Wednesday, February 29, 2012

"Southern Zetas" operating in Cancún's hotel zone, say Quintana Roo authorities

News from the "zona hotelera"

Cancún, Quintana Roo --
Quintana Roo authorities earlier this week announced the arrest of two sureños-zetas, a/k/a "southern Zetas." Apparently Los Zetas affiliates working on the Yucatán peninsula are now regarded as a distinct subset of the larger organization, although they're still very much allied with the main drug cartel.

These two were boyfriend and girlfriend, 17 and 22 years of age, and were nabbed at the entrance to Cancún's ritzy hotel zone. Police say they were halcones (hawks), whose sole assignment was to monitor and spy on the movements of police and military personnel. That cannot bode well for security in the area, where more and more halcones have surfaced of late.

In some parts of Texas dumb ideas abound

And the beauty of brevity escapes them

I sometimes scan an online journal in Texas as a perverse way of amusing -- actually, annoying myself -- because the uninformed bias of one of its writers is unsurpassed. I went to the site today, and discovered this rambling, at times almost impossible to follow piece: Check it out if you're snowed in somewhere, or stuck on the Amtrack between Grand Central Station and Washington. It will take you a very long time to read. And if you manage to get through it you may ask yourself, as I did, what in the hell did I just read, anyway?

Miami Five member René González seeks permission to visit dying brother in Cuba

René González awaits ruling on emergency travel request filed with Florida court

René González, one of the members of the Miami Five arrested in 1998 and sentenced to a long prison term for espionage, has asked a federal judge to allow him to return home to Havana to visit his brother, who is said to be in the final stages of terminal brain cancer. Attorneys for González filed the request last week with the United States District Court for the Southern District of Florida. They're awaiting a ruling from judge Joan Lenard.

"Crime victims are not just statistics," Calderón tells National Security Council

The forgotten "desaparecidos," campaign security and a candidate so brave that he dispenses with "special security"

Addressing Mexico's 32nd National Public Security Council as the keynote speaker this morning, president Felipe Calderón promised that the country would do its best to identify every victim of the drug war, "irrespective of whether the person was or was not involved in criminal activity." Calderón also said that his administration was committed to "protecting the integrity of the democratic process" in Mexico's upcoming elections, especially the presidential contest, so that they remain free of organized crime influence. As many as 80 million Mexicans are expected to vote on July 1, when they will select a successor to Calderón, whose last day in office is Nov. 30. Other office holders also will be elected.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

More evidence Mexican drug war strategy is working, as violence shifts southward

But now Guatemala and Honduras are in the eye of the storm; drug legalization "not an option," says United Nations agency, which takes a swipe at Canadian usage too

*Updated Apr. 2, 2013*
Critics of Mexico's 62 month old war against the drug cartels, launched by president Felipe Calderón in December 2006, might want to take note of a report published today by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime. UNODC claims that due to increased pressure by Mexican security forces some cartels have moved their operational centers to Central America, resulting in a precipitous increase in violent crime in the region, including kidnapping, torture and murder. The international drug monitoring agency reports that the escalating violence presents a "grave risk to daily life," and "has reached alarming and unprecedented levels." UNODC warns that in addition to international cartel operatives, about 900 local crime gangs with some 70,000 members operate in Central America.

Drug "decriminalization" or legalization, it's all the same at the end of the day

MGR Opinion - Clever and creative nomenclature doesn't alter the bottom line

This isn't an op-ed about whether drugs - any type of drugs - should be removed from the list of things prohibited to mankind in Mexico or Mauritania or Marrakech or places in between. I'm not about to get into that debate, as any number of journalists (and not a few politicians) have of late. In my judgment, there will never be substantial agreement on the subject. Indeed, there will always be profound disagreement. It's an issue which separates people by their very nature, rather like the universal question of whether a hot dog is best consumed dressed out in mustard or ketchup, and with or without onions.

Monday, February 27, 2012

U.S. rejects Guatemala's proposal to "open a dialog" on possible drug legalization

Napolitano gives a thumbs down to Guatemalan president's "decriminalization" plan

Guatemala City - Following a trip to Mexico City earlier today, U.S. Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano arrived in this war torn nation which is feeling the full brunt of international narcotics trafficking, and flatly rejected drug legalization as a topic open to debate.

