Mexico News and Analysis: January 3-9, 2011

1 - MILITARY WON’T RETURN TO BASES SOON
2 - CORN IMPORTS INCREASE
3 - PRIVATE DEPORTATIONS ON THE RISE
4 - US IMMIGRATION AGENT KILLS TEENAGER
5 - OBAMA ADMINISTRATION PROPOSES RESOLUTION FOR TRUCKING DISPUTE


1 - MILITARY WON’T RETURN TO BASES SOON
Interior Secretary Francisco Blake announced on Friday that the federal government has no immediate plans to retire the army from police functions adopted throughout the country as part of President Calderon’s war on drugs.  Blake noted less than 9% of the country’s police have been trained and vetted, leaving federal authorities with little confidence in notoriously corrupt state and local forces.  Nationally the police number 448,000, but as of November 2010, only 33,500 had passed through a process of evaluation that includes training, drug testing and lie-detector tests.  Without mentioning specifics, Blake noted there are a number of urban forces in which not a single police officer has been through the training and vetting process.  Since assuming the Presidency in 2006, Felipe Calderon developed close relations with the armed forces, perhaps the only constituency in the country that is aligned with the broadly unpopular president.  Some analysts wonder if the process of training and vetting has been slowed while additional budgetary resources flow to the armed forces as a means of solidifying this politically important relationship.

2 - CORN IMPORTS INCREASE
Mexican corn imports increased by 143% over the past decade, according to the National Institute of Statistics and Geography (INEGI), while wheat imports increased by 112% and soy by 69%.  Farmers cultivated 6.2 million hectares of corn last year, down from 8 million in 1995, while corn consumption increased from 23 million tons in 2000 to 33 million in 2008.  Corn is the main ingredient in tortillas, which provide about half the caloric intake of a typical campesino family.  National prices for corn producers decreased over the past decade due to increased competition from corporate farms in the US, and national subsidies nearly disappeared, leaving many campesino families without sufficient economic resources to feed families.  This legacy of NAFTA’s free trade regime resulted in increased undocumented immigration, estimated at about 600,000 per year before the US economic collapse in 2008.

3 - PRIVATE DEPORTATIONS ON THE RISE
While the Obama administration deports over 1,000 immigrants a day via a hodgepodge of federal programs, “private” deportations are also on the rise.  On December 21, Advocate Christ Medical Center in Oak Park, Illinois abruptly stopped treatment on Quelino Jimenez, a quadriplegic injured at his construction job, and deported him through a private service.  Immigration authorities were never involved in the process – in fact, they were never notified.  The hospital claims treatment on his spinal cord lesion “may never cure him anyway.”  Now we’ll never know, since his Mexican home is ten hours from the nearest hospital, his family can’t afford treatment, and his US employer, while legally responsible for work-related injuries in the US, will likely not have to pay for treatment in Mexico.  Quelino had been hospitalized for five months before the sudden deportation, which hospital officials characterized as a “transfer.”  The badly misnamed Advocate Christ Medical Center and its private deportation company may be liable for kidnapping, violation of the civil rights of a patient with disabilities, and unauthorized removal of a person to another country.  Who knows if they will ever be prosecuted under an Obama administration lurching to the Right and in search of convenient scapegoats for the current economic crisis.

4 - US IMMIGRATION AGENT KILLS TEENAGER
Mexican police identified a US Border Patrol agent as responsible for the shooting death of 17-year-old Ramses Barron at the Nogales border south of Arizona.  An eyewitness accompanying Baron said the youth was shot in Mexican territory, most likely hit by a bullet meant to scare the eyewitness who was crossing into US territory.  The agent apprehended the witness as he tried to scale the border wall and return to Mexico, but allowed him to escape after realizing his friend was wounded.  The Border Patrol agent suffered no injuries and witnesses reported no stone-throwing, which was widely reported in the US media as a justification for the shooting.  A Border Patrol spokesman claimed the agent was confronting drug dealers, but friends of the Barron family said the youth was not involved in drug dealing.  In June another youth was killed under similar circumstances in Ciudad Juarez, resulting in a formal complaint from the Mexican government.

5 - OBAMA ADMINISTRATION PROPOSES RESOLUTION FOR TRUCKING DISPUTE
The Obama administration released a two-page “concept document” this week designed to resolve a long standing dispute with Mexican truckers who are barred from US highways outside a narrow border region.  The document, which calls for Mexican truckers to speak English, pass vetting by Homeland Security and adhere to strong safety and pollution requirements, is expected to be well received in the new Republican Congress.  Opponents led by the Teamsters have focused on US jobs, safety hazards and pollution, often calling up racist stereotypes of ignorant Mexican drivers in dilapidated trucks.  In 2009, Congress violated NAFTA provisions by cutting off funding for a pilot program that allowed up to 100 Mexican trucking firms to use US highways.  Mexico retaliated by imposing US$2.4 billion in tariffs on US goods, including cosmetics and pork.