Mexico News and Analysis: June 20-26

1 - CALDERON AND SICILIA MEET
2 - BORDER PATROL AGENT KILLS IMMIGRANT
3 - "FAST AND FURIOUS" BECOMING "DODGE RESPONSIBILITY"
4 - MEXICAN MILITARY ASSUMES MORE POLICE FUNCTIONS
5 - HACKERS PUBLISH DOCUMENTS FROM ARIZONA POLICE

Javier Sicilia, the poet/journalist who inspires a growing national movement against corruption and violence, and Felipe Calderon, the spurious President who initiated a "war on drugs" in 2006 as his signature policy, met on Thursday in a televised encounter at Chapultepec Castle in Mexico City.  Sicilia, always the gentleman, awkwardly embraced Calderon at the end of a contentious three-hour exchange on militarization, social policy, political corruption and ineffective governance.  Unfortunately, the embrace was a photo op, carried on the front pages of many Mexican newspapers.
Calderon made an impassioned defense of his military assault on drug cartels, while Sicilia and his colleagues unleashed withering criticism of Calderon's policies, corrupt politicians, run-amuck military, and police on the payroll of cartels.   Sicilia demanded Calderon apologize to victims for a failed strategy that has cost 40,000 lives and called for sending the military back to their barracks.  Calderon responded defiantly, "One thing I regret is not having sent (the military) before."  While Sicilia called on Calderon to clean up widespread government corruption, the President turned the argument around.  Referring to Sicilia's son, who was murdered in March, Calderon said, "Francisco was killed by criminals, not federal forces."  Most observers saw Calderon as the political winner in the confrontation.  A slick politician who could probably sell oil to Saudi Arabia (he is currently involved in a comparably difficult promotion trying to sell his neoliberal former Treasury Secretary, Agustin Carstens, as the new head of the IMF), Calderon took full advantage of a national audience to justify his policies, followed by dozens of tweets to reinforce the message.  Several witnesses who had been confrontational in their presentations were shown on TV shaking their heads in agreement as Calderon mounted his defense.  But given widespread disapproval of Calderon and a growing movement in opposition to his policies, this will likely be a pyrrhic media victory.

Several witnesses confronted Calderon with tearful testimony of murdered and disappeared family members.  Yolanda Moran from Torreon recounted how her son disappeared 2 ½ years ago.  Police have made no progress on the case.  Norma Ledezma, a well-known activist from Chihuahua and mother of a femicide victim, focused much of her talk on Marisela Escobedo, the mother of another assassinated daughter who herself was gunned down, most likely by the killer of her daughter.  Through her own investigative work and in the face of repeated death threats, Escobedo tracked down her daughter's killer and informed federal police, only to discover the police themselves were protecting the killer.  Araceli Rodriguez denounced the disappearance of her son, a federal police officer, two years ago in Michoacan, and the accompanying impotence and impunity of investigators.  Maria Helena Herrera recounted how four of her children were disappeared, and at least 19 sons and daughters from her community were also disappeared.  Julian LeBaron, a leader of the large Mormon community in Chihuahua, reminded Calderon of the murder of his brother at the hands of cartel members, none of whom have been arrested.  Salvador Campanur from the indigenous community of Cheran, Michoacan, denounced the army and police for contributing to the violence.  After his community decided to kick out official security forces and organize themselves into self-defense committees, the problems disappeared.

US organizations supporting Sicilia's movement are calling for an end to US military aid in the form of the Merida Initiative, de-criminalization of drugs and strict gun control to prevent the export of US-purchased weapons to Mexico.

2 - BORDER PATROL AGENT KILLS IMMIGRANT
In a replay of David vs Goliath but with a different outcome, US Border Patrol agents responded to rocks and sticks thrown from Mexico with gunfire, killing Jose Yanez Reyes with two shots, one to the head.   Yanez was trying to enter the US with two friends Tuesday evening.  Border Patrol agents captured one immigrant while the other two ran to the Mexican side of the border wall and began throwing sticks and stones in an effort to distract the agents.  US authorities claimed the agents were acting in self defense, but the San Diego ACLU director said, "We simply cannot allow our law enforcement agents to use lethal force when confronted with rock throwers."  The FBI launched a "routine" investigation, while Mexican authorities condemned the incident without characterizing it as murder.  The Mexican foreign ministry called the use of firearms in response to stone-throwing "disproportionate."