During a joint press conference with president Otto Pérez Molina, Napolitano said, "There are better ways to address the problem of drug trafficking." Reiterating conventional themes, the secretary argued that strategic emphasis should be placed on reducing drug addiction, intercepting drugs in transit and disrupting production and distribution channels. "There are many ways the United States can cooperate with countries in the region, and we must continue working together towards the same goals."

Rabies on the rise in Mérida and environs

Growing problem of stray dogs has local health authorities concerned

*Updated Feb. 12, 2013*
Mérida, Yucatán -
Mérida, together with its surrounding towns and outlying communities, suffers from a severe overpopulation of unclaimed dogs. They're referred to here as perros callejeros, or street (stray) dogs. Even many canines which are fortunate to have owners who feed and shelter them probably never see a vet. It's an unhealthy situation both for the animals and the humans who live in close proximity.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Rolling down Mexico Highway 57, a door lock design change could have saved a life

Lack of an override switch gave Los Zetas hit squad all the advantage it needed

In recent weeks I have reported on the case of two U.S. federal agents who were attacked by a team of Los Zetas executioners on Feb. 15, 2011. They were on Mexican Highway 57, traveling from Monterrey to the Federal District, on official business. One of the agents died of multiple gunshot wounds minutes after the attack. The other survived. A gunmen who was part of the assault team, captured just days later by Mexican military forces, was extradited to the United States in December, where he faces murder and other charges. You can read the tragic details of this case, which I'll be monitoring in weeks ahead, here.

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Drugs float ashore on Playa del Carmen

Sixty keys overboard? Forget about it

Updated Jan. 17, 2013*
You never know what you'll encounter when you go beachcombing. In the tourist mecca of Playa del Carmen (Quintana Roo state), yesterday afternoon it turned out to be 60 kilos (132 pounds) of pure Colombia cocaine.

The discovery was made about 4:00 p.m. by a beach runner who notified nearby hotel security guards and police. The cocaine was tightly sealed in 35 heavy plastic bags, which in turn were well secured in a larger plastic container. The drugs were in perfect condition, resting on the beach a few meters from the ocean, obviously packaged by professionals.

Friday, February 24, 2012

Two American senators visit Cuba

And there was only one real topic on their agenda . . .

News sources report that two senior U.S. senators visited Cuba yesterday (Feb. 23), to discuss items of mutual interest. Sen. Patrick Leahy (D. Vt.) (left) and Sen. Richard Shelby (R. Ala.) had a "cordial" two and a half hour meeting with Cuban president Raúl Castro. Beforehand they visited convicted U.S. contractor Alan Gross in a local prison, where he's serving a 15 year sentence for state security crimes. Several other members of Congress were in the delegation.

Wikileaks suspect Pfc. Bradley Manning arraigned in first stage of full court martial

No damage to U.S. national security, claim his attorneys - but it sure annoyed Mexico

Ft. Meade, MD -- Pfc. Bradley Manning, alleged mastermind behind the 2010 Wikileaks disclosures which embarrassed the United States, complicated its diplomatic affairs and adversely affected its relationship with Mexico, was formally arraigned yesterday before an Army court martial. Manning entered a plead of not guilty to all counts, which include a charge of "aiding the enemy." The maximum punishment is life imprisonment.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Another weekly poll shows 16 point spread between Peña Nieto and Vázquez Mota

But president Calderón offers a very different analysis

A second presidential preference poll published this week -- conducted by Consulta Mitofsky -- reported a 16 percentage point difference between the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) and National Action Party (PAN) nominees. An El Universal poll earlier this week showed exactly the same spread between the two top candidates, albeit with different numbers for each ( Mitofsky says here's the way voters currently feel about their options:

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Highwaymen hit Cancún-bound ADO bus in Tabasco

Autobuses de Oriente, or ADO as it's known in these parts, is the primary provider of first class passenger service in Yucatán, Quintana Roo and adjacent states. Anybody who has ever traveled between Cancún and Mérida by bus has surely been on ADO equipment . . . otherwise their fellow passengers might have included chickens in crates on the roof or goats tethered in the back. In fact, if you're headed any direction out of Mérida by bus you'll likely be on an ADO, unless you're seeking more of an Indiana Jones experience.

