Mexico News and Analysis: May 30 - June 5

1 - INTERNATIONAL COMMISSION CRITICIZES FAILED "WAR ON DRUGS"

2 - CARAVAN FOR PEACE CONDEMNS VIOLENCE AND CORRUPTION

3 - PRI LEADER ARRESTED IN TIJUANA

4 - PEMEX SUES US COMPANIES FOR ILLEGAL OIL IMPORTS

5 - OBAMA CHANGES CHARACTER OF IMMIGRATION RAIDS

6 - RENE ARCE SWITCHES TO PRI

7 - CHIAPAS "MODEL CITIES" QUICKLY DISINTEGRATING


1 - INTERNATIONAL COMMISSION CRITICIZES FAILED "WAR ON DRUGS"

The Global Commission on Drug Policy condemned the international "war on drugs" this week and called for decriminalization of most drugs. The Commission includes former Colombian President Cesar Gaviria, former Mexican President Ernesto Zedillo, former Brazilian President Fernando Cardoso, former US Secretary of State George Shultz, former UN Secretary General Kofi Annan, former US Federal Reserve Chairman Paul Volcker, and thirteen other politicians and businessmen from around the world. The United States and Mexico quickly rejected the findings. In separate statements, the two governments promised to continue their current failed policies that have resulted in 38,000 deaths over the past 4 ½ years in Mexico alone.

 

The opening lines in the report are uncharacteristically honest: "The global war on drugs has failed, with devastating consequences for individuals and societies around the world... Vast expenditures on criminalization and repressive measures directed at producers, traffickers and consumers of illegal drugs have clearly failed to effectively curtail supply or consumption. Apparent victories in eliminating one source or trafficking organization are negated almost instantly by the emergence of other sources and traffickers. Repressive efforts directed at consumers impede public health measures to reduce HIV/AIDS, overdose fatalities and other harmful consequences of drug use. Government expenditures on futile supply reduction strategies and incarceration displace more cost-effective and evidence-based investments in demand and harm reduction." The Commission urgently recommends several measures that conflict with current drug policies:

  • End the criminalization, marginalization and stigmatization of people who use drugs but who do no harm to others.
  • Encourage experimentation by governments with models of legal regulation of drugs to undermine the power of organized crime and safeguard the health and security of their citizens.
  • Offer health and treatment services to those in need.
  • Apply much the same principles and policies stated above to people involved in the lower ends of illegal drug markets, such as farmers, couriers and petty sellers.
  • Invest in activities that can both prevent young people from taking drugs in the first place and also prevent those who do use drugs from developing more serious problems.
  • Focus repressive actions on violent criminal organizations, but do so in ways that undermine their power and reach while prioritizing the reduction of violence and intimidation.
  • Begin the transformation of the global drug prohibition regime. Replace drug policies and strategies driven by ideology and political convenience with fiscally responsible policies and strategies grounded in science, health, security and human rights - and adopt appropriate criteria for their evaluation.
  • Break the taboo on debate and reform. The time for action is now.

The full report is available at http://www.globalcommissionondrugs.org/Report.

 

2 - CARAVAN FOR PEACE CONDEMNS VIOLENCE AND CORRUPTION

The Caravan for Peace with Justice and Dignity departed this week from central Mexico on a 12 state tour culminating in a national meeting against violence and political corruption in Ciudad Juarez on June 10. Javier Sicilia, internationally known poet and journalist whose son was killed by cartel members in March, is leading an international civil movement unconnected to Mexico's historically corrupt political parties. Sicilia called this week on Felipe Calderon to issue a statement to the caravan, hoping the President would alter his internal security policies, especially in light of the report this week from the Global Commission on Drug Policy.

 

Internationals are invited to participate in the caravan as well as the events in Ciudad Juarez. The schedule is as follows:

June 5: Morelia - Guadalajara - Leon - San Luis Potosi

June 6: San Luis Potosi - Zacatecas - Durango

June 7: Durango - Torreon - Saltillo - Monterrey

June 8: Monterrey - Torreon - Camargo - Chihuahua

June 9: Chihuahua - Ciudad Juarez

June 10: Public meeting in Ciudad Juarez

 

3 - PRI LEADER ARRESTED IN TIJUANA

Jorge Hank Rhon, the former Tijuana Mayor and one of Mexico's wealthiest tycoons, was arrested by military units on Saturday along with ten others. Hank reportedly had more than 88 military style firearms in his home, located at the compound of the Agua Caliente racetrack adjacent to his private zoo and his professional soccer stadium. Hank has long been accused of ties to organized crime, but has never been prosecuted. He is key figure both locally and nationally in the PRI, with close ties to Mexico State Governor Enrique Pena Nieto, the leading PRI candidate for 2012 presidential elections. PRI officials suspect the arrest was politically motivated as President Felipe Calderon tries to position his National Action Party for the 2012 elections.

