Mexico News and Analysis: December 27 - Jan 2, 2011

1 - ZAPATISTAS DENY KIDNAPPING CHARGE
2 - OFFICIALS CLAIM SUCCESS AGAINST LA FAMILIA
3 - CARTELS EXPANDING TO CENTRAL AMERICA

1 - ZAPATISTAS DENY KIDNAPPING CHARGE
On New Years Day, 17 years after the initial Zapatista uprising, Mexican newspapers circulated a vicious rumor that began with the Spanish press agency EFE: “a loyal member of the EZLN” claimed responsibility for the kidnapping of “Jefe” Diego Fernandez de Cevallos.  In a confusing and internally contradictory piece, EFE also accused various groups from the Other Campaign of participating in the kidnapping.  In a letter published this week, Sergio Rodriguez Lazcano and Javier Elorriaga, both long associated with the Other Campaign and the Zapatista movement, flatly denied the EFE accusations: “The Other Campaign is a civil and peaceful political movement.  It began like this and has grown as such throughout these past years.  The movement does not participate in kidnapping to obtain resources nor for political propaganda.  Likewise, as everyone knows, the EZLN throughout its nearly 27 year history, from its beginnings until today, has never participated in kidnappings, as it would violate its principles…  Neither the EZLN nor the Other Campaign is a kidnapper.  Neither the EZLN nor the Other Campaign kidnapped Diego Fernandez de Cevallos.”

People who have followed the Zapatistas throughout the years would find the accusations of kidnapping ridiculous, yet the movement found it necessary to publicly deny the EFE report because of the difficult situation in which indigenous communities in Chiapas find themselves – under constant attack from paramilitaries, police, elected officials and the three major political parties.  In the context of a country that is increasingly militarized, this kind of irresponsible journalism runs that risk of setting off violence against Zapatista communities.  The Mexico Solidarity Network calls on EFE to publicly correct its unfounded and inaccurate reporting.


2 - OFFICIALS CLAIM SUCCESS AGAINST LA FAMILIA
La Familia, one of Mexico’s most violent drug cartels, is “practically dismantled” with only a few local cell leaders left who “are about to be detained,” according to Luis Cardenas, local division chief of the Federal Police in the state of Michoacan.  The recent capture of Nazario Moreno, aka El Chayo, leaves most of the cartel’s leaders in jail or dead.  Officials claim the cartel is so broke that it can’t pay its members, and so disorganized that it can’t collect protection money from most local businesses.  Los Zetas, a national cartel originally aligned with La Familia, will almost certainly try to assume control of illicit activities in Michoacan, possibly unleashing a new wave of violence in the state.


3 - CARTELS EXPANDING TO CENTRAL AMERICA
Los Zetas, a Mexican based cartel led by former army special forces, is expanding to Central America where government officials and militaries, and their long history of impunity and corruption, may provide an even more hospitable welcome than in Mexico.  Guatemala is perhaps the most important destination, as Los Zetas establish important links with ex Kaibiles, special forces who often received training identical to that given to Los Zetas by the US Army.  Earlier this week, Los Zetas invaded several radio stations in Alta Verapaz province, hard along the Mexican border, forcing DJs to broadcast threats of widespread war if police don’t cease targeting drug traffickers.  They accused President Alvaro Colom of accepting US$11 million in drug money.   Colom recently declared a state of siege in Alta Verzapaz allowing police and military units to conduct warrantless searches and arrests.  Apparently the alleged bribe came from a competing cartel.  Los Zetas are involved in a wide-ranging criminal enterprise in Mexico, including drugs, kidnapping, extortion, human trafficking, CD piracy and stealing petroleum from Pemex pipelines.  Originally the enforcement arm of the Gulf Cartel, Los Zetas separated several years ago and formed perhaps the second most powerful mafia in Mexico, after the Sinaloa cartel.  Los Zetas are also expanding to El Salvador and Honduras, where they may find competition from the Mara Salvatrucha, originally a Los Angeles based mafia that extended operations to Central America when US immigration officials began deporting its members.

In related news, Mexico and Honduras announced an agreement Wednesday to create a binational group to combat attacks on undocumented Hondurans passing through Mexico on their way to the US.  About 10,000 Hondurans are kidnapped each year by Mexican gangs and held for ransom.  Mexican law enforcement and immigration authorities have come under increasing international criticism for ignoring, or in some cases participating in, attacks on Central American immigrants.  Mexico hopes to reach agreements with other Central American governments in what appears to have all the makings of a public relations scheme.  The group will reportedly focus efforts on educating immigrants and encouraging better reporting of crimes.