Chávez returns to Cuba for more surgery

"No one should get alarmed - and no one should rejoice"

Since last fall various sources have reported that Venezuelan president Hugo Chávez is in rapidly deteriorating health and is unlikely to survive until his country's Oct. 7 presidential election, in which he is an announced candidate. Chávez was diagnosed with cancer early last year, had surgery in Havana in June 2011 and then returned to the island for multiple rounds of chemotherapy, after which he pronounced himself completely cured. But last month the Spanish newspaper ABC, claiming access to Dec. 30 medical reports, said that Chávez had but a nine month life expectancy unless very aggressive procedures were undertaken at once (

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Peña Nieto surges in El Universal poll

PRI candidate quickly regains the points he lost in January

In an El Universal presidential preference poll reported today, Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) nominee Enrique Peña Nieto appears to have surged significantly just two weeks after the National Action Party (PAN) selected its 2012 standard bearer on Feb. 5.

Five taxi drivers executed in Monterrey

The battle rages on in deadly Nuevo León state

Five taxicab drivers, standing beside their parked vehicles and having a friendly chat while waiting for their next fares, were executed this morning in north Monterrey by a team of heavily armed gunmen who descended upon them and opened fire without warning.

The male drivers, whom authorities say were between 30 and 40 years of age, were all reported dead at the scene.

Canadian national faces manslaughter charges in Feb. 5 crash that killed three

Police say Quebec adventurer crossed the center line in tragic accident that left three young Mexicans dead

Mérida, Yucatán --
A young man from Quebec who together with friends decided to explore the Americas by vehicle in the the summer of 2011 stands charged with three counts of vehicular homicide, according to French and Spanish press accounts published today in Canada. Under U.S. criminal law such charges are frequently referred to as manslaughter, which may be either a misdemeanor or a felony depending upon the circumstances and the jurisdiction where the event occurs. There is no precise equivalent under Mexican law.

The Mexico Gulf Region Reporter (MGRR) first reported on this case Feb. 5, about 15 hours after the incident which has now led to the filing of serious criminal accusations by Mexican prosecutors:

Monday, February 20, 2012

Mexico's high court rejects lie detectors, drug tests, psych profiles for political candidates

Chiapas statute which sought to sanitize politics derailed by federal supremacy and due process restrictions; candidacy requirements must be "clear, specific, foreseen"

The Supreme Judicial Court of Mexico today invalidated a state law which mandated that all public office seekers submit to polygraphs, drug tests and psychological fitness profiles before their names would be approved for placement on the ballot.

The case came to Mexico's highest tribunal from the southwestern state of Chiapas, which adopted the controversial law several years ago. Mexico is a federal union of sovereign states, much like the United States, each one of which may enact its own civil and criminal code. However, the Supreme Court has both the right and the legal duty to review any state law which is alleged to run afoul of the country's federal constitution and laws.

Mexican Catholic Church urges faithful to vote in accord with "reflective conscience"

Election 2012 analysis - "The Christian faithful also have the right to demand that those candidates who seek their vote make it clear that they support true religious freedom, which freedom is not just for ministers of the Gospel, but rather is a fundamental human right to which all are entitled." -- Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Mexico City, Feb. 2012

About a century ago, Mexico underwent a violent revolution. One of the primary targets was the Roman Catholic Church, which was viewed by many as firmly entrenched on the side of governmental authoritarianism and centuries-old exploitation of the country's impoverished masses. Among the byproducts of the violent civil war was Mexico's Constitution of 1917, which was loaded up with so-called "anti-clerical" provisions. One of those is Article 130, still in force, which forbids the Church from involving itself in the political affairs of the nation, or commenting on them in a "notorious" way (legalese for "public").

Of course, that hasn't stopped Mexican priests and Church leaders from periodically speaking out, any more than similar restrictions have in the U.S. (North of the border there is no constitutional prohibition against religious officials addressing public issues, since the First Amendment expressly protects and guarantees everyone such speech. But because most American churches enjoy virtual immunity from taxation at every level, separate legal rules require them -- at least in theory -- to remain silent on matters of purely political discourse, such as the endorsement of particular parties or candidates).

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Shawn Jeffrey W.'s 15 minutes of fame - and his only 15, at least on this page

Everybody, listen up: Shawn in Lucerne, California hates Los Zetas!!!

