A meeting today of the heads of the IFE, the Electoral Tribunal, the Secretary of Government, and the Secretary of Health ruled out changing the electoral calendar. The PRD, the PAN, and the Social Democrats had all asked for a delay because of the swine flu epidemic. The start of official campaigning is May 3, with the vote on July 5. The IFE and the Ministry of Health will coordinate recommendations for public events. Government Undersecretary Jerónimo Gutiérrez said that the decision could be reconsidered based on changing circumstances. (Proceso 4/30)
Human Rights Watch published a new report on human rights violations by the Mexican armed forces. From the report:
While engaging in law enforcement activities, Mexico’s armed forces have committed serious human rights violations, including enforced disappearances, killings, torture, rapes, and arbitrary detentions. … This report details 17 cases involving egregious crimes by soldiers against more than 70 victims, including several cases from 2007 and 2008. None of the military investigations of army abuses analyzed here has led to a criminal conviction of even a single soldier for human rights violations.
The Government Ministry responded by saying that all decisions of the military courts could be appealed to the civilian justice system, and that the Minister of Defense had agreed to accept all the recommendations of the National Human Rights Commission. (Universal 4/30)
If it were not for one factor, the fierce resistance of the government and the Army to any change in the military justice system would be invincible. The factor is the own-goal that the Calderón regime scored with Mérida Initiative and U.S. assistance against the narcos. As the [U.S.] law that was drafted (in part by HRW) that authorized resources, 15% of the total — and in reality the entire package — is subject to the availability of the civilian justice system for crimes such as torture, rape, and murder committed by soldiers.
El Universal columnist Ricardo Alemán finds much to fault with all the major political actors in their response to the swine flu epidemic.
Of the President, he asks: “Where is Calderón during the biggest emergency of the first third of his government? … The weight and responsibility of being the public face … has fallen to José Ángel Córdova, the Secretary of Health—of impeccable appearance—but whose message is far from ‘warmth, hope and comfort’ that the citizens hope for. … The magnitude of the emergency and the social anxiety demands a President with feelings, who in addition to working in his office can come down to where mere mortals are trying to overcome their fears.”
On Mexico City’s mayor Marcelo Ebrard: “The spotlight of an epidemic showed him ill prepared.” Through frenetic action “he seeks to turn himself into the savior of the capital’s people, but only displays the whims of a petty tyrant.”
And on the Fidel Herrera, PRI governor of Veracruz (where the epidemic appears to have started) : “The viceroy of Veracruz, put on a circus to divert attention away from the possible source of the virus: the multinational pork producer Carroll’s Food located in Perote. The federal sleuths are closing in. It’s said that ‘the king of loyalty’ could go down if it’s confirmed that he hid the outbreak.” (Universal 4/30)
At least 8 policemen were killed yesterday in Tijuana and several more were wounded in a series of attacks around the city. There have been no reports of arrests. (Reforma 4/28)
A new report states that a U.S. ‘bio-vigilance’ company Veratect informed the World Health Organization on April 2 that 60% of the 3,000 inhabitants of La Gloria, Veracruz had been stricken with flu or pneumonia. (Reforma 4/27)
As a sign of the severity of the outbreak, the faithful (most wearing face masks) made a procession outside Mexico City’s metropolitan cathedral bearing the image of the ‘Christ of Health.’ The last time the Christ of Health was taken out of the cathedral was 1691, when the Black Death ravaged the then-capital of the colony of New Spain. (Reforma 4/26)
President Felipe Calderón declared a national emergency to combat the H1N1 swine flu epidemic. The flu continues to spread, with at least 16 Mexican states (see map) reporting cases. As of Sunday night, there were 103 confirmed deaths, and 1,614 persons hospitalizations, with about two-thirds released after treatment. Health authorities were given the power to enter homes to check for illness and to order quarantines. All public events in the capital were cancelled: two major soccer games and Sunday Mass were celebrated before television cameras. Schools are closed until May 6. (Special coverage sections: Universal, Reforma)
The usually reliable Templo Mayor column reported that the government knew the dimensions of the crisis as early as April 13th, but didn’t want do anything that would disrupt the visit of Barack Obama three days later. Obama caused consternation by shaking hands with all the guests at the gala dinner in the Museum of Archeology. Felipe Solis, the archeologist who personally guided Presidents Obama and Calderón in a tour of the collection, died of ‘flu-like symptoms,’ although a definitive cause of death has not been confirmed. (Reforma 4/25, NY Times 4/26)
Retired Army Colonel Arturo Navarro López, who was appointed chief of police of the border city of Piedras Negras, Coahuila just 16 days ago, was gunned down at dawn outside his home; at least 40 bullets hit his vehicle. Navarro, who had been part of the Presidential Guard, had been facing a wildcat strike by officers because of the new standards that were being put in place; 30 officers had been fired since April 7. The Army and Federal Preventive Police took control of the city, and were reported to be holding most of the city’s police officers at police headquarters. (Reforma 4/25, Universal 4/25)
With only three scheduled sessions left until the end of the Congressional term on April 30, President Calderón sent a package of security measures including amendments to the national security, organized crime, firearms, and the military code of justice laws. The proposed legislation redefines national security to include domestic security, and makes possible the “declaration of an affectation of domestic security” that would give the Army greater authority to operate domestically, and also gives the Federal Police power to carry out wiretaps. The proposals also increase prison terms possession of illegal munitions such as armor piercing bullets and for soldiers who desert to join the cartels. Noted the Templo Mayor column: “By sending the [security package] to Congress at a quarter ‘til midnight, the President makes it clear that security is priority for his government … but as an electoral issue.” (Reforma 4/23, 4/24)