Friday, November 30, 2012

Enrique Peña Nieto takes the helm in Mexico City

Guadalajara -
Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) leader Enrique Peña Nieto is the president of the United Mexican States at this hour - at least insofar as the military chain of command is concerned.

The 46 year old businessman and attorney functionally became the nation's new chief executive when former president Felipe Calderón officially yielded power to him at 11:55 p.m. Six years ago, on Dec. 1, 2006, Calderón's predecessor, Vicente Fox, extended a similar courtesy to his successor just after midnight.

No reporters or photographers were allowed to witness or record the private part of the ceremony, but a brief military protocol was covered by television cameras outside the National Palace in the capital.

Effective immediately, Peña Nieto is commander-in-chief of the country's fuerza publica - all military forces.

Former Yucatán Governor Ivonne Ortega Pacheco will collect her reward from PRI - for gross mismanagement

MGRR Opinion -
PRI has early Christmas gift for spendthrift ex-gov with a high school diploma

Two who skipped Introduction to Accounting and Business Administration 101. Ex-Yucatán governor Ivonne Ortega Pacheco (r) and former Mérida mayor Angelica Arajuo (l), both loyal water carriers for PRI, in an October 2011 photo. They didn't understand a thing about spreadsheets, but they were real pros at spending money in a desperately poor state. Colombian singer Shakira collected $1.75 million USD for a 100 minute "free concert" in July 2011, thanks to the Institutional Revolutionary Party's "Give-'Em-Bread-and-Circuses" state re-election strategy. And it worked, too.

*Updates below*
Mérida, Yucatán -
Enrique Peña Nieto is having a soothing cup of tea at this hour - or who knows, maybe a shot of El Patron straight up, with a bit of lime juice and salt on his wrist to cut the sting. He'll be president of Mexico in less than four hours.

MILENIO claims nearly 59,000 died on Calderón's watch; Peña Nieto promises to cut murders, kidnappings by 50%

How many have died in Mexico's six year drug war? An accurate count may never be delivered on the politically charged question, but network says it was over 800 persons per month

*Updated Apr. 8, 2013*
Guadalajara -
On his last full day in office, Mexico's Milenio news network today reported that the drug war launched by president Felipe Calderón six years ago has claimed almost 59,000 victims.

There was no immediate response by the outgoing National Action Party (PAN) administration. The presidency will change hands at 12:01 a.m. Saturday, when Calderón yields power to president-elect Enrique Peña Nieto in a brief ceremony at Los Pinos, Mexico's equivalent of the White House.

Commando squad attacks Guadalajara suburban police unit, leaving two officers dead in early morning ambush

As November ends, police in Jalisco state remain in the bull's-eye - but who's targeting them?

Guadalajara -
Two police officers were killed early today when they were attacked in the suburban community of Tlajomulco de Zúñiga. The municipality is southwest of metro limits, about half way to Lake Chapala.

One officer was dead at the scene, and the other died a short time later after being carried to a local clinic. Two women and four men have been taken into custody for questioning. They were arrested in a bar which faces the crime scene, where they allegedly fled after the shooting.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Mexican beauty queen dies with AK-47 at her side

Laid to rest with symbols of her brief life's accomplishments

Guadalajara -
The reigning Miss Sinaloa was buried by her family and friends last Sunday, dressed as a beauty queen with scepter in hand.

She was killed two days before in a shootout between armed gunmen and Mexican security forces. Investigators say an AK-47 assault rifle - commonly known here as the cuernos de chivo, or goat horns, due to its magazine shape - was found within inches of her body. They suspect she may have participated in the fatal firefight.

