Persons close to the family of Diego Fernández de Cevallos announced that the family has paid a US$20 million+ ransom, and that they expect him to be freed by his kidnappers in the first or second weeks of November. Jefe Diego has been held hostage for more than 150 days. He is said to be in poor, but stable, health. (Universal 10/14)
Government Secretary Fernando Gómez Mont continued his hard line offensive, this time challenging the National Human Rights Commission (CNDH). Speaking at a forum on the prevention of torture, Gómez Mont said, in the presence of CNDH Chairman Raúl Plascencia, “This is the difficult challenge that gathers us here: to be neither complicit … in the coverup of anomalies that might exist within the security agencies nor to be the useful fools of criminals that serve to delegitimize … or weaken the action of the authorities.”
The CNDH last week issued a report on the killing of two boys aged nine and five, Martín and Bryan Almanza Salazar, in April that concluded that the Army had killed the boys at a traffic checkpoint outside Nuevo Laredo, lied about the events (claiming they were killed in crossfire with gangsters), fabricated evidence, and obstructed the investigation. “The version [of events] issued by the Defense Ministry … is incompatible with the results of the evidence obtained by the CNDH,” Placencia said after the CNDH released its report. (Reforma 6/16, 6/26)
A widely-circulated video taken on a cellphone shows the killing of Sergio Adrian Hernández by a U.S. border patrol officer. The officer had seized one of the teenagers and fired three shots at the other fleeing youths. The video would clearly appear to support Mexican claims of disproportionate use of force, and absence of any danger to the officer who fired the shots.
The first anniversary of the ABC child care center fire in Sonora was declared a national day of mourning by President Calderón. Thousands marched in Hermosillo to remember the dead and demand reforms. Forty-nine children died and 74 were injured in the disaster. Supreme Court minister Arturo Zaldívar issued a draft report on the tragedy. Zaldivar’s report, which must be voted upon by the full Court, found 14 public officials at fault, including Minister of Communications and Transportation Juan Molinar Horcasitas, who was then the head of the Social Security Institute (IMSS), under whose auspices the child care center operated. Others named include current IMSS head Daniel Káram and former Sonora governor Eduardo Bours. The Supreme Court has the power to investigate violations of individual rights, but not to sanction individuals. However, the naming of Molinar, one of Calderón’s closest advisors, could have consequences. Noted columnist Rene Delgado, “Juan Molinar Horcasitas should see that his time is up. He should have presented his resignation months ago. If he isn’t going to do so now, President Calderón should remove him from his post.” (Universal 6/6, Reforma 6/6)
Congress recessed until September 1 without passing any of the pending reform proposals. (Universal 5/1, Reforma 5/1)
Political reform: President Calderón put forward his 10-point reform last December, followed by the PRI’s package in February, and a PRD version. All of these, plus others, languish in the legislative commissions without any consensus.
Labor reform: Labor Secretary Javier Lozano proposed a comprehensive reform in March to make labor contracting rules more flexible and making unions more transparent and democratic. It is strongly supported by the business community. May Day marches by the major labor unions across the country attacked the proposed legislation, and neither house has yet voted. (Universal 5/2)
Fiscal reform: No specific proposals have been made public, despite widespread recognition that urgent change is needed on both the spending and revenue side of the budget.
New media law: The PAN and PRD congressional delegations proposed an integrated reform in mid-April, after the PRI tried to ram through a Televisa-drafted bill. Hearings will continue over the summer. (Universal 4/28)
National Security reform: The Senate approved a law 105-1-1 clarifying the procedures and standards for deploying the military in public safety (i.e., crime fighting) operations, while punting on the question of subjecting members of the military to civilian court jurisdiction for some crimes. The law as passed is believed to be strongly opposed by at least parts of the military. The Chamber did not bring it to a vote. (Universal 4/28, 5/3)
Competition law: A watered down version of the Government’s proposed law to strengthen the Federal Competition Commission and stiffen penalties for monopolistic practices was passed by the Chamber 386-15-2; the Senate has not acted. (Excelsior 4/30)
Human Rights law: A constitutional reform strengthening constitutional protection for human rights and giving the language in the Constitution and giving the National Human Rights Commission (CNDH) the power to investigate “grave violations of individual rights” passed the Senate in early April. The Chamber has not yet acted. (Universal 4/9)
In what may be the most closely fought of the July elections, the formal campaign for governor of Oaxaca formally began. The race pits Gabino Cué, as the standard bearer of the PRD–PT–Convergencia–PAN alliance, against Eviel Pérez Magaña, the right hand man of outgoing Governor Ulises Ruiz. An Ipsos poll gives Cué a 44%-25% lead over Pérez Magaña. (Universal 4/30)
The climate in the state was marked by the ambush of a human rights caravan that left two human rights activists dead (one from Finland), three wounded, and three disappeared, allegedly at the hands of paramilitaries in the Triqui region of the state. Governor Ruiz called for the expulsion of foreigners from the state. Cue said, “Everybody knows that the lack of public security in Oaxaca today is the responsibility of Ulises Ruiz.” (Universal 5/2, 5/1, Frontline Defenders 4/29)
The Office of the President denounced Arizona’s anti-immigrant law:
The Government of Mexico condemns the approval of Law SB1070 “Immigration, Enforcement of the Law, and Safe Neighborhoods” by the State of Arizona, signed on April 23d by Governor Janice K. Brewer.
The criminalization of the migration phenomenon, far from contributing to cooperation and collaboration between Mexico and the State of Arizona, represents an obstacle for the solution of the common problems of the frontier region and in North America as a whole.
The Office of the President of the Republic reiterates its absolute commitment to the protection of the Human Rights and the dignity of all Mexicans abroad, independently of their immigration status. The Government of Mexico will use all the means at its disposal in order to assist its nationals.
A useful Arizona state Senate fact sheet on the bill is available here.
The government for the first time gave its own tally of gang-related killings in a ‘confidential’ document to Congress, but the details were widely reported. According the official figures, there were 22,743 gang-related killings from December 2006, when Felipe Calderón took office, through last month, including 3,365 in the first quarter of 2010. Of the total, 92% are said to be gang members. The report also says the military and police detained 121,199 gang members during this period and seized US$9.5 billion in drugs and more than 71,000 firearms. (Milenio 4/14, Reforma 4/14)
Naval Marines arrested Alberto Mendoza Contreras, aka El Chico Malo (“Bad Boy”), alleging that he controlled trafficking for the Beltrán Leyva cartel in the Monterrey suburb of San Pedro. Controversial San Pedro mayor Mauricio Fernández Garza said that he paid El Chico Malo as an informant (and credited him for fingering 50 corrupt cops), but denied that he had any knowledge of his trafficking activities. He added that Government Secretary Fernando Gómez Mont approved these activities, setting off a firestorm. The Ministry of Government issued an immediate statement in response: “It is unacceptable, under any circumstances, to exchange intelligence information for tolerating impunity or protecting criminals.”
In a second incident, the body of a drug dealer was found handcuffed and with signs of torture the day after he was photographed being detained by police in the Monterrey suburb of Santa Catarina. He was one of two suspects wanted for trying to ambush the local police chief. The police transferred him to Naval marines for transport to a hospital for treatment of injuries, but both the police and the marines deny responsibility for the suspect’s killing. (Excelsior 3/26, Reforma 3/24, 3/27)