News and Analysis: April 30 - May 6, 2012

1 - MAY 19 DAY OF SOLIDARITY WITH ZAPATISTAS
2 - ANTITRUST COMMISSION BUCKLES BEFORE CARLOS SLIM
3 - WALMART UPDATE
4 - MEXICO APPROVES COMPENSATION FOR CRIME VICTIMS
5 - NEW BI-NATIONAL POLICE ACADEMY OPENS IN PUEBLA
6 - POLITICS OR SOCCER?

The Mexico-based National Network against Repression and for Solidarity called for coordinated protests on May 19 in solidarity with the Zapatista movement.  While the Zapatistas continue to build autonomy and resist neoliberalism, the Chiapas state government of Juan Sabines Guerrero has implemented a strategy of low intensity warfare.  Zapatista communities are under constant attack, particularly the community of Nuevo Paraiso in the Garrucha zone of Chiapas.  The National Network demands an end to the war against zapatismo.  Zapatista communities are not alone!  An attack on Zapatista communities is an attack against all of us!  The Mexico Solidarity Network is a member of the National Network against Repression and for Solidarity, and strongly supports the call for action.

Friday, May 18 at 2PM:  The Centro Autonomo de Albany Park convenes a march in front of the Mexican Consulate in Chicago.

Saturday, May 19 at Noon: The Centro Autonomo de Albany Park calls for educational fliers and a march in the Latino barrio of Albany Park.  Meet at the Centro Autonomo, 3460 W Lawrence Ave, at noon.

2 - ANTITRUST COMMISSION BUCKLES BEFORE CARLOS SLIM
On Thursday, Mexico’s Federal Competition Commission dropped a US$1 billion fine against Carlos Slim, the world’s richest man.  The commission leveled the fine last year for monopoly practices in the cell phone industry, but TelCel, Slim’s major cash cow that controls 70% of the country’s cell phone market, appealed in a complex year-long legal process that included plenty of muscle-flexing in the political realm.  Slim even managed to remove the head of the Commission, Eduardo Perez Mota, from participation in the deciding vote on the fine.  Slim promised to end discount rates for calls within the TelCel network and accept lower interconnection fees for calls placed into other networks, from .95 pesos per minute in 2011 to .36 pesos.  The fees, along with TelCel’s virtual monopoly pricing, make Mexico’s cell phone service among the most expensive in the world.  The commission agreed to drop the fine to avoid extensive litigation by Slim.   The commission’s next target is the powerful television industry, hardly a match for a regulatory body that already demonstrated its lack of political strength in bowing before Slim’s considerable power.

3 - WALMART UPDATE
In light of WalMart’s illegal bribery schemes in Mexico, the company’s building permits are under new scrutiny in cities across the US.  From Brooklyn to San Diego, community groups, politicians and law enforcement agencies are taking a second look at the forces behind WalMart’s exponential growth.  The radically non-union company initiated its super-store strategy in rural areas and in the south, where there was little local opposition.  But now that these regions are saturated, WalMart is looking to urban areas of the US where opposition is better organized.  Often WalMart tries to smooth the way with donations to local politicians and community groups – the rough equivalent of bribes paid in Mexico, though it is legal in the US to buy political loyalty.

In related news, the California State Teachers’ Retirement System filed a lawsuit against current and former WalMart executives and board members, charging corporate mismanagement.  Known as a derivative action, the suit is brought by shareholders on behalf of the company against a third party.  The retirement fund holds 5.3 million shares of Walmart.  The suit claims WalMart officials participated in “rampant corruption,” exposing the company to “potentially hundreds of millions of dollars of liability” when WalMart executives in Mexico “approved of the payment of bribes as a business practice to speed WalMart’s entry into the Mexican market and choke out the competition.”

4 - MEXICO APPROVES COMPENSATION FOR CRIME VICTIMS
Congress approved a bill this week that will provide compensation for organized crime victims.  The widely popular measure was already passed by the Senate and will likely be signed quickly by President Calderon.  The law provides for payments of up to US$70,000 for victims of kidnapping, murder or disappearance resulting from the activities of organized crime, or victims of human rights abuses carried out by security forces.  A federal agency will create a national registry of crimes and manage compensation payments, though victims will have to provide evidence of the crime committed against them.  In a country where most crimes go unpunished and often uninvestigated, this may prove to be an insurmountable hurdle for most victims.  Activist Javier Sicilia, whose son was killed last year by cartels in Cuernavaca, was a major force behind the legislation.

5 - NEW BI-NATIONAL POLICE ACADEMY OPENS IN PUEBLA
Mexico and the US opened a new police training center in Puebla, part of the US$1.6 billion Merida Initiative.  The Gen. Ignacio Zaragoza National Police Training and Development Academy is named after the leader of the independence fight against French forces in Puebla 150 years ago.  Given strong nationalist concerns over US police/military training in Mexico, it is ironic the US$5 million facility is named after a hero of the May 5th battle for independence.  The academy will hold 600 students and includes state of the art training facilities managed by a combination of US and Mexican instructors.

6 - POLITICS OR SOCCER?
The first presidential debate is scheduled for this Sunday, but viewers may have to decide between politics and soccer.  Electoral authorities scheduled the debate for 8:00pm, but a week later the professional soccer league announced a quarter-final playoff game between two of the country’s top teams at the same time.  Televisa plans to broadcast the debate, but the irascible Carlos Salinas Pliego, owner of rival TV Azteca, promised viewers the soccer match.  “If you want the debate, see it on Televisa,” tweeted Salinas Pliego.  “If not, watch futbol on Azteca.  I’ll send you the ratings the next day.”  Election officials fired back that TV Azteca will have to abide by federal mandates covering election cycles that force television stations to broadcast political commercials every few minutes during prime time.  It appears the choice is between live and canned propaganda.  PRIista Pena Nieto is favored in the first, while the Monarcas of Morelia are favored in the second.