News and Analysis: October 3-9, 2011

1 - ANOTHER US GUN “WALKING” PROGRAM REVEALED
2 - CITY POLICE FORCES ARRESTED
3 - SANTA MARIA OSTULA SUFFERS ANOTHER MURDER
4 - ALABAMA LAW WREAKS HAVOC IN IMMIGRANT COMMUNITIES
5 - FIGHT OVER I.F.E. CONTINUES

The Bush administration allowed illegal exports of military style weapons to Mexico from 2006 to 2007 in an undercover program dubbed “Wide Receiver,” similar to the Obama administration’s Operation Fast and Furious.  Both programs were intended to track weapons bought in the US until they reached cartel leaders in Mexico, but agents quickly lost track of most of the “walked” firearms.   Watch for Republicans, who mounted a Congressional investigation of Fast and Furious in hopes of political gains, to quietly bury their efforts.  The Calderon administration, anxious to maintain cozy relations with the US, complained briefly about threats to national sovereignty, but appears anxious for the issue to simply disappear.

2 - CITY POLICE FORCES ARRESTED
Last Sunday, Mexican soldiers, federal police, and state investigators arrested the entire police force in the towns of Linares and Villadama, about 75 miles from Monterrey.  The detention of 145 local officers comes after a rise in kidnapping and extortion, with reports that local officials in Juarez, a suburb of Monterrey, allowed cartel members to hold kidnapped victims in the local jail.

3 - SANTA MARIA OSTULA SUFFERS ANOTHER MURDER
Santa Maria Ostula in Michoacan, a Nahua community famous for its community policing efforts in the face of uncontrolled organized crime violence, suffered another murder at the hands of paramilitary groups.  Pedro Leyva Dominguez, an activist in the local land recuperation movement, was killed Thursday night.   Ostula has been plagued by a rash of violence over the past two years, including at least 25 murders and six disappearances since 2010.  The problems can be traced to a dispute over about 750 acres of land, with local and federal officials unwilling to enforce court orders in favor of Ostula.

4 - ALABAMA LAW WREAKS HAVOC IN IMMIGRANT COMMUNITIES
A new Alabama state law took effect last week, wreaking havoc in immigrant communities as Latinos pulled children from local schools and left jobs.  Thousands of children quit public schools after state authorities began mandatory checks for immigration status for children as young as five.  In one school, all Latino students were forced into the cafeteria where authorities asked them to raise their hands if they were born in the US.  “I will do everything short of shooting them,” promised state legislator Mo Brooks.  The Alabama law, considered the toughest and most racist anti-immigrant law in the country, criminalizes undocumented workers and those who employ or help them.  Undocumented workers are prohibited from renting apartments, signing contracts, or using hospital emergency rooms.  About 4% of Alabama’s workforce is undocumented, with most concentrated in farming and forestry.

5 - FIGHT OVER I.F.E. CONTINUES
Mexico’s Lower House continued a months long fight over the designation of three new members to the Federal Electoral Institute (IFE).  Founded in the mid 1990s to oversee federal elections, the IFE was initially one of Mexico’s only highly regarded federal agencies.  Traditionally, the nine IFE members were apportioned equally to the three main political parties, but this practice ended in 2003 when Elba Esther Gordillo, “President for life” of the national teacher’s union, politicked into existence an IFE in which all nine members were aligned with the PAN.  The result was a fraudulent election in 2006 that saw PAN candidate Felipe Calderon elected President.  Now the PRI, which expects to win the 2012 presidential election, is jockeying for control of all three new appointees.  The IFE has functioned for the past year with only six members, and there appears to be no constitutional way to break the deadlock.