NEWS & ANALYSIS: OCT 31 - NOV 6, 2011

1 - MEXICO ABANDONS PLANS FOR NUCLEAR POWER
2 - TROOPS UNEXPECTEDLY SENTENCED TO PRISON FOR HUMAN RIGHTS ABUSES
3 - IMMIGRANT REMITTANCES INCREASE AS PESO SHRINKS
4 - OPPOSITION TO AMBITIOUS PLAN TO CLEAN POLICE FORCES
5 - PAN TRADES CEMENT FOR VOTES
6 - PARTIES REJECT POPULAR CONSULTATIONS
7 - GRAIN PRODUCTION DECLINES
8 - ANONYMOUS DROPS PLANS TO OUT ZETA CARTEL
9 - MSN PROGRAMS: Contact msn [at] mexicosolidarity [dot] org or (773) 583 7728   

Mexico has abandoned plans to construct as many as ten nuclear power plants in light of recent discoveries of huge natural gas deposits, perhaps as much as 300 million cubic feet in Coahuila and more in the Gulf of Mexico. Energy Minister Jordy Herrera announced plans this week to focus on new natural gas-fired electricity plants, and to search for US$10 billion in private investment during the next five years, despite constitutional prohibitions against private ownership in the energy sector. The re-orientation may also be related to the March 11 nuclear disaster in Japan. Mexico is one of only three Latin American countries that currently uses nuclear power. Herrera rejected renewable energy sources for the foreseeable future: "Until we find a model to make renewable energy more profitable, gas is more convenient."

 

2 - TROOPS UNEXPECTEDLY SENTENCED TO PRISON FOR HUMAN RIGHTS ABUSES

In an unexplained break with the tradition of military immunity, 14 soldiers and army officers were sentenced by a military court to long prison terms for killing five women and children at an army checkpoint in Sinaloa four years ago. The Defense Ministry characterized the murders as "a regrettable error," yet the military court handed down sentences of 16 to 40 years plus monetary fines. The case is unusual because military courts almost never sentence troops, no matter how serious the abuses. The Mexico City-based human rights organization Miguel Agustin Pro Juarez reports "there has never been a firm sentence" like these. "But there is no reason to celebrate. We continue to demand that this type of case be heard in civilian courts." Currently all cases of human rights abuses by military personnel are heard in closed military courts, despite a July ruling by the Supreme Court ordering all such cases be transferred to civilian courts.

 

3 - IMMIGRANT REMITTANCES INCREASE AS PESO SHRINKS

Family remittances from Mexican immigrants living in the US rose by 21% in September in comparison to 2010, totaling US$2.08 billion. Despite the falling US economy, astute immigrant workers apparently are taking advantage of a rapidly declining peso exchange rate, which reached 14 pesos per dollar last week. A year ago the exchange rate was closer to 10 pesos per dollar. The peso has weakened 14% against the dollar since August 1, the second worst performance among major world currencies. Much of the decline is due to decreasing expectations for the US economy, which accounts for 90% of Mexico's exports. A survey of economists lowered Mexico's expectations for economic growth for a fifth consecutive month to 3.72% in 2011.

 

4 - OPPOSITION TO AMBITIOUS PLAN TO CLEAN POLICE FORCES

Governors from across the political spectrum complained this week about federal plans to test half of all local and state police forces by May of 2012. President Felipe Calderon wants to subject police to lie detector tests, psychological exams, drug tests and financial evaluations. Local and state police are traditionally under the control of political parties, particularly governors, who don't want to give up the often lucrative relations with corrupt officers. Governors are demanding time extensions, access to more federal resources and modified test standards, but the Calderon administration is threatening to cut off federal aid if states don't meet timelines. About 460,000 state and local police are liable to be tested. A new federal law requires all police be tested by 2013.

 

5 - PAN TRADES CEMENT FOR VOTES

The Special Investigator for Electoral Fraud (Fepade) impounded 27 tons of cement that employees of the Secretary of Social Development were distributing in Michoacan in exchange for copies of voting credentials and a promise to vote for PAN candidate Luisa Maria Calderon Hinojosa, sister of President Felipe Calderon, who is running for governor of Michoacan in November 13th elections. Fepade was responding to complaints raised by local citizens.

 

6 - PARTIES REJECT POPULAR CONSULTATIONS

In an unlikely partnership, the PAN and PRD joined forces in the Congress of Deputies to defeat a constitutional amendment that would have instituted popular consultations, though both parties then voted in favor of a motion supporting popular consultations "as outlined in the Constitution." The Labor Party joined the political maneuver, apparently intended to allow everyone to have their cake and eat it too. The PAN and PRD were concerned that only the PRI has an organized base strong enough (or corrupt enough) to actually make use of popular consultations by collecting a million signatures and achieving 25% of the popular vote.

 

7 - GRAIN PRODUCTION DECLINES

Mexico was among three countries with the largest decrease in grain production this year, according to the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization. Basic grain production is expected to decrease from 31.1 million tons last year to 28.5 million in 2011, a drop of 8.5%. Only South Africa and Ethiopia expect worse results. Mexico's dramatic decline portends increases in food prices, particularly tortillas which provide as much as half of the caloric intake of a typical rural family. Although Mexico has historically been one of the most important grain producers in the world, it has become the principle importer of basic grains in Latin America.

 

8 - ANONYMOUS DROPS PLANS TO OUT ZETA CARTEL

The Anonymous hacker collective decided this weekend to drop their #OpCartel project, which would have published the names of police, government officials and taxi drivers associated with the Zeta Cartel on November 5. Anonymous mounted the threat a month ago after the Zetas kidnapped one of their members, but the member was apparently released sometime last week. A statement from Anonymous Iberoamerica said, "although bruised, we can say he is safe and well." The Zetas threatened to kill ten people for every member of the cartel outed by Anonymous, which may have dampened the group's initial bravado. Stratfor, a private US-based intelligence agency, warned last week that publication of names would inevitably lead to "abduction, injury and death." Stratfor claimed the Zetas hired internet experts to track members of Anonymous, and that named collaborators might be killed by competing cartels. The Zetas have already claimed responsibility for the murders of three bloggers in Nuevo Laredo.

 

Anonymous Iberamerica posted a note on Sunday claiming a suspected CISEN undercover agent infiltrated its chat rooms in an effort to reverse the decision to discontinue #OpCartel. CISEN is the feared military intelligence unit that played a key role in Mexico's "dirty war" during the 70s and 80s.

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