NEWS AND ANALYSIS: NOVEMBER 7-13, 2011

1 - NEWS FROM THE OTHER CAMPAIGN (http://enlacezapatista.ezln.org.mx/)
2 - PREDATOR DRONES USED IN BORDER SURVEILLANCE
3 - GOVERNMENT ACCUSED OF WIDESPREAD HUMAN RIGHTS ABUSES
4 - INTERIOR SECRETARY DIES IN HELICOPTER CRASH
5 - PRESIDENT BECOMES LEAD SALESMAN
6 - CROSS BORDER TRUCKING LARGELY A FAILURE

1 - NEWS FROM THE OTHER CAMPAIGN (http://enlacezapatista.ezln.org.mx/)

  • Ejido San Sebastian Bachajon denounces violence in Chilon.

  • The Fray Bartolome Human Rights Center denounces two years of violations against two human rights activists.

2 - PREDATOR DRONES USED IN BORDER SURVEILLANCE

By the end of the year, six predator drones - pilotless remote-controlled aircraft used mainly for military surveillance - will be deployed along the US-Mexico border in search of undocumented migrants and drug smugglers. Predators began working the border in 2005, with five currently in operation logging more than 10,000 flight-hours. The program is credited with intercepting some 7,500 undocumented workers and 46,600 pounds of illegal drugs. Each Predator system, including plane and ground control equipment, costs US$18.5 million and requires a crew of up to 20 Border Patrol agents at a cost of $3,234 an hour, according to a Congressional Research Service analysis. This works out to about US$20,000 per captured undocumented worker or US$3,000 per pound of illegal drugs, though some estimates range much higher. “The big knock on the UAS (unmanned aircraft systems) program ... is that it’s so expensive,” said T.J. Bonner, former president of the Border Patrol union. Government officials might be better off buying the drugs and offering potential immigrants a lump sum payment if they stay home. In addition to the costs, Predators don’t work well on cloudy days or in inclement weather. And Predators often fly over Mexican territory, a violation of national sovereignty. While the Calderon administration has been an enthusiastic supporter of surveillance flights, most Mexicans don’t share his fervor.

 

3 - GOVERNMENT ACCUSED OF WIDESPREAD HUMAN RIGHTS ABUSES

Government agents regularly torture suspects to obtain confessions, which judges just as regularly accept as legitimate evidence, and participate in forced disappearances and extra-judicial killings, according to a report released on Wednesday by Human Rights Watch. The report documents a government mired in corruption at every level, from prosecutors who give detainees pre-written confessions to sign, to medical examiners who classify beatings and electric shocks as causing minor injuries, to police who disappear suspects, to military troops who are immune from prosecution for murder. Between 2007 and June of this year, only 15 soldiers have been convicted from a total of 3,671 investigations carried out by military prosecutors into alleged human rights abuses. The Calderon administration claims it is making “progress” in fighting human rights abuses. An estimated 43,000 people have been killed in the last five years as part of President Calderon’s “war on drugs.”

 

4 - INTERIOR SECRETARY DIES IN HELICOPTER CRASH

Interior Secretary Francisco Blake Mora, the second most powerful federal official after President Calderon, died Friday in a helicopter crash that was quickly declared accidental. He was the principal official in charge of coordinating Calderon’s “war on drugs,” and doggedly defended the President’s controversial military approach to controlling cartel activities. Under-secretary for Human Rights Felipe Zamora also died in the crash. Blake Mora is the second Interior Secretary under Calderon to die in an air crash, leading to speculation that powerful drug cartels are behind the two deaths.

 

5 - PRESIDENT BECOMES LEAD SALESMAN

On Wednesday, President Felipe Calderon announced a four-day plan to increase retail sales to jump-start Mexico’s sluggish economy. In an effort to duplicate post-Thanksgiving “Black Friday” in the US, Calderon will target the holiday weekend of November 18-21 by awarding early year-end bonuses to millions of government workers. WalMart, Mexico’s leading retailer, department stores and travel agencies will participate in the plan by offering four-day discounts.

 

6 - CROSS BORDER TRUCKING LARGELY A FAILURE

After a 17-year legal/political battle and US$2.4 billion in trade tariffs, the first long-haul Mexican truck traveled north into the US last month, but according to Mexican trucking agencies, it may be the last. Restrictions placed on Mexican trucking companies, including satellite tracking equipment, strict pollution controls, increased liability insurance, strict laws governing cargo hauling and limited destinations, and drivers who speak English, make an 18-month pilot program to implement cross border trucking under NAFTA unprofitable. Mexico exports one-third of its production and 90% is destined for the US, with 70% traveling by truck, making this a potentially lucrative market, but since the roads were opened to Mexican truckers last month, there has been only one highly publicized crossing. The Teamsters Union has been the principle opponent of cross-border trucking, claiming it will cost US jobs. The Teamsters often use overtly racist and nationalist language, claiming Mexican drivers and trucks are unfit for US roads. Yet during a previous pilot program in 2007, US inspectors removed 0.5% of Mexican drivers from the road for safety violations, compared to 13% for US drivers.

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