NEWS AND ANALYSIS SEPTEMBER 5-18, 2011

1 - ZAPATISTAS DENOUNCE PARAMILITARY ACTIVITY
2 - PEACE CARAVAN VISITS SOUTHERN MEXICO
3 - ELECTRICAL WORKERS ABANDON ZOCALO IN EXCHANGE FOR JOBS
4 - U.S. DENIES DEAL WITH DRUG LORD
5 - POLITICIANS CRACK DOWN ON SOCIAL MEDIA USERS
6 - MONTERREY MAYOR REFUSES TO RESIGN
7 - WTO RULES AGAINST DOLPHIN-SAFE LABELING
8 - HACKERS TAKE DOWN GOVERNMENT WEB SITES
9 - NEW MEXICO GOVERNOR'S GRANDPARENTS WERE UNDOCUMENTED
10 - MSN PROGRAMS: Contact msn [at] mexicosolidarity [dot] org or (773) 583 7728 

1 - ZAPATISTAS DENOUNCE PARAMILITARY ACTIVITY
The Roberto Barrios caracol, a political/cultural center of Zapatista resistance, denounced paramilitary activity that  left the autonomous municipality of La Dignidad under a virtual state of siege.  At least 160 armed paramilitaries surround the community and have established a "permanent presence" on Zapatista lands.  Authorities from Roberto Barrios report armed paramilitaries blocking roads, burning 40 acres of crops, stealing corn harvests and threatening to assassinate people in Zapatista support bases.

2 - PEACE CARAVAN VISITS SOUTHERN MEXICO
Poet Javier Sicilia led a peace caravan across southern Mexico, meeting with religious leaders, families of victims of President Felipe Calderon's war on drugs, and indigenous communities.  Sicilia led a small delegation for a private meeting with Zapatista leadership in Oventic on Friday, and he joined religious leaders and human rights defenders in calling for the abolition of the National Immigration Institute, characterized by one priest as an "organized crime group."  Immigration officials often collaborate with cartels to kidnap Central American immigrants and demand ransom from their families.  Sicilia slammed the newly created special prosecutor for victims of violence, saying it lacks a budget and is merely a publicity scheme to gloss over serious problems in the Calderon administration.  Calderon announced the initiative without consulting Sicilia's Movement for Peace with Justice and Dignity.  The Movement is calling for a Truth Commission, similar to those created in other Latin American countries in recent years, that would allow direct participation of the citizenry.

3 - ELECTRICAL WORKERS ABANDON ZOCALO IN EXCHANGE FOR JOBS
The Mexican Electrical Workers Union (SME) reached an agreement with Mexico City and federal officials to abandon their six-month encampment in Mexico City's central plaza in exchange for promises of jobs for 16,500 members.  Federal officials also agreed to formally recognize the union and release about US$2 million in member dues.  Officials were anxious to avoid confrontations with the militant movement in anticipation of Independence Day celebrations and the traditional presidential "grito" on the evening of September 15.  Officials promised jobs to union members who refused liquidation payments after President Calderon fired SME workers and essentially disbanded the union two years ago.

4 - U.S. DENIES DEAL WITH DRUG LORD
In a Chicago federal court last Friday, US prosecutors denied cutting a deal with one of Mexico's leading drug lords.  Jesus Zambada, son of Ismael "El Mayo" Zambada, a leader in the Sinaloa Cartel, claims Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) agents offered him amnesty and permission to deal drugs in the US market in exchange for information on competing Mexican cartels.  The younger Zambada, accompanied by his attorney Humerto Loya-Castro, met with DEA officials at a Mexico City hotel in July.  Loya-Castro apparently enjoyed amnesty since cutting a deal with US authorities in 1998, though US officials deny such an agreement.  The younger Zambada, who was arrested two years ago in Mexico, then extradited for trial in the US, claims he was part of the deal.  Allegations that the Obama administration cut a deal with Mexico's most powerful cartel could prove embarrassing, and the Calderon administration could be implicated as well.  Joaquin "Chapo" Guzman, head of the Sinaloa Cartel, became the first and only prisoner to escape from a federal high-security prison under previous PAN President Vicente Fox.  There has been speculation since that the Fox administration cut a deal with Guzman, preferring that one cartel control the international drug trade rather than competing cartels with the accompanying inter-cartel violence.  Most of Calderon's "war on drugs" has focused on the Gulf Cartel, the Zetas and two smaller cartels in Michaocan, leaving the Sinaloa Cartel largely untouched.

