James (Jim) Creechan

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  • Ayotzinapa, Tlatlaya, Polytechnico, Neoliberalismo and Narcotrafic

    President Enrique Peña Nieto’s dreams for Mexico have officially become a horrible nightmare. His shared “family advisor” Grupo Atlacomulco’s vision of creating a modern neo-liberal Mexico slithered into a vortex of violence and wide-spread protest a few short weeks after a global tour boasting of major legislative reforms and open invitations to trust Mexico for safe investment. Such was Peña Nieto’s hubris that he even offered to Mexican troops for deployments as global peacekeepers during his stop at the UN.
    In retrospect, there were signs of a bubbling discontent and discomfort in Mexico, but those hot spots had been contained using a three-pronged broad strategy relying on 1) obfuscation, silence and disinformation —tardy release of statistics about violence accompanied by non-compliance to requests for information, 2) a well-orchestrated public relations campaign to convince the world that things had changed for the better, and 3) a security policy focused on taking down “well-known” capos and a strategy that promoted the fragmentation of large criminal organizations into smaller “cartelitos”.
    But by the end of September, three seemingly unrelated crises converged to unleash holy hell within Mexico and direct the wrath of ordinary Mexicans AND also the outside world against Enrique Peña Nieto’s vision.
    The first blow came when reports and photographs circulated by Associated Press and Esquire Magazine (Mexico edition) demonstrated irrefutable evidence that a squadron of the Mexican army had massacred 22 young people in Tlatalaya near Ecatepec, Mexico State. The reports were widely circulated in traditional media and even further abroad on the internet; they documented a cold-blooded execution that had been staged over a two hour period to make it appear to be a justifiable a fire-fight with narcotraffickers.
    The second blow to the administration emerged when student protests at Mexico’s Polytecnico University (IPN) showed signs of exploding into something more than commemorative marches. Student leaders had already been planning to march on the 46th anniversary of the massacre of a previous generation of students at Tlatelolco on October 2. Previous marches were peaceful and uneventful, but there were concerns that 2014 version might escalate into more disruptive protests after university administrators imposed changes on the IPN’s curriculum and changed graduation requirements. Student leaders (and professors) argued that the modifications had been imposed as part of the neo-liberal vision of the administration handed down directly from Los Pinos. The EPN administration became so concerned that Interior Secretary Miguel Angel Osorio Chong took the nearly unprecedented step of agreeing to negotiate directly with student leaders.
    The third crisis, and the most incendiary, was the execution of 6 young men in Iguala, Guerrero on September 26, followed immediately by the mysterious disappearance of 43 student teachers from a teacher college in Ayotzinapa. On the 26th municipal police in Iguala fired shots and killed 3 students, 2 footballers and another person when they blasted a white mini-van. The police claimed that the occupants had stolen the van. One of the murdered was left laying face-up in the street, and his body had been inhumanely desecrated— skin peeled away from the head and eyes gouged out.
    In the early morning, at least 50 students marched in protest, and mysteriously vanished. Video seems to indicate that white-unmarked vehicles were in the area and pulled away with young men thrown into the cargo area. Some missing students reappeared in the next few days and reported that that their companions had been forced by local police to march up footpaths into the hills: they hunted us like dogs said one (http://www.proceso.com.mx/?p=384120 “Nos cazaron como perros”, dice un estudiante que logró escapar de sus captores). In the face of an immediate barrage of national and international report, the Federal Procurador Jesus Murillo Karam deplyed his newly established Mexican police force (La Gendarmarie) and he invited external Argentinian forensics investigators to come to the area as investigators.
    Four hillside gravesites (las fosas) were discovered almost immediately, and 17 bodies recovered from one. Initial reports indicated that victims had been shot in the back of the head, thrown into a hole filled with sticks, and set on fire with diesel fuel. An additional 11 bodies were located in the other 3 graves, and all 28 were sent off to Mexico City for forensic testing. Since the beginning of October, there have been near-daily reports of new gravesites and bodies – but none of the bodies have been confirmed as the bodies of the missing 43 normalistas. The fact that they are not the missing students is little consolation – they are bodies of people who came to a terrible and anonymous end in an area of Mexico that shows little sign that any government is in control.
    The mayor of Iguala (José Luis Abarca Velasquez) and his wife fled and a massive Interpol manhunt is underway. Twenty-two police from Iguala and another 8 from a neighbouring town have been arrested and charged with the murder of the 6 young men on Sept. 26th and for their complicity in the disappearance of the 43 others on the 27th. At least one of the police led investigators to the gravesites in the hills, and others have claimed that they acted on orders of the mayor. Many of the arrested — including the police— are accused of being “halcones” (spies) and “sicarios” (hitmen) on the payroll (nomina) of “los Guerreros Unidos” – a gang working directly with Beltran-Leyva cartel to maintain dominance of an important drug plaza. The governor of the State, Angel Aguirre, is also linked to both the Beltran-Leyvas and to the Guerreros Unidos, and many believe that he was directly involved in arranging the disappearance of the 43 normalistas.
