CAMPAIGN (http://enlacezapatista.ezln.org.mx/)
2 - MARCOS RELEASES FOURTH LETTER TO LUIS VILLORO
3 - MINIMUM WAGE INCREASES BY 21 CENTS A DAY
4 - IMPUNITY AND FAILURE IN CALDERON'S "WAR ON DRUGS"
5 - U.S. BATTERY EXPORTS DAMAGE MEXICAN ENVIRONMENT
6 - PRESIDENTIAL CONTENDER EXHIBITS "BRAIN FREEZE"

Residents of Santa Maria Ostula, an autonomous community that established its own police force in the midst of threats from drug traffickers and the army, denounced the kidnapping of J. Trinidad de la Cruz.  (De la Cruz was murdered shortly after the community released their denouncement.)

The ejido San Sebastian Bachejon denounced the Chiapas state government for intervening in community affairs on the side of corrupt local officials.  Members of the ejido re-assumed control last week of a toll booth leading to an eco-tourism facility and established by the community several years ago.

2 - MARCOS RELEASES FOURTH LETTER TO LUIS VILLORO [link to full letter en español]
Subcomandante Marcos released his fourth letter this week to noted Mexican academic Luis Villoro, announcing the untimely death of Comandante Moises (not to be confused with the more publicly known Teniente Coronel Moises) on September 26 in a car accident.  Marcos recounts his long and distinguished history, beginning with his entrance into the EZLN in 1985.  Moises was one of the most respected members of the Clandestine Revolutionary Indigenous Committee (CCRI), the highest authority in the EZLN.  Marcos also recognizes Tomas Segovia, a poet, writer and refugee of the Spanish civil war, who often wrote about the Zapatista movement.  Segovia also passed away recently.

Marcos offers a pointed critique of the political class as it enters the 2012 presidential campaign, noting the photo of PRI leaders taken during the unveiling of their candidate, Enrique Pena Nieto, "appeared to be from an article about a new attack by organized crime.  That a gang of criminals had been dismantled and that bullet proof vests had been replaced by red shirts [the preferred campaign color of the PRI] to indicate the arrestees."  Marcos also singled out PRD candidate Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, who came to Chiapas recently demanding silence from the Zapatistas during the presidential campaign.

3 - MINIMUM WAGE INCREASES BY 21 CENTS A DAY
Mexico's Secretary of Labor will raise the minimum wage by USD 21 cents per day in 2012, a 4.2% increase over 2011.  The minimum wage is based on an eight-hour workday and will total US$4.60 per day.  The minimum wage is an important benchmark for most hourly wage earners, who are often paid some small multiple.  Nearly a quarter of the workforce earns the minimum or less.

4 - IMPUNITY AND FAILURE IN CALDERON'S "WAR ON DRUGS"
President Felipe Calderon's signature domestic policy, the so-called "war on drugs," has been an abject failure by almost any accounting: more than 50,000 deaths in five years, 6,000 homicides in Ciudad Juarez that are not under investigation because officials are bickering over jurisdiction, accusations by leading politicians and human rights activists that the PAN administration is allied with the Sinaloa Cartel, and more than 230 cases of torture, disappearances and extrajudicial murders by security forces.  Calderon initially characterized the military as a temporary solution until corrupt police forces could be brought under control, but 50,000 troops continue to patrol streets in a dozen states, while 30,000 newly trained or retrained federal police continue to fight a losing battle attacking transportation routes while leaving money laundering largely untouched.  Meanwhile, the head of the Federal Police reports meaningless statistics designed to make it look like the policy is successful, such as a recent press release touting a 55% increase in information sharing among police forces in the Americas.  Even the most egregious mass murder cases go unpunished, including a casino fire set by organized crime in Monterrey that killed 52 people.  The intellectual authors along with implicated local politicians remain free, as do casino owners who apparently blocked most of the exits, contributing to the death toll.

5 - U.S. BATTERY EXPORTS DAMAGE MEXICAN ENVIRONMENT
A New York Times investigation this week exposed extensive environmental damage with serious health consequences, the result of processing US lead batteries exported to Mexico.  About a fifth of spent US batteries turned in for recycling are exported to Mexico as companies try to avoid strict new Environmental Protection Agency standards.  Batteries are processed in Mexico to extract lead, often using methods that are illegal in the US.  Lead is in short supply globally and fetches prices up to ten times higher than a decade ago.  While some of the batteries are exported legally, many cross the border illegally.  In September more than 60 semi trailers full of used batteries crossed the border every day.  Lead pollution causes high blood pressure, kidney damage and abdominal pain in adults, and serious developmental delays and behavioral problems in children.  Processed batteries release lead dust and lead-laced emissions which can contaminate air and water in entire neighborhoods around processing facilities.   Legal lead battery recyclers in the US operate in sealed plants equipped with smokestack scrubbers and surrounded by lead monitoring devices, but in Mexico unprotected workers often use crude tools in open facilities, leaving an environmental disaster that is largely ignored by Mexican authorities.

6 - PRESIDENTIAL CONTENDER EXHIBITS "BRAIN FREEZE"
Mexico's leading presidential candidate, the PRIista Enrique Pena Nieto, had a case of public "brain freeze" similar to US presidential contender Rick Perry's recent bouts with this increasingly common affliction of the political class.  While attending a book fair promoting his new (ghost-written) autobiography, Pena Nieto was asked to name three books that influenced his life.  After four uncomfortable minutes of incoherent stammering, he came up with the Bible (he had read "parts") but was unable to correctly pair the correct author and title for any books written in the past thousand years.  "The truth is that when I read books, the titles don't really sink in," pleaded the flummoxed former Governor of Mexico State.  The notoriously handsome "new face of the PRI" is similar to the Republican Perry in many ways, proving that rugged good looks do not always translate into telegenic moments when the candidate in question has little upstairs.  Apparently Pena Nieto reads, and writes, tweets.  He quickly turned toward social media after his gaffe, borrowing Perry's strategy by trying to make light of the incident.  His daughter took the whole affair somewhat more seriously, deriding her father's critics as "a bunch of idiots who form part of the proletariat and only criticize those they envy."  Funny how ruling elites are changing in the neoliberal age.  It used to be that the political class accused the "unwashed masses" of ignorance, at least behind closed doors, but now the proletariat is accused of being "idiots" for having more intelligence than elites.  Pena Nieto holds a comfortable lead in polls over presidential contenders from the PRD and PAN.

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