María Susana Flores, seen here in a Facebook image, was quietly laid to rest in Guamúchil, Mexico, a modest city of about 70,000 people 100 kilometers north of Culiacán, the capital of Sinaloa state on the country's Pacific coast. Culiacán and its environs have been a hotbed of drug trafficking, organized crime and narco violence since the drug war was launched in December 2006.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Mexico prepares to change the guard; Enrique Peña Nieto meets with Obama, U.S. officials on eve of swearing in

President-elect and his wife celebrate their second anniversary during quick trip to U.S. and Canada

*Updates below*
Guadalajara -
Mexico's president-elect Enrique Peña Nieto arrived in Washington last night, where he'll meet briefly today with president Barack Obama.

Peña Nieto was accompanied by his wife, actress Angélica Rivera, and senior advisers who serve on his transition team. The group will meet for about 35 minutes this morning with U.S. officials, followed by a private 15 minute chat between the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) leader and Obama. Peña Nieto takes office this Saturday, Dec. 1. Today is his and Rivera's second wedding anniversary.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Mexican public security survey gives poor marks to Calderón, and reveals little confidence in Peña Nieto

But Mexicans still heavily favor use of military forces in drug war

*Updates below*
Guadalajara -
A national survey of Mexican attitudes on public security has generated poor scores for both the country's outgoing and incoming presidents. The survey was conducted Oct. 12-21 by the respected polling firm Consulta Mitofsky, and the results were published today.

The key finding was that 55% of Mexicans believe the Calderón administration's drug war, which was launched six years ago on Dec. 11, 2006, has not been successful. Almost 32% said the planned strategy of president-elect Enrique Peña Nieto, who takes office Dec. 1, won't produce any better results. Although many political commentators claimed during last spring's campaign that Peña Nieto would embrace a whole new approach to fighting the drug cartels and organized crime in Mexico, the victorious candidate has made it clear that his drug war plans will be virtually a carbon copy of Felipe Calderón's, with continued emphasis on the use of troops and federal police forces.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

U.S. State Dept. renews general travel alert for Mexico

113 Americans murdered in Mexico in 2011, and 32 in the first six months of 2012, says Washington

Guadalajara - The U.S. Department of State today renewed a travel warning for many regions of Mexico which it originally issued Feb. 8, 2012. The previous warning is here.

Today's alert by the Bureau of Consular Affairs noted the following:

"U.S. travelers should be aware that the Mexican government has been engaged in an extensive effort to counter TCOs (Transnational Criminal Organizations) which engage in narcotics trafficking and other unlawful activities throughout Mexico. The TCOs themselves are engaged in a violent struggle to control drug trafficking routes and other criminal activity. As a result, crime and violence are serious problems throughout the country and can occur anywhere. U.S. citizens have fallen victim to TCO activity, including homicide, gun battles, kidnapping, carjacking and highway robbery.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano behind murder of ICE agent in Mexico - so woman tells federal judge in Washington

"Dear judge: God and Jesus Christ have asked me to write to you"

Guadalajara -
Trial court judges have to wade through some very curious paperwork at times, but a document which the Honorable Royce Lamberth, Chief Judge in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, received last week was off the charts.

Lamberth is presiding over the trial of Julián Zapata Espinoza, who was arrested almost two years ago in connection with a brutal Feb. 15, 2011 machine gun attack against two American ICE (U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement) agents while they were traveling down a highway near Monterrey, in route to Mexico City. One of the agents died at the scene, and the other was gravely wounded. MGRR has published multiple stories on the case.

Friday, November 16, 2012

Alan Gross sues U.S. government and "subversion" contractor, claiming he was deceived about Cuba gig

It was all about greed and a lucrative contract, alleges beleaguered high tech smuggler from prison

*Updated May 30, 2013*
Guadalajara -
He's serving a 15 year prison sentence for smuggling contraband equipment into Cuba, but from his jail cell in Havana imprisoned contractor Alan Gross today filed suit against the U.S. government and a private contractor which hired Gross to carry out subversive activities on behalf of the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID).

A copy of Gross' federal complaint, filed in the U.S, District Court for the District of Columbia, is below.