Which of you readers can tell me who coined the phrase "15 minutes of fame"? You all can, of course. It was American pop artist Andy Warhol (1928-1987). RIP, Andy.

But this post has nothing to do with Andy. This post is about -- and is written for -- Shawn. Mainly with the hope that he'll take mercy on me (please, God, please).

Who is Shawn? Shawn is Shawn Jeffrey W. (his last name shall here remain only an initial), of Lucerne, Calif. I wouldn't know Shawn if he knocked on my door right now and offered to take me downtown for beer (the Carnival is in town here in Mérida -- Carnival as in Mardi Gras -- so they'll be selling Sol, Dos XX and such on the street until the wee hours of the morning). Then how do I know of Shawn's existence?

Saturday, February 18, 2012

U.S. says, "we're staying out;" Calderón says, "fight for security must continue"

Washington doesn't care who wins, says State Dept's. Public Affairs office

Earlier this week Michael Hammer, the U.S. State Dept.'s Acting Assistant Secretary for Public Affairs, met with foreign press representatives in Washington. According to his official biography, Hammer is an experienced Latin American diplomat, has lived in Central and South America, speaks fluent Spanish and holds a degree from Georgetown University's School of Foreign Service. The latter credential alone makes him -- in my unbiased opinion, and irrespective of the fact that I graduated from the same school -- an expert on international relations :) Anyway . . .

Obama asks Congress for another $244 million towards Mexican drug war effort

More cash headed south, most of it continued Mérida Initiative funding

On Monday (Feb. 13) the president asked Congress to approve a $234 million package under the the Mérida Initiative, a 2007 agreement between the United States and Mexico which provides for U.S. training and equipping of Mexican military and police forces, plus intelligence gathering and sharing. On Dec. 31, U.S. funding of the Mérida Initiative was at $900 million, over half of the $1.6 billion budgeted by Congress in 2008.

Friday, February 17, 2012

Sen. John McCain expresses doubt about one of Mexico's presidential candidates - but just which one did he have in mind?

The incautious John McCain, oblivious to diplomatic protocol, dangles a teaser

U.S. Senator John McCain (R. Az.) is a man who tends to say just what's on his mind - to anyone, anytime, anywhere. McCain didn't hesitate to give another demonstration of his peculiar knack yesterday when U.S. Director of National Intelligence James R. Clapper testified before the Senate Armed Services Committee, of which McCain is Ranking Member.

After discussing narcotics trafficking, cartels and Mexico-U.S. cooperation in the ongoing drug war, MCCain shifted gears and asked Clapper if he thought that whoever succeeds president Felipe Calderón later this year would remain steadfast in the offensive which was launched in December 2006. Clapper gave the only diplomatically correct answer, and replied that the United States is confident that Mexico's next president will be committed to winning the war, which has cost the country over 50,000 lives to date.

Eyeballing Clapper, McCain said: "Well, I might suggest you focus on that question a little more closely, Mr. Director, because I don't believe that's the case, at least with respect to one of the candidates." So to whom was McCain referring?

Thursday, February 16, 2012

"Dear friends in the United States - please, no more assault weapons to Mexico"

An arsenal of 100,000 firearms destroyed - most made or sold in the U.S.A.

Speaking in clear, firm and precise English to an American audience he could only hope would listen later via news accounts, president Felipe Calderón today implored the United States to shut off the "inhuman flow of assault weapons to Mexico" which he said are fueling the violent drug war here. Calderón also called upon his U.S. counterparts to "get drug consumption under control" in their country. The themes are recurrent ones for the National Action Party president, who leaves office this year.

Former U.S. TV producer of Survivor bound over for trial in Cancún murder

All the motive that any prosecutor would want . . .

Cancún, Quintana Roo -
Former U.S. television producer Bruce Beresford-Redman, who was once behind the popular TV series Survivor, has been bound over after a preliminary criminal hearing and ordered to stand trial for spousal homicide in Quintana Roo, on Mexico's Caribbean Riviera Maya coast.

Beresford-Redman is alleged to have murdered his Brazilian born wife, Mónica Burgos. The couple have two children.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Latest U.S. travel alert is "ridiculous," says Mexican government official

Meanwhile, two senior voyagers receive a very chilly reception in Mérida . . .

