News and Analysis: May 14 - 20, 2012

1 - NEWS FROM THE OTHER CAMPAIGN
2 - TENS OF THOUSANDS PROTEST PRI CANDIDATE
3 - WALMART INVESTIGATION WIDENS
4 - FOUR ARMY OFFICERS IN CUSTODY
5 - MSN PROGRAMS: Contact msn at mexicosolidarity dot org or (773) 583 7728   

• 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.

 

2 - TENS OF THOUSANDS PROTEST PRI CANDIDATE

Tens of thousands of students, campesinos, colonos and union members organized via social media took to the streets on Saturday across Mexico to protest PRI presidential candidate Enrique Peña Nieto and his support from Televisa, the country's largest television network. Peña Nieto leads presidential polls by double digit margins, but many Mexicans are not happy with prospect of a return to the PRI after 12 years out of power, particularly under the leadership of Peña Nieto. His reputation as a pretty face with little substance and a history of corruption has galvanized university students, who led the protests. The nascent movement began last week when students at the Ibero, one of Mexico's most prestigious private universities, booed the candidate.

 

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."

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