According to articles published by two Miami newspapers last February, Gross, a former Maryland resident, was a U.S. subcontractor knowingly involved in activities prohibited by Cuban law when he was arrested in Havana in Dec. 2009. Accused of national security offenses, Gross told a Cuban criminal court in March 2011 that he was nothing more than a "humanitarian aid" worker. The articles were based upon a lengthy Associated Press investigation of his multiple trips to the island, and progress reports he filed with the contractor (Gross knew USAID mission was illegal).

Gross economic disparity still a hard fact of Mexican life

National Council on Public Policy and Social Development says road ahead will be arduous for EPN

On a lonely corner in downtown Mérida, a food vendor hopes to lure a few pesos from the last vagrant customer. The Mexican economy is still heavily "informal," and consists of millions whose sole option is street retailing. The profit on each transaction is just enough to eke out a minimal living, but the self-employed get no prestaciones laborales - benefits to which the educated and skilled are entitled. Forty-six percent of Mexicans - about 52 million people - experience some degree of chronic poverty.

*Updated June 11, 2013*
Guadalajara -
President-elect Enrique Peña Nieto, who will be sworn into office two weeks from tomorrow, will take the reins of a nation scarred by profound social and economic inequality, where the well-to-do earn, on average, 25 times that of the country's poorest.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Another American resident murdered in Mérida

In a déjà vu of the Robert Lee Wickard homicide, authorities theorize that the latest crime is also "connected to persons in the gay community"

*Updated content*
Mérida, Yucatán
For the second time in six months, a member of the city’s American expatriate community has died in a violent assault. Read the MGRR/Yucatan Times story here.

Nov. 14 - Two of Mérida's news services carried their first reports on the case today, three days after the murder occurred. The following is a summary of key points:

The crime displayed tintes pasionales - a Spanish euphemism for a violent event with sexual or romantic overtones. A quote from one report: "Las primeras líneas de investigación señalan que el crimen está relacionado con gente de la comunidad gay, aunque también se investiga el robo como posible móvil de este asesinato." Translation: "The preliminary investigation indicates the crime was connected to persons in the gay community, although robbery is also being investigated as a possible motive for the murder."

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Seven of 10 Mexican households report food shortages

Guadalajara -
Mexicans are hungry - literally.

In the just-published results of a federal government survey, 70% of households reported less food available in 2012 than in 2011. One of ten homes acknowledged that in the previous 24 hours, a family member went without anything to eat. In rural areas, where poverty is chronic, the latter number rose to 13%.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Mexico's incoming PRI government pays little attention to marijuana legalization efforts in U.S.

MGRR News Analysis -
U.S. ambiguity does nothing to instill confidence in its exhausted drug war partner

Guadalajara -
No public official in Mexico really believes the United State is going to legalize marijuana anytime soon, even the possession of very small quantities for personal use. So they're paying scant attention here to this week's initiatives in Colorado and Washington states which purport to do exactly that. They're paying even less attention to all the mass media ballyhoo north of the border, erroneously suggesting that weed is now lawful in both of those jurisdictions. Plainly it's not, and there is no reason to believe the rules are going to change in the short term (CNN's, and others', very misleading analyses notwithstanding).

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Mexico's presidential campaign 2018 already underway

News Analysis - No grass will grow under the Left during new PRI administration
Mérida, July 7 - "Enrique, you're not my president!"

Guadalajara -
Mexican presidents serve a term of 72 months, and are not eligible for re-election. An argument can be made that the system is superior to one of consecutive four year terms. Once elected, presidents here can apply themselves fully to the tasks at hand, without worrying about the next big contest just 48 months away (actually, 30-36 months away when the horrific pressures of endless political fund raising are taken into consideration). Moreover, a newly elected Mexican president can do as he likes without fear of alienating special interest groups. He'll never appear on the ballot again, and he won't have to defend his record to anyone. Eight years may be too much time for anyone to lead a modern nation, and four is not enough. A single six year term strikes a balance. The U.S. should consider it.