Mexico's Secretary of Government (SEGOB) Alejandro Poiré today officially responded to last week's travel alert issued by the U.S. State Dept., which said that all or parts of 18 Mexican states presented significant risks for American travelers (

"Candidly, it strikes me as completely out of proportion, really ridiculous I would say. In our country there are certainly zones of danger where risks are presented, but it's precisely in those zones where the federal government is taking action," Poiré said. The SEGOB secretary said that American tourists are still traveling to Mexico despite the warning, and "they're doing fine."

El Gran Amante - The many romances of Enrique Peña Nieto, back in the spotlight

"He takes them to heaven, but leaves them in hell"

*Updated Jun. 3, 2013*
Just on the heels of the PRI presidential candidate's own very public confession to more infidelities than J.R. Ewing, the author of a new book tells us to hang on -- there's a lot more coming.

I posted on Enrique Peña Nieto's recent no-holds-barred interview with the Mexico City newspaper El Universal on Jan. 24.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Boy, 13, brutally executed in Monterrey

Even child victims are targets in Mexico's drug war

The organized crime and cartel executions I report on this page are but a tiny fraction of those which occur virtually every day in Mexico. There are blogs that cover nothing but drug war violence. I have no desire to join their ranks, but I make it a habit of reporting on cases which involve particularly young or vulnerable victims, because I think a record should be made, however limited it may be.

Drug war deaths in Acapulco drop sharply 130 days after Mexican army steps in

For once a bit of good news, as federal military units get the job done

Acapulco, Guerrero - A scant five months after Mexican federal troops were brought into this beleaguered Pacific coast state where the Sinaloa Cartel (also known as Cartel del Pacífico) and Los Zetas have struggled to outdo each other in narco terror, deaths have plunged by a dramatic 52.3%.

The announcement was made during a press conference yesterday by state officials. The good news is sure to please Mexico's federal government, which continues to take much heat both domestically and from abroad for what many have condemned as a failed -- and dangerous -- militarization of the drug war launched by the Felipe Calderón administration in December 2006. But Calderón has promised to continue the unprecedented hunt-and-destroy mission directed at Mexico's powerful international drug cartels until his last day in office later this year, despite the often quite vocal criticism.

Mexican armed forces raid drug houses in Playa del Carmen tourist zone

Military assault turns up crack, machine guns and a 13 year old narco

Playa del Carmen, Quintana Roo -- Military forces in this popular resort on Mexico's Riviera Maya yesterday announced a major security sweep in the tourist zone which turned up significant drug and weapons caches.

Four members of Los Pelones, a local drug and murder-for-hire gang locked in a deadly turf war with the powerful Los Zetas cartel, were arrested. One of those taken into custody was a 13 year old girl. Over a thousand bags of cocaine ready for retail distribution were seized, together with military assault weapons, including AK-47s, an AR-15 and a Heckler & Koch .9 mm MP5 sub-machine gun (pictured). The operation was staged by Mexican army and marine troops late Sunday evening (Feb. 12). They also secured three vehicles.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Alan Gross knew USAID mission was illegal and lied to Cuban authorities, Miami newspaper reports indicate

Convicted Maryland contractor sentenced to 15 years was a U.S. operative who distributed high tech communications equipment, knowing it was "very risky"

A Miami, Fla. Spanish language newspaper today reported that former Maryland resident Alan Gross in net effect was a U.S. agent knowingly involved in illegal activities when he was arrested in Havana 26 months ago. Accused of national security related crimes, Gross told a Cuban criminal court last year that he was nothing more than a "humanitarian aid" worker. The paper suggests Gross lied.

The feature story, carried in today's edition of El Nuevo Herald and based upon a lengthy Associated Press exposé published yesterday (Feb. 12), is sure to have repercussions for U.S.-Cuba relations. El Nuevo is a rabidly anti-Castro publication, and is targeted primarily towards Cuban exiles residing in Florida. The prominent reporting of such allegations by a journal having no sympathy for the Castro regime will undoubtedly give added credibility to the claims. El Nuevo Herald is a sister publication to the Miami Herald, which carried the story simultaneously in English.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Is alleged PRI-narco connection fair game in Mexico's 2012 presidential election?

