Mexico News and Analysis: October 8 - 14

169 1 - ZAPATISTAS CONDEMN ATTACKS BY PAN AND PRD MILITANTS (http://enlacezapatista.ezln.org.mx/)
2 - CARTEL LEADER KILLED – MAYBE
3 - BORDER PATROL KILLS TEENAGER IN MEXICAN TERRITORY
4 - POLICE AND MILITARY TORTURE INCREASING IN MEXICO
5 - SENATE PASSES MONEY LAUNDERING BILL
6 - LABOR REFORM RUNS INTO OBSTACLES

The Junta of Good Government in La Realidad, located in the southern canyon region of Chiapas, issued a public condemnation of PAN and PRD militants affiliated with CIOAC Historico, a group of coffee-growers, for attacks against Zapatista support bases in ejido Guadalupe, municipality of Las Margaritas.  The public denunciation follows a series of escalating incidents in Zapatista communities in different parts of Chiapas that include armed attacks, land displacements, and imprisonment of Zapatista supporters.  Increasing public condemnations by Zapatista authorities in recent months coincide with official indifference or support for the attackers at the federal, state and local levels, leading to a potentially explosive situation.  The Mexico Solidarity Network calls on the political class in Mexico to end its war of attrition against Zapatista communities.

2 - CARTEL LEADER KILLED – MAYBE
The Mexican Navy killed the leader of the notoriously violent Zeta cartel last Sunday night, then lost the body when armed men stole it from a local funeral home early Monday morning.  The blunder left many Mexicans wondering exactly who was killed.  Navy officials claimed they didn’t know Heriberto Lazcano, aka Lazca, was the victim until checking fingerprint databases. However, US officials knew the identity before the body disappeared, leaving Mexican officials looking incompetent at best. Lazcano was a founder of the Zetas and a former member of Mexico’s Special Forces.  A number of contradictions surfaced during press conferences and interviews with Navy officials.  Apparently Lazcano was traveling with only two bodyguards, very unusual for a major cartel leader who usually traveled with at least a dozen security personnel.  And the Navy claimed Lazcano was eight inches shorter than he actually is, blaming the discrepancy on old data from his days in the Special Forces.  Analysts expect the death of the second most wanted cartel leader in Mexico to precipitate a power struggle, both within the Zetas and with other cartels trying to claim Zeta territory.  For weeks before Lazcano’s demise, there were already reports of a split within the Zetas.  On the day following his death Matamoros, a border city controlled by the Zetas, saw roving gun fights and street blockades, probably related to the power struggle.  In previous power struggles precipitated by the loss of cartel leaders small criminal groups without the strategic leadership required to transport and sell narcotics often turned to kidnapping and extortion.

3 - BORDER PATROL KILLS TEENAGER IN MEXICAN TERRITORY
A US Border Patrol agent killed a teenaged boy in Mexican territory Wednesday night.  The boy was shot seven times, according to the Mayor of Nogales, a city hard on the Arizona border.  As of Friday, the Border Patrol still had not confirmed the murder, and federal authorities in Mexico City were also saying little.  A Border Patrol spokesman claimed agents were chasing two people who abandoned a drug shipment on the US side of the border, then threw rocks at agents from the Mexican side.  The victim, Jose Antonio Elena Rodriguez, was 16-years-old.  According to US officials, Border Patrol agents are authorized to use lethal force against rock throwers, even when they are in Mexican territory.  Mexico’s Foreign Secretary issued a statement on Thursday calling such deaths “a serious bilateral problem.”

4 - POLICE AND MILITARY TORTURE INCREASING IN MEXICO
Torture and mistreatment of criminal suspects is “systematic and widespread,” according to an Amnesty International report.  Evidence presented in trials is often obtained under torture, while prosecutors and judges fail to question the validity of the evidence, according to the report.  Abuse by police and security forces increased by more than 400% since 2007, according to information from the National Human Rights Commission (CNDH), a government agency.  But the figures are probably much higher since the CNDH only investigate cases in which federal officials are involved.  Local and state police are not included in statistics although they deal with 90% of criminal cases.  And many other abuse cases are not reported for fear of reprisals from security forces.

5 - SENATE PASSES MONEY LAUNDERING BILL
The Senate passed a long-awaited money laundering bill on Thursday that prohibits high-priced cash transactions in real estate, jewelry, boats, airplanes and casino bets.  Charity groups must inform federal authorities of generous donations, which could hurt the Catholic Church, reportedly a frequent recipient of drug money.  The vote was unanimous and President Felipe Calderon is assured of signing it into law.  For years, the PRI opposed such a bill, leaving observers to wonder if the incoming administration will enforce it, though even the Calderon administration rarely used money-laundering laws already on the books.  Drug cartels reportedly import US$20 to $30 billion annually from the US, with some estimates ranging as high as US$50 billion, or about 3% of the GNP.  This may account for the lack of attention to money-laundering, a proven strategy in battling organized crime.  Much of the money is laundered in US financial institutions, but much also crosses the border as cash requiring distinct laundering strategies.

6 - LABOR REFORM RUNS INTO OBSTACLES
The labor reform that looked so inevitable only a week ago hit a bump in the road this week as the PRI and PAN battle over the question of union democracy.  An important part of the PRI base consists of unions controlled by party hacks, organized mainly under the Labor Congress (CT).  Leaders of the CT are threatening a hunger strike if provisions concerning union democracy are returned to the Senate bill after being removed by the lower House.  PAN Senators want to include union transparency, free elections and open bookkeeping, along with issues already supported by both the PRI and PAN, including pay per hour instead of per eight-hour-day, temporary contracts, and reduced indemnity for fired workers.   The CT is most interested in the first three issues, which supposedly threaten union autonomy.  Many CT unions collect dues while controlling labor contracts that were negotiated to benefit the companies, not workers.  In reality CT leaders don’t want to lose their cash cows, though hunger striking union leaders, seldom known to miss a meal, are a bit hard to imagine.  Perhaps they will take their lead from Carlos Salinas de Gotari who started a hunger strike shortly after stepping down as President in 1994, only to break for a late lunch, then resume the strike, and finally appearing at a press conference the next morning looking drawn and speaking hesitantly.