 

4 - PEMEX SUES US COMPANIES FOR ILLEGAL OIL IMPORTS

Pemex, Mexico's state-run petroleum company, is suing eleven US companies for purchasing natural gas condensates stolen by organized crime groups and smuggled across the US-Mexico border. The US companies are accused of coordinating with criminal enterprises and using forged documents to import as much as US$300 million of natural gas condensate, representing up to 40% of production in the Burgos fields in northeastern Mexico. Included in the charges are Plains All American Pipeline LP, SemGroup's SemCrude subsidiary, Western Refining, a subsidiary of St. James Oil, F&M Transportation, Joplin Energy, Superior Crude Gathering, and TransMontaigne Partners. The lawsuit claims "since August 2006, no Pemex entity has sold PEP [Pemex Exploration and Production] condensate. Thus, any Mexican condensate which entered the United States after August 2006 was stolen and brought in without license or right... The stolen condensate ends up in the United States and particularly in Texas and neighboring states. There is no market for stolen condensate within Mexico. Condensate is used as a feedstock in a refinery or chemical plant. Within Mexico, only Pemex and its subsidiaries operate such facilities, and they do not repurchase their own stolen condensate. Foreign markets farther away than Texas and its neighbors are generally too distant to economically transport the condensate, particularly since its illegal nature makes large scale operations difficult. Thus, without a U.S. market for the stolen condensate, there would be no reason for the thefts and violence in Mexico... As long as there is a U.S. market for stolen Mexican condensate, the thievery will continue." Reminds one a bit of the drug trade between the US and Mexico, except in this case we're talking about a national addiction to fossil fuels.

 

5 - OBAMA CHANGES CHARACTER OF IMMIGRATION RAIDS

Over the past two years, the Obama administration has changed the character of immigration enforcement, concentrating on businesses that hire undocumented workers rather than the Bush era's more spectacular workplace raids that targeted immigrants. Last year, ICE levied fines of US$43 million against business owners and initiated 2,746 workplace investigations, more than double the number if 2008. Department of Homeland Security officials claim immigration agents are no longer authorized to conduct workplace raids unless they are cooperating with federal prosecutors to prepare criminal cases against employers. Although the Obama administration has topped its Republican predecessor in terms of deportations (393,862 in 2010 versus 369,221 in 2008), Republicans complain the policy of targeting business owners leaves millions of undocumented workers living in the US.

 

6 - RENE ARCE SWITCHES TO PRI

Rene Arce, a leading member of the PRD and a strong proponent of the corporatist style of organizing, has switched sides. Arce promised more than 100,000 votes and at least three public meetings attended by 5,000 people each to Eruviel Avila, the PRI candidate for the hotly contested governorship of Mexico State. In exchange, Arce will be appointed the head of a newly formed Institute for Social Economy and Solidarity (and control its mutli-million dollar budget) in a future Avila administration. Arce, who is currently a PRD Senator, has long utilized his political contacts to mobilize social programs for marginalized barrios in Mexico State adjoining the Mexico City metropolis. In the process, Arce has become a wealthy man and an important political power broker in the classical corporatist style utilized for generations by the PRI. PRD gubernatorial candidate Alejandro Encinas, a former Mayor of Mexico City, brushed aside the agreement as unimportant, but it will very likely cost him the election.

 

7 - CHIAPAS "MODEL CITIES" QUICKLY DISINTEGRATING

The "sustainable model city" program of Chiapas Governor Juan Sabines is quickly falling apart. Originally promoted as a way to overcome rural poverty, the model city program congregates indigenous campesinos in suburban-style housing units away from traditional lands. In theory, the program provides employment, mainly in newly constructed nearby maquiladoras, but few residents in the first model city of Nuevo Juan de Grijalva have been unable to find work. This week, local police arrested nearly a dozen residents for participating in public - and very embarrassing - protests. Residents claim the State never compensated them for their original lands and didn't provide employment, making the model city virtually uninhabitable. A second "sustainable model city," located in the midst of Zapatista territories, is scheduled to be inaugurated by the Governor and President Felipe Calderon in the coming weeks.

 

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