Enrique Peña Nieto accuses PAN of running a smear campaign "to discredit PRI," especially in the United States

National Action Party (PAN) chairman Gustavo Madero says all's fair in war and politics, and he's already warned Tricolor loyalists that PAN will not spare the rod this political season, especially after the formal campaign officially opens Mar. 30.

I wrote about this subject last October, when public allegations surfaced that as far back as 30 years ago, in the 1980s, big-time PRI politicians knew all about the northbound routes which Mexican drug traffickers were using - and did absolutely nothing.

López Obrador piles on, joins the slug-fest

. . . today calling PRI nominee Enrique Peña Nieto an "empty mannequin." I'll give the beleaguered PRIsta credit for this much, anyway: the man has fortitude (would it be too improper of me to say cojones?) In recent weeks Peña Nieto has been referred to, inter alia, as an "empty head" (an "air-head" if you prefer); a "lightweight" (that at the hands of Mexico's most well-known national author, no less); and a soap opera actor. How does he take it all?

U.S. returned over 14,000 undocumented children to Mexico in 2011, says INM

Immigration to the United States by undocumented, unescorted children from Mexico and Central American hot spots (principally Honduras and Guatemala) has been a growing problem in recent years. Most of these kids are trying to escape grossly underdeveloped economies which offer them almost no chance of a sustainable living. Others are fleeing the ravages of narcotics trafficking and the incipient Latin drug war, the epicenter of which has shifted southward as Mexican armed forces put increasing pressure on drug cartels in their own territory.

Cancún 24 hour narco death toll rises to three, with six victims since Jan. 1

Following Friday's execution of two men in a stolen cab, Cancún police have reported the murder of still another man in the city's environs. The victim, who has not yet been identified, was found about 7:00 a.m. yesterday (Feb. 11) in a wooded area. His hands were taped behind his back and he had been shot in the head twice with a .9 mm weapon, according to forensic experts. Local authorities said the case is plainly another organized crime murder.

Vázquez Mota appoints former PAN opponents as campaign consultants

National Action Party (PAN) presidential nominee Josefina Vázquez Mota has named both of her her former primary opponents as campaign advisers. The move was no doubt designed to smooth over any hard feelings after last week's vote, which determined who will be PAN's standard bearer in this year's presidential election. Vázquez Mota won the Feb. 5 primary decisively, capturing almost 55% of the 547,000 ballots.

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Calderón responds to drug war critics

Coffee at Starbucks with the local Los Zetas gang, maybe?

During an appearance today, president Felipe Calderón posed a few rhetorical questions to his audience in response to criticism of the 62 month old drug war which he launched in December 2006:

"What did they want us to do (with the drug cartels)? Greet them? Invite them out? Take them for a cup of coffee? Just what were we supposed to do?"

"When people ask me, when will this war be won, when we will have security, I tell them: The day that we have trustworthy, well-trained, well-paid police, not only at the federal level, but at the state and above all at the municipal level, that's the day we're going to win the battle for public security."

Cancún narco violence claims fifth victim in 2012

Taxi stolen and used by execution team minutes later, as warring cartels duke it out

Puerto Morelos, Quitana Roo - In this sunny seaport 20 miles south of Cancún, the largest harbor in Q.R. state, a taxi driver lost his vehicle and two men lost their lives Friday afternoon.

The events unfolded about 4:30 p.m. when a taxista was flagged down by three men who asked to be taken to a certain location. When they got there the men seized the driver, bound and gagged him and took off with the cab. He freed himself and summoned police.

Friday, February 10, 2012

Increasing poverty and rising state debt result in poor economic report for Mexico

Nation faces stormy economic seas: endemic poverty, reduced growth in 2012 and irresponsible state borrowing portend difficult days for new administration

*Updated June 11, 2013*
An increase in the number of people living in moderate to severe poverty, combined with relentless borrowing and a consequent rise in the long term debt of Mexico's 32 states, conspired to produce a depressing economic grade card for the country this week. The report is based upon data compiled through Dec. 31, 2011.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Campaign 2012: presidential poll shows only slight movement after PAN primary

López Obrador says the election is "not a beauty contest"

Mexico polls at least as much as the United States does during a presidential election year, so I'll post results from time to time. After the PAN primary last weekend (Feb. 5), the numbers moved only slightly. According to Consulta Mitofsky, one of the major national polling firms, as of today they are:

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

U.S. issues new travel alert for Mexico

An objective analysis of the U.S. State Department's latest Mexico travel warning

The United States Dept. of State renewed today a travel alert that applies to a large portion of Mexico's national territory.

