Mexico News and Analysis: August 13 - 26, 2012

1 - ZAPATISTA NEWS (www.enlacezapatisa.ezln.org.mx)
2 - EGG SHORTAGE THREATENS NUTRITION
3 - U.S. EMBASSY VEHICLE ATTACKED BY FEDERAL POLICE
4 - DISPUTE OVER WIRELESS FREQUENCIES TURNS POLITICAL
5 - SUPREME COURT LIMITS APPLICATION OF MILITARY LAW
6 - ELECTION DISPUTE CONTINUES
7 - WALMART LAUNDERING MONEY AND EVADING TAXES

-The Junta of Good Government in La Realidad denounces land theft, attacks and provocations by government authorities, the Green Party and the PRD. 
-The Junta of Good Government in Morelia denounces an armed attack by members of ORCAO on August 2. The Regional Organization of Coffee Growers of Ocosingo (ORCAO) is affiliated with local PRD leaders.

2 - EGG SHORTAGE THREATENS NUTRITION
Egg prices are spiking at double the levels of only a few weeks ago as Mexicans face a shortage of their most important source of protein. A June bird flu epidemic in Michoacan- the heart of the country’s egg industry -wrought havoc in Mexico’s egg markets, with a kilo now priced at more than US$3. Mexicans typically consume 350 eggs per person per year, the highest consumption rate in the world. As the Calderon administration struggles to replace more than 11 million chickens slaughtered to control the flu epidemic, low-quality imports from the US and Central America are beginning to enter the market, often at usurious prices.

3 - U.S. EMBASSY VEHICLE ATTACKED BY FEDERAL POLICE
Four carloads of Federal Police attacked a US Embassy vehicle with diplomatic license plates on Friday, leaving two US government workers wounded but expected to survive. The armored vehicle was traveling on a dirt road between Mexico City and Cuernavaca, headed to a military training camp. The US did not identify the wounded, though local press identified them as DEA agents Jess Hoods Garner and Stan Dove Boss, leading to speculation they were security personnel on a politically-sensitive training mission. A member of the Mexican Navy was also traveling in the embassy car. Apparently the Federal Police were investigating a kidnapping in the area and the embassy vehicle tried to escape after officers brandished their weapons in an effort to stop the car.

In related news, all 348 Federal Police officers assigned to Mexico City’s airport were replaced this week by agents who passed a “double background check,” according security authorities. The assumption is that all 348 officers were involved in drug trafficking, yet they were assigned to different posts around the country. The Federal Police are supposedly highly trained and vetted forces that are gradually assuming control of Calderon’s “war on drugs” from the military. “Double background checks” are meant to assure the general public of a non-corrupt police force, but most Mexicans are hoping the claim isn't like “I called double shotgun,” which ensures whoever says it the front passenger seat in a car.

4 - DISPUTE OVER WIRELESS FREQUENCIES TURNS POLITICAL
In dueling news conferences on Wednesday, government officials and the head of broadcaster MVS Communications exchanged charges in a dispute over hundreds of millions of dollars in wireless frequencies. MVS accused the Calderon administration of taking back access to the frequencies- won several years ago in an open auction -because a popular MVS journalist, Carmen Aristegui, discussed reports of Calderon’s alcoholism during her popular morning program. Aristegui, who has an evening news program on CNN and is perhaps the most distinguished progressive journalist in Mexico, was initially fired after MVS received threats from Calderon, but quickly rehired after pressure from the general public. The head of MVS produced a series of emails from the Calderon administration, including an apology for her remarks on Calderon's drinking that was prepared by presidential spokesman Alejandro Sota. Aristegui was supposed to read the apology over the air. She didn’t. The frequencies at stake include bandwidths used by the newest generation of mobile devices and are part of a larger dispute involving the politically powerful duopoly of Televisa and TV Azteca, who control most of Mexico’s television broadcasting, and Carlos Slim’s telecommunication network, which is aligned with MVS. The frequencies are key to control of the so-called “triple play” market – television, telephone and internet.

5 - SUPREME COURT LIMITS APPLICATION OF MILITARY LAW
Last Tuesday, Mexico’s Supreme Court declared unconstitutional a section of the military code that gives military courts jurisdiction over on-duty soldiers who commit crimes against civilians. The 8-2 ruling came as a surprise from a court that in the past has generally deferred to the military’s authority. Military courts almost never sanction soldiers for crimes committed against civilians, even serious human rights abuses like murder, rape or torture. Of more than 5,000 cases involving troops between 2007 and 2012, only 38 service members were convicted and sentenced. “When a person outside the military is either the defendant or the victim, an ordinary judge has authority over the case, not a military judge, says the Constitution,” according to Justice Maria Aguilar. Under Mexican law, five similar rulings are required to set a legal precedent. The Supreme Court is currently considering 27 similar cases.

6 - ELECTION DISPUTE CONTINUES
PRD candidate Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador continued his Quixotic fight last week to overturn a corrupt presidential election when he presented evidence of vote-buying collected from voters during his travels around the country. Among the evidence was a sheep, two turkeys, two ducks, a hen and a pig, offered by the PRI to voters in exchange for their votes in Guerrero, Campeche, Zacatecas and Veracruz. All seven animals were turned over to the Federal Electoral Tribunal. Lopez Obrador also criticized the National Action Party (PAN) for formally distancing itself from efforts to overturn an election that included millions of dollars in pre-paid debit cards offered to voters by the PRI and a virtual lock by PRI candidate Enrique Pena Nieto on Televisa coverage during the campaign.

7 - WALMART LAUNDERING MONEY AND EVADING TAXES
Two US Congressmen involved in the investigation of illegal bribes made by the Mexican subsidiary of WalMart, known as WalMex, accused the transnational company of money laundering and tax evasion last week. Democratic Representatives Elijah Cummings and Henry Waxman reported, “We have obtained internal company documents, including internal audit reports, from other sources suggesting that WalMart may have had compliance issues relating not only to bribery, but also to ‘questionable financial behavior,’ including tax evasion and money laundering in Mexico.” The Congressmen also criticized WalMart for hindering their investigation by failing to provide documents and blocking access to witnesses.

In related news, the Indiana Electrical Workers Pension Fund, which owns WalMart stock, sued the company to gain access to internal documents. The notoriously anti-union multi-national corporation also faces at least two additional lawsuits by organized labor for breach of fiduciary duties to shareholders. WalMart responded to an initial request for documents from the pension fund by producing 3,474 pages, of which almost half were entirely blacked out. WalMart also redacted large segments of the lawsuit requesting documents before the suit was made public. The pension fund already has a large number of WalMart documents mailed to them by an unidentified whistleblower, including internal emails, which may account for the explicit and exacting nature of their lawsuit.

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