Mexico News and Analysis: January 2-12, 2012

1 - ZEDILLO CLAIMS IMMUNITY
2 - MEXICO CITY ELITE BEATS PARKING ATTENDANT
3 - HUMAN RIGHTS COMMISSION DOCUMENTS OFFICIAL VIOLATIONS
4 - MEXICO CITY BOONDOGGLE WASTES MILLIONS
5 - CALDERON VETOES EMERGENCY AGRICULTURE FUNDS
6 - PRIVATE DONATIONS FOR A LOST CAUSE, BUT BLACK BEARS HAPPY   

Ernesto Zedillo claimed immunity from prosecution for the 1997 murder of 45 people in Acteal, Chiapas, in court documents filed Friday.  A lawsuit filed last year in Connecticut accuses the former Mexican president of crimes against humanity for allowing paramilitary groups to carry out the massacre, then cover up the killings.  Zedillo currently lives in New Haven, CT, where he teaches at Yale University, his alma mater.   Ten mysterious, unnamed plaintiffs claiming to be from Acteal are demanding US$50 million in damages.  The Fray Bartolome de las Casas Human Rights Center in Chiapas, which represents the Acteal families, has no knowledge of the suit or of the corporate Miami law firm that is bringing the case.  But Friday's filing indicates that political opponents, possibly from the old-line branch of the PRI, are behind the legal action: "The plaintiff's lawsuit against President Zedillo amounts to no more than the misguided effort to impugn the reputation of someone widely regarded by international leaders and scholars as the architect of historic reforms that led Mexico into a new dawn of electoral reform, respect for human rights, and a flourishing economy.  Those who disagree cannot use this court as a vehicle for revenge."  Zedillo's legal immunity expired one year after he left office in December of 2000.  Before leaving office, the Zedillo administration orchestrated a counter-insurgency plan directed at Zapatista communities and their allies in Chiapas, including use of paramilitary forces armed, trained and under the direction of the federal Army.

2 - MEXICO CITY ELITE BEATS PARKING ATTENDANT
Miguel Sacal Smeke, owner of Indie Jeans and one of Mexico City's wealthy elite, was videotaped beating a parking lot attendant, Hugo Enrique Vega, for refusing to change a flat tire.  The July 8th incident went viral this week on YouTube, sparking outrage among Mexico's highly class-conscious population.  Sacal, who lives in Bosques de las Lomas, one of the capitol's wealthiest neighborhoods, belatedly apologized, claiming he "was under a lot of pressure," and agreed to reimburse medical costs after media attention apparently became too much.  Sacal is charged with causing serious injuries to the attendant's teeth and mouth, and with human rights abuses.  Sacal referred to Vega as "gato," a disrespectful term usually reserved for domestic workers or low level employees, and "indio."  Onlookers made half-hearted attempts to break up the fight, and Vega didn't fight back for fear of losing his job.  Sacal is currently under investigation but not in jail after his attorney obtained a temporary restraining order, a common legal tactic of the rich.  The incident follows a series of class-based episodes highlighting the stark differences between rich and poor in Mexico.  In December, the daughter of leading presidential candidate Enrique Pena Nieto tweeted a message calling her father's critics "a bunch of idiots who form part of the proletariat," while in another incident, two wealthy and apparently inebriated white women were caught on camera insulting and slapping a dark-skinned police officer.  Almost half of Mexicans live below the poverty level, while many urban areas boast gated communities and the country is home to the world's richest individual, Carlos Slim.  The video is available here.

3 - HUMAN RIGHTS COMMISSION DOCUMENTS OFFICIAL VIOLATIONS
The National Human Rights Commission (CNDH), a government institution, issued a report this week documenting serious constitutional violations during recent demonstrations at the Rural Normal School in Ayotzinapa, Guerrero, including extra-judicial executions, police torture, efforts to fabricate evidence, and inhumane and degrading treatment of arrestees.  The report covers activities on December 12 when normal students protested federal cuts in education budgets.  Two normal students were killed, almost certainly by indiscriminate police gunfire.  Both Federal and Ministerial Police fired weapons, but the report could not determine which police body fired first.

4 - MEXICO CITY BOONDOGGLE WASTES MILLIONS
On Saturday, President Felipe Calderon proudly lit the Stele of Light, a US$77 million monument celebrating 200 years of independence and finally finished a year and a half after the official bicentennial celebration.  A study conducted by the National Academy of Engineers claims the actual costs were closer to US$37 million, leaving many Mexicans to wonder where the rest of the money went.  The unveiling date was changed at the last minute so Calderon could avoid planned marches protesting the 343-foot quartz and marble tour, which was completed at three times the original budget and was built largely of imported materials from Italy, Brazil and Germany.

5 - CALDERON VETOES EMERGENCY AGRICULTURE FUNDS
In the midst of an historic rural crisis brought on by widespread drought in the north and unseasonable freezes in central states, President Felipe Calderon vetoed a bill that would have provided US$800 million in emergency federal aid.   In related news, at least seven people died of hunger this week in Chihuahua state after losing their crops grown for family consumption.  Meanwhile, Mexico sits on foreign currency reserves of US$144 billion.

6 - PRIVATE DONATIONS FOR A LOST CAUSE, BUT BLACK BEARS HAPPY
Arizona's efforts to solicit private donations for construction of a 15-foot high border fence appear to be falling on deaf ears.  So far the state has collected a grand total of US$191,655, enough to construct about 260 feet of fence along the 2,000 mile US-Mexico border.  Black bears are among the many interest groups who are reportedly content over the failure of Arizona to animate xenophobia among its residents.  A recent biological study concludes migrating black bears would suffer "genetic subdivision" (scientific jargon meaning reduced opportunities for amorous pairings), thereby threatening a species already under attack from urbanization.  One scientist noted the obvious: "Where the fence is impenetrable, the potential to prohibit [bear] movement is high."  Perhaps an environmentally-concerned Office of Homeland Security will set up special bear crossing points - of course, requiring proper documentation - where US bears can meet their Mexican counterparts in an off-line version of eHarmony.  But maybe not.  After all, why waste even more taxpayer money mitigating the negative impacts of a border fence that already costs US$3.9 million per mile?

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