"Crime and violence are serious problems throughout the country, and may occur anywhere," said the U.S. government. The alert was a re-issuance of a warning previously announced April 22, 2011.

The government said that the number of American citizens murdered in Mexico had risen from 35 in 2007 to 120 last year. But it claimed there is no evidence that U.S. nationals are being targeted in such cases.

Query: Is an "air-head" the same thing as an "empty-head," or are they different?

I hope this post doesn't get me in (too much) trouble . . .

An anonymous commentator (man or woman? -- I'd love to know), responding to my recent post Peña Nieto Bares All (, today left a note observing that "The sad part is many Mexicans will probably vote for this air-head."

"Air-head" is a term I enjoy, and I'm glad to see someone else employ it, especially in a public forum referring to a male political candidate. I rarely use it these days, because I've been told it both "dates" me and brands me as sexist (unfairly so, in my opinion). As a young(er) man I commonly referred to not so bright members of the opposite sex as "air-heads." And I confess that not infrequently I found myself in the company of such women, because in those days a stunning intellect was not my primary criterion for asking someone out on a date. Now my tastes have changed considerably, of course . . . of course they have.

Forbes Magazine cites Mexico Gulf Region Reporter (MGRR) and asks, "Are Mexican Voters Ready For Their First 'Presidenta'?"

MGRR stands up and takes a bow (even though no one asked us to . . . )

Forbes Magazine (editor-in-chief Steve Forbes) is an influential and respected U.S. biweekly that focuses on business, politics and myriad other topics. It's first edition was published way back in 1917. You'll find Forbes in corporate boardrooms, and on the desks of many professionals as well.

I was pleased to note an article published two days ago (Feb. 6) by Forbes columnist Caroline Howard, who regularly writes about women's issues. The article is entitled Are Mexican Voters Ready For Their First Presidenta?, with a subtitle of "Josefina Vázquez Mota has a fighting chance to win the Mexican presidential election not in spite of her gender, but because of it." You can read Caroline's piece here.

The best part (in my objective opinion) is that one of Caroline's URL links is to the Mexico Gulf Region Reporter (MGRR). You'll find it at the bottom of page one, where she refers to the "messy love life" of PRI candidate Enrique Peña Nieto. Now I understand why my recent post on the Ken Doll candidate (Peña Nieto Bares All) shot to the top of the most popular column. Hundreds of Forbes readers have dropped by to check out that post (and many others as well). From the content of Caroline's article it looks like she has been following MGRR rather closely, especially my political stories, and most especially those dealing with the always interesting and colorful PRI nominee.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

U.S. embargo of Cuba is 50 years old today

News Analysis - Nothing to celebrate on this Golden Anniversary, either in Washington or Havana

The Cold War economic embargo of the island nation which is but 100 miles off the Florida keys was imposed by president John F. Kennedy on this date five decades ago. Measured by the goal of removing the Castro regime, its declared purpose, the embargo has been a miserable failure and an example of disastrous foreign policy. Fidel and Raul Castro still control Cuba, and they've outlasted 10 successive American presidents - 11 counting Barack Obama.

Cuba calculates that the embargo has cost the island nation (adjusting for inflation and currency changes) over $1 trillion USD since 1962. But the embargo has taken its economic toll on the United States, too. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce said in a 2009 report - harshly critical of the embargo on purely pragmatic grounds - that maintaining it strips America's economy of $1.2 billion per year in lost sales and exports. Last fall, for the 20th consecutive year, the United Nations called upon the United States to abandon the embargo immediately - by a vote of 186-2.

Mexicans prepare to testify in Malaysian drug case, facing death penalty

Enfrentan tres mexicanos en malasia cargos que llevan pena de muerte; serán juzgados esta semana y tienen derecho de declararse

Kuala Lumpur -- Three Mexican men facing the death penalty in a Malyasian criminal court will finally get the chance to tell their side of the story this week. But if the court rejects their testimony, they'll be one step closer to the gallows.

