News and Analysis: October 10-16, 2011

1 - DECREASE IN CENTRAL AMERICANS ENTERING MEXICO
2 - INTERNATIONAL CHARGES PENDING AGAINST PRESIDENT CALDERON
3 - ECONOMY STAGNANT
4 - U.S. MAY IMPORT WATER FROM MEXICO
5 - REPUBLICAN CANDIDATES OFFER BORDER “SOLUTIONS”
6 - CARTEL LEADER ON PRISON HUNGER STRIKE, SORT OF

Mexican immigration authorities report a drop of 70% over the past five years in the number of Central Americans crossing Mexico to reach the US.  The estimate is based on dramatic declines in the number of Central Americans detained in Mexico without documentation, from 433,000 in 2005 to 140,000 last year.  The downward trend continued this year, probably due to a combination of poor job prospects in the US and dramatic increases in cartel violence, including kidnapping, rape, forced labor and murder, directed against Central Americans as they cross Mexico.  More than 60% of Central American migrants pay human smugglers, with costs ranging as high as US$10,000.

2 - INTERNATIONAL CHARGES PENDING AGAINST PRESIDENT CALDERON
A group of human rights activists, journalists, academics and lawyers plan to charge President Felipe Calderon, members of his cabinet and cartel leader Joaquin “Chapo” Guzman with widespread human rights abuses at the International Criminal Court at The Hague.  The charges stem from the President’s violent “war on drugs” that resulted in over 45,000 deaths and 230,000 internally displaced citizens during the past five years.

3 - ECONOMY STAGNANT
Mexico’s August industrial output was down 1.1% from July, the biggest drop in two years.  The bad news was offset somewhat by a 14% September increase in auto exports, mainly to Latin America.  Mexico’s economy has stagnated in recent months due to decreased exports to the US, with the peso dropping nearly a third of its value.

4 - U.S. MAY IMPORT WATER FROM MEXICO
Western US states are eyeing water south of the border as an alternative to the drought-prone Colorado River.  Two mammoth desalinization plants planned for Playas de Rosarito, just south of San Diego, would supply enough water for 300,000 homes, while leaving Mexico to deal with the accompanying environmental damage.  Several dozen additional proposals are on the drawing board along the Pacific Coast in the US, but US-based plants face environmental regulations that often make the projects prohibitively expensive.  Desalination plants kill fish and larvae, require massive amounts of electricity, and dump millions of gallons of brine into ocean waters, affecting wildlife for miles.

5 - REPUBLICAN CANDIDATES OFFER BORDER “SOLUTIONS”
Republican presidential hopeful Michele Bachmann became the first major candidate to pledge construction of a double wall along the entire US-Mexico border.  “The fence will be “job number one” if she is elected, “every mile, every foot, every inch.”  Not to be outdone, Herman Cain promised to build an electrified fence capable of killing people who try to enter the US.  Both neo-conservatives were highlighting their differences with candidate Rick Perry, governor of Texas, who passed legislation offering educational assistance for college-bound undocumented students.  Bachmann, who often mangles reality in an effort to make political points with Tea Partiers, claimed “illegal” immigration costs the US $1 billion a year – an outright lie of nearly biblical proportions.  Between sales taxes, real estate taxes (paid through rent), contributions to social security (from which undocumented workers will never benefit), and income taxes, undocumented workers certainly pull their weight.  Then add in the low wages that subsidize our food, and the economy created by 12 million undocumented workers buying consumer goods in the US (which in turn creates jobs).  The indefensible scapegoating of migrants for political ends reveals Bachmann and Cain for what they are.

6 - CARTEL LEADER ON PRISON HUNGER STRIKE, SORT OF
Notorious cartel leader “La Barbie” declared a hunger strike in a federal high security prison where he awaits extradition to the US.  While he refuses to eat prison food (Mexican prison food is infamously inedible and many prisoners refuse to eat it), his hunger strike doesn’t extend to snacks and junk food available at a small prison store, reminding us of a tradition begun by former President Carlos Salinas de Gotari in his farcical 1995 hunger strike that caused him to miss exactly two meals.  Salinas de Gotari was trying to rescue his family honor after his brother was imprisoned on murder and corruption charges, while La Barbie apparently wants to remedy the injustice of a denied conjugal visit.  His female partner appears to be quite special.  Her birth certificate shows she was born simultaneously in Acapulco, Nuevo Laredo and Laredo, which led prison authorities to deny the visit “until we can determine where she was born - so that she can enter.”  La Barbie’s San Antonio-based brother claims the hunger strike is a protest against prison officials who spread rumors that their star inmate is a snitch.  La Barbie, who faces numerous drug charges in Texas and Louisiana and who ran an assassination gang in Mexico, would reportedly welcome extradition to the US where he may be able to cut a deal in exchange for information.  US prison food may be better, but he can forget about the conjugal visits.

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