3 - "FAST AND FURIOUS" BECOMING "DODGE RESPONSIBILITY"
Congressional investigations into "Fast and Furious," an operation launched by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (ATF) that allowed at least 1,000 military-style weapons to "walk" into Mexico, may be claiming political victims in the US.  The Democrat-controlled Justice Department, already under fire for the operation, accused Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA), a leader of the Congressional investigation, of tacitly approving the operation.  As chair of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, Issa was informed off "weapons smuggling by criminal cartels" at a classified briefing in April 2010.  An Issa spokesperson claims the Congressman doesn't remember Fast and Furious being mentioned.  Issa accused "opponents" of the Congressional investigation of "incredulously trying to assert that Obama administration political appointees at the Justice Department were ignorant, yet Congress was in the know on the details of Operation Fast and Furious."  Given the bureaucracy in DC, there no doubt exist minutes of the briefing and at some point these will likely become public.  Meanwhile, Sen. Charles Grassley (R-IA) and Issa stepped up pressure this week, accusing acting ATF Director Ken Melson of prior knowledge and approval.  Melson would be a strange target for Republican lawmakers.  He is a career bureaucrat who worked under both Republican and Democrat administrations, and only holds the post of acting Director because the National Rifle Association, in conjunction with Republican lawmakers, held up appointment of a new director for the past five years.  Grassley and Issa visited Mexico on Friday looking for evidence of crimes committed with "walked" weapons.

US law enforcement officials find themselves between a rock and a hard place in terms of weapons interdiction.  The military-style firearms exported illegally to Mexico are purchased legally in thousands of gun stores located along the border, mainly in Texas and Arizona.  So-called "straw purchasers" are difficult to prosecute and are easily replaceable by the powerful cartels that ultimately use the weapons.  Republicans are pushing for political gain in the months leading to the 2012 presidential election, but they many end up with a groundswell of support for stricter gun control laws.  Of the 568 weapons accounted for so far in the Fast and Furious Operation, 372 were found in the US while 196 ended up in Mexico.  

4 - MEXICAN MILITARY ASSUMES MORE POLICE FUNCTIONS
Mexican troops took over policing operations throughout most of Tamaulipas state this week, including the major cities of Nuevo Laredo, Reynosa and Matamoros.  More than 2,790 troops accompanied by federal police will be vetting local police using lie detector tests, drug exams and psychological profiles.  In recent years, federal and state officials repeatedly purged and rebuilt local police forces, only to have new officers fall under the sway of the cartels through a combination of bribes and threats.  The army is establishing three battalion-strength bases in Ciudad Mier, San Fernando and Ciudad Mante, all hotspots of recent criminal activity, including at least two mass graves unearthed in recent months in San Fernando.  Officials report more than 1,000 murders in Tamaulipas since early last year when the Gulf Cartel and the Zetas began battling for control of lucrative smuggling routes.

The move comes despite increasing pressure from civil society to retire the military from police functions.  Many citizens believe the military is part of the problem, not the solution.  Soldiers killed 1,700 people across Mexico since President Felipe Calderon deployed them in 13 states after taking office in December 2006.  At least 100 civilians "caught in the crossfire" have also been killed.

Meanwhile, Mexico's last two presidents are calling for legalization of some drugs as a way to end the escalating violence.  "We are experiencing problems due to the fact that the United States consumes too many drugs," said former President Vicente Fox.  "I recommend legalization, de-penalization of all drugs."  But legalization may carry its own risks for Mexico's ruling elite.  "If Mexico legalized, the US Congress would use every piece of pressure it has to oppose them," said Rodolfo de la Garza, a political science professor at Columbia University.  "We will hit them economically.  We will start messing with NAFTA.  We will hammer them on migrants, much more than we are already."

5 - HACKERS PUBLISH DOCUMENTS FROM ARIZONA POLICE
LulzSec, the suddenly infamous hacking group, published hundreds of internal documents on Friday from the Arizona Department of Public Safety (the police, for those of us who prefer simple English) in a protest "against SB1070 and the racial profiling anti-immigrant police state that is Arizona," according to a LulzSec statement.  State Senate Bill 1070 is the recently approved law that requires immigrants to carry identification at all times.  The documents, available at http://thepiratebay.org/torrent/6490796/Chinga_La_Migra, include operational strategies, internal intelligence, training manuals, personal documents, emails and phone numbers of officers, fliers for events (including a raffle by a police agency for an AR-15 assault rifle), and surveillance materials on right wing and progressive groups.  LulzSec said it will release more documents on Monday, but maybe not.  On Saturday, LulzSec announced it would end its hacking campaigns.

For more information on community events, classes, and political workshops, contact the Mexico Solidarity Network at 773-583-7728 or msn [at] mexicosolidarity [dot] org

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