NEWS AND ANALYSIS MAY 21 - JUNE 10, 2012

1 - NEWS FROM THE OTHER CAMPAIGN
2 - STUDENT MOVEMENT QUESTIONS RULING CLASS LEGITIMACY
3 - WALMART INVESTIGATION WIDENS
4 - FOUR ARMY OFFICERS IN CUSTODY  
5 - AMBASSADOR CRITICIZES GUN RIGHTS ADVOCATES 
6 - TWO JUDGES UNDER INVESTIGATION 
7 - MSN PROGRAMS: Contact msn at mexicosolidarity dot org or (773) 583 7728   

1 - NEWS FROM THE OTHER CAMPAIGN

Thursday afternoon, fifteen armed agents from the Tlaxcala Attorney General arrested Hector Perales Malacara, a leader of the Consejo Nacional Urbano y Campesino (CNUC), and five street merchants from Huamantla. Malacara was charged with blocking a roadway, a federal offense that can result in long jail terms and is often used by authorities to prosecute leaders of popular organizations. CNUC quickly mobilized supporters in both Mexico and the US, and Malacara was released on US$1,000 bail that same evening. The charges stem from an incident in Huamantla, one of the main market centers in Tlaxcala, in which the mayor tried to dislocate dozens of street merchants from a traditional market. In reality, Malacara's only "offense" was taking photos of the police action.

* Teodulo Santos Giron, one of the leaders of the land recuperation movement in Ostula, Michoacan, was assassinated this week. Inspired by the Zapatistas, the Nahua leader spent the last 18 years struggling for land rights and autonomy against drug cartels, mining companies and speculators. He was kidnapped in the community of La Ticla on Tuesday and his body was discovered on Wednesday.


1 - STUDENT MOVEMENT QUESTIONS RULING CLASS LEGITIMACY
[click here to read YoSoy132's first comunique]

It all started with a boisterous student demonstration during a campaign stop by presidential candidate Enrique Pena Nieto at the Ibero, one of Mexico's elite private colleges. The PRI candidate is accustomed to carefully scripted events with bused-in crowds who cheer in exchange for a free lunch and perhaps a t-shirt or a few pesos. But the Ibero event was different. Students repeatedly interrupted the candidate with chants and charges of corruption. Always quick to respond, the PRI mobilized its well-oiled media machine, claiming the students were, in fact, not students but left-wing provocateurs. This well-rehearsed claim was quickly disputed by the internet-savvy students, 131 of whom posted a video showing their student ID cards. Hence, the birth of the YoSoy132 (I am 132) movement, which quickly mounted a series of public marches that threaten to change the dynamic of a presidential campaign that had been, to this point, a virtual anointment by mainstream media of Pena Nieto as the next President. The movement claims to be non-partisan, and fed up with politics as usual, in light of a lackluster campaign featuring four candidates that don't exactly inspire confidence. PANista Josefina Vasquez Mota does not even enjoy the support of much of her own party, while perennial candidate Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador sits atop the PRD, one of Mexico's most corrupt and inept parties. Dark horse PANAL candidate Gabriel Cuadri spends most of his time denying his ties to the teacher's union "president for life" Elba Esther Gordillo, who invented the party.

 

The student protests appear to be having an impact, at least on the major growth sector of the Mexican economy - presidential polling.  Recent polls still show Pena Nieto with a substantial lead, but Lopez Obrador is now second and climbing, while Vasquez Mota appears mostly stagnant and in third place. Look for the possibility of a replay of the "voto util" (useful vote), a 2000 election rationale that convinced many PRD supporters to vote for PAN candidate Vicente Fox, who was elected president. This time the PRD might be the recipient, though the mainstream media is doing its best to dump on Lopez Obrador.