Mexico's Caribbean Riviera Maya in the hands of drug cartels and extortionists

Quintana Roo businessmen and citizens call for Mexican army to replace local police

*Updates below*
In recent months I've written about the deteriorating security situation on Mexico's Caribbean coast, the famed Rivera Maya. The area consists of such well-known resort communities as Cancún, Playa del Carmen, Isla de Mujeres and others, all of which are in Quintana Roo state, just east of Yucatán.

In October 2011 I posted a brief report entitled Los Zetas Taking over Rivera Maya. Readers have devoured that story. It probably opened the eyes of many who had no idea that this lush region on Mexico's southeast coast is quietly being taken over by the same elements which have wreaked havoc in other parts of Mexico, including the prime west coast resort of Acapulco.

Monday, February 6, 2012

López Obrador repeats promise to pull Mexican military forces from drug war

News analysis - a very bad idea, which fortunately will go absolutely nowhere

Democratic Revolution Party (PRD) candidate Andrés Manuel López Obrador today repeated a promise he made last fall. If elected president, he'll remove Mexico's armed forces entirely from the 62 month old drug war launched by president Felipe Calderón in December 2006. It's a repeat of what López Obrador first trial-ballooned in November 2011 ( The PRD nominee says the military will be "returned to their quarters" within six months after he takes office.

Although the announcement is nothing new, it places López Obrador in sharp contrast to PAN candidate Josefina Vázquez Mota, who handily won her party's nomination last night (Feb. 5). Vázquez Mota has repeatedly emphasized that she'll stay the course and keep the army in the fight until local security forces -- including hundreds of thousands of municipal officers -- are ready to resume community policing duties, particularly in those areas which are cartel enclaves.

This issue, about which I have written many times, is an absolute no-brainer. López Obrador -- whom I respect -- is dead wrong on this ridiculous proposal. Pulling military forces from the drug war at this point would be an invitation to disaster. The hyperbolic "failed-state" and "civil war" theorizing in which some uninformed commentators love to engage when discussing Mexico's brutal struggle against the drug cartels might actually take on a degree of credibility were the country's military pulled from the hunt for narcos.

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Josefina and Enrique

Opinion - Win or lose, Vázquez Mota will teach "Mexico's Great Hope" a few things

Adlai Ewing Stevenson II (1900-1965) was a rare U.S. politician of another era. I'll venture that most Americans under 60 have never heard of him, which is unfortunate. Stevenson was a highly capable leader of the Democratic Party who often carried the torch for liberal causes, a man of keen intellect, an excellent orator and a person of quiet dignity whose honor was unimpeachable. Few modern politicians -- in the United States or Mexico --remotely resemble Adlai Stevenson.

Stevenson was the 31st governor of Illinois. He was also twice the Democratic nominee for president, in 1952 and 1956. He lost both times to the Republican candidate, Dwight D. Eisenhower. Stevenson can be forgiven for losing. It was all but impossible to beat a retired U.S. Army general who had just saved the Western world from Adolf Hitler.

Right after his second heart-breaking defeat, Stevenson was asked how he felt: His reply: "Well, I feel like the little boy who got up in the middle of the night to go to the bathroom, and in the darkness he stubbed his toe against the bedpost. He was too old to cry, but it hurt too much to laugh."

Enrique Peña Nieto should remember those words. He may find they describe his own emotions come Sunday, July 1.

Josefina Vázquez Mota sweeps PAN primary with convincing 55% win

PANista will be first female presidential candidate in Mexico's history; calls PRI and Enrique Peña Nieto "authoritarian, corrupt" and a "great threat to Mexico"

Josefina Vázquez Mota made history this evening by capturing her party's nomination to become the first woman presidential candidate of a major party in Mexico's 202 years of statehood. With 90% of the internal ballots counted, Vázquez Mota is handily winning 55% of the votes cast by PAN party regulars.

The big surprise tonight is the abrupt reversal of position by her two male opponents. Ernesto Cordero, who just days ago was all but out of the race with only 10% support according to recent polls, leaped ahead in the final week of the primary campaign and has captured 38% of the vote. Santiago Creel, who had enjoyed solid 20-25% support based upon those same polls, has ended up far back in third place with just over 6% of the vote. About 547,000 PAN party members participated in the primary selection process.