5 - POLITICIANS CRACK DOWN ON SOCIAL MEDIA USERS
Tabasco politicians, apparently unhappy with growing critiques distributed over Twitter and other social media, enacted laws recently requiring jail terms of up to two years for social media users who "provoke chaos or social insecurity" through on-line postings.  And in neighboring Veracruz, two social media users - a math tutor and a grandmother - face up to 30 years in prison for terrorism and sabotage after tweeting about purported violent attacks at a local school.  The information had been circulating on the internet for hours before the tweets.   Social media users are often taking the place of traditional journalists who have largely abandoned coverage of cartel violence in some parts of the country after death threats and murders of reporters.  Many social media commentators also take aim at corrupt local politicians, and the politicians don't like it.  Tabasco lawmaker Jose Espinoza May defended the new law in language that would have made former President George Bush proud: "It's not a gag law or an effort to stifle freedom of expression.  Rather it's so that we rise to the needs of a new Tabasco ... to confront alterations of social peace."

6 - MONTERREY MAYOR REFUSES TO RESIGN
Under increasing pressure from members of his own National Action Party (PAN), Monterrey Mayor Fernando Larrazabal rejected calls to step down amid questions about his ties to cartels and casino gambling.  Larrazabal's brother, Jonas, was videotaped receiving large amounts of cash at a blackjack table only days before a casino fire set by the Zeta cartel that took the lives of 52 people.  The mayor tried to distance himself from his brother, despite the fact that Jonas apparently lives in a house owned by Fernando.  Fernando Larrazabal claims to be waging a war against casinos, whose licenses are approved at the federal level, though they must also abide by state and local regulations.  Federal PAN authorities awarded dozens, perhaps hundreds, of casino licenses in recent years, many to operators affiliated with the powerful Televisa media conglomerate.  And some local PAN officials are apparently benefiting from the arrangement.  In one of the videotapes, Monterrey's Secretary of Social Development, Miguel Angel Garcia, a Larrazabal appointee, was captured accepting cash around the same time he was in the process of approving the casino's local licenses.  President Felipe Calderon has been noticeably silent on Larrazabal's situation, perhaps because the mayor supports Calderon's favorite candidate for presidential elections in 2012.

7 - WTO RULES AGAINST DOLPHIN-SAFE LABELING
The World Trade Organization (WTO) ruled that dolphin-safe tuna labels constitute illegal restrictions on trade, handing a victory to Mexico in a long-standing dispute with the US.  The ruling essentially opens the US market to Mexican tuna, which are harvested in ways that potentially kill dolphins.  Mexico's tuna harvest last year was 131,000 tons with a market value of US$426 million, making Mexico the world's 12th largest producer.  The US Commerce Department may challenge the ruling, though no decision has yet been made.

8 - HACKERS TAKE DOWN GOVERNMENT WEB SITES
Hackers took down Mexican government web sites on Thursday, including the sites of the Secretary of Defense and Public Security.  Anonymous, an international group of hackers, claimed responsibility, saying the hack was part of their OpIndependencia project, apparently a reference to Mexico's Independence Day on September 16.

9 - NEW MEXICO GOVERNOR'S GRANDPARENTS WERE UNDOCUMENTED
New Mexico Governor Susana Martinez admitted this week that her grandparents came to the US as undocumented immigrants.  Martinez, a Republican who took office in January, is an outspoken opponent of immigrant rights, including "the dangerous practice" of granting driver's licenses to undocumented migrants.  It is not clear if her grandparents took advantage of New Mexico's laws to obtain driver's licenses.  Only two other states, Utah and Washington, award licenses without proof of citizenship, and Martinez has pegged part of her political career on overturning New Mexico's law.

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