 

3 - WALMART INVESTIGATION WIDENS

As WalMart reported higher than expected first quarter earnings on Thursday, the company faced bribery investigations that will almost certainly expand beyond Mexico. Two weeks ago the New York Times accused WalMart de Mexico of fueling rapid growth by distributing at least US$25 million in bribes for building permits and environmental  exceptions, and to buy off community groups, then covering up an internal investigation for at least six years. WalMart is examining possible violations of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, while the Security and Exchange Commission and the US Justice Department are conducting their own investigations, and a shareholder lawsuit is pending. Financial analysts expect the scandal to result in modest fines, and perhaps jail terms and/or lost positions for some upper executives, but no long term implications for the transnational behemoth. 

 

4 - FOUR ARMY OFFICERS IN CUSTODY

The Attorney General detained three army Generals and a Lieutenant Colonel this week after informants accused them of protecting the Beltran Leyva cartel. Arturo Beltran Leyva, leader of the cartel, died in a gun battle with marines in Cuernavaca in 2009 after the army was slow to act on intelligence provided by the US. None of the officers have been charged. Retired Gen. Tomas Angeles Dauahare and Gen. Roberto Dawe Gonzalez were detained on Tuesday and will remain under house arrest for at least 40 days while prosecutors prepare charges. Retired Gen. Ricardo Escorcia, former head of the military base in Cuernavaca, was brought in for questioning on Thursday, while Lt. Col. Silvio Hernandez Soto was detained on Friday. Angeles Dauahare was an assistant Secretary of Defense from 2006-2008 under President Felipe Calderon. High ranking army personnel are seldom charged with drug-related crimes, despite a widespread perception that many officials are on the payroll of cartels. In 1997, three star General Jesus Gutierrez Rebollo was arrested after serving as Mexico's drug czar for several months.  He passed a vetting process overseen by US authorities before being named to the post. Two other generals are currently under investigation for links to organized crime.  Political analysts widely suspect the timing of the arrests is related to the presidential campaign, where a flagging PAN candidate, Josefina Vasquez Mota, is looking for good news from the party's signature "war on drugs."  

 

5- AMBASSADOR CRITICIZES GUN RIGHTS ADVOCATES

The US Ambassador to Mexico, Arturo Sarukhan, criticized gun rights advocates this week during Congressional hearings for opposing a ban on assault weapons in the Southwest designed to limit cross-border arms trafficking. Most military-style weapons used by Mexican drug cartels come from the US and have contributed to more than 50,000 cartel-related deaths over the past six years. At least 2,000 weapons were exported under the watchful eye of US authorities during "Fast and Furious," an undercover operation that has still not been adequately explained to Mexican officials.  Sarukhan took on US gun rights activists: "I am sure the founding fathers did not intend for international organized crime to source weapons in the US," a surprisingly direct comment in the midst of a US presidential election. The number of weapons seized by Mexican officials with clear US origins soared by 225% between 2007 and 2011. Straw buyers in the US can legally purchase military-style weapons from over 3,000 gun dealers along the border, then export the weapons illegally to Mexico. Even when caught, straw buyers face little or no sanctions. There is only one gun store, run by the army, in all of Mexico and gun ownership even for hunting weapons is closely controlled, yet cartels are usually better armed than police or the army.

 

6 - TWO JUDGES UNDER INVESTIGATION

Two federal judges who presided over high profile drug cases have been suspended and are under investigation for links to organized crime.  In 2008, appellate judge Jesus Guadalupe Luna ordered the release of the son of Sinaloa Cartel leader Joaquin "Chapo" Guzman after a lower court sentenced him to five years in prison for money laundering, and last summer Luna upheld a lower court ruling clearing Sandra Avila Beltran, despite efforts by US authorities to prosecute her. The "Queen of the Pacific" is wanted on a 2004 US indictment for cocaine smuggling, and a separate court recently approved her extradition. District judge Efrain Cazares released a number of mayors from Michoacan arrested for links to cartels in 2009, just before statewide elections in the former PRD stronghold. The arrests were widely criticized as politically motivated. President Felipe Calderon's sister lost in the 2009 race for governor, won by the PRI candidate, and this may be payback by Calderon's National Action Party. 

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