    There have been protests at most Mexican University and Preparatory Schools, and public marches in at least 50 Mexican cities and 7 different States. The world has taken notice and there is an unprecedented level of news coverage of these horrific events and of the protest marches on the part of major news bureaus. The European Union has threatened to back out of the trade talks that Enrique Peña Nieto hoped to kick-started via his European trip. (http://mexicovoices.blogspot.ca/2014/10/iguala-guerrero-mexico-european.html )
    Instead of facing the murder of students and the disappearance of 43 others head on, the Mexican government has simply resorted to its traditiona 3 pronged fall-back strategy – obfuscate, initiate public-relations blitzes, and make show-boat arrests. Enrique Peña Nieto has said nothing substantive about the 43 missing normalistas, and his silence is literally deafening (Las Masacres y Silencio por Jorge Ramos Avalos http://www.reforma.com/aplicaciones/editoriales/editorial.aspx?id=38467 ) . In the aftermath of negative world press, the secretary of the exterior organized a campaign to minimize the impact of negative news reports (“Descrédito mundial… y contraofensiva diplomática” http://hemeroteca.proceso.com.mx/?page_id=278958&a51dc26366d99bb5fa29cea4747565fec=384496) .
    Even the “tried-and-true” strategy that saw the “capture two big fish capos ” failed to quell the dissent and growing unrest and give anyone confidence that the government was on top of the problem. It began when the government announced the capture of Hector Beltran Leyva — the reputed leader of the notorious Beltran Leyva Cartel— in the colonial city of San Miguel Allende. But, most people picked up on who was arrested with him: Hector was eating with Germán Goyeneche Ortega who was identified as his chief financial officer. The problem for the Peña Nieto government is that Germán Goyeneche is not only the scion of an elite family in Aguascalientes, he was also an active leader of the Partido Verde — closely linked as a proxy-stand in for the PRI). The arrest was problematic for the Government because it brought down one of their own and served to emphasize the public impression that the wealthy and the elite are involved in the drug trade.
    Perhaps to counteract the bad press linking Mexico’s elite with narcos, the PGR followed up with the capture of a long retired capo -Vicente “El Viceroy” Beltran Leyva in another bloodless take-down in Torreon. Ten years earlier, this might have been really big news, but everyone-in-the know realizes that El Viceroy’s days as head of the Juarez Cartel are long past and the cartel has been in the hands of others for at least 5 years (Controlan el Cártel los hijos de Amado Carrillo http://diario.mx/El_Paso/2014-10-11_3b8e1540/controlan-el-cartel-los-hijos-de-amado-carrillo&ref=1/ ).
    The 3 tried and true strategies of control favoured by the PRI and Enrique Peña Nieto were unable to quell the growing unrest, and it in fact their botched attempts to keep it under control are helping it grow larger.
    Can the government wait out this protest? Are the protests and palpable anger a sign of a profound change? At this point, it is too early to speak of such long term outcomes – especially since there is no effective political opposition to the PRI at any level within Mexico. The PRD is completely discredited by internal infighting and the MORENA vs. los Chucho grilla, and PAN has no credibility in the aftermath of Felipe Calderón’s disastrous attempt to control the cartels. At the moment, the protest does appear to be leaderless – with perhaps the exception of the Mexican Press and the internet, and the moral leadership of social activist Padre Solalinde or the moral leadership of poet Javier Sicilia.
    But it is very clear that the traditional PRI strategies of control are not going to be enough to stop these protests in their tracks. The statistics may not be released, but the daily discovery of graves and bodies reminds everyone of the atrocities, the murders and the disappeared. The silence of the government, the absence of a clear strategy, the inability to find a missing mayor, the inability to locate 43 bodies or missing students, the growing proof that it is the “controllers” who are doing the killing, and the solidarity that comes from knowing that protests are widespread are all signs that this will not go away soon. And as a result, many people in Mexico are holding their breath that the PRI will not resort to the 1968 strategy of Diaz Ordaz and Echeverria and the army generals at Tlatelolco.
    In fact, an incident last week came very close to the same tragic outcome in Iguala and Tlatlelolco on the Autopista de Sol that connects Mexico City to Acapulco. State police mistakenly fired on a van clearly marked as a Tec de Monterrey vehicle and wounded a student passenger— a German national. (Policías ministeriales balean a alumnos del Tec en Guerrero Un joven de origen alemán resultó herido después de que los uniformados atacaron a los estudiantes ya que los confundieran con delincuentes. http://www.milenio.com/estados/atacan_policias_estudiantes_Tec-herido_estudiante_aleman_Tec-Kim_Fritz_Fran_Kaiser_0_389961072.html )
    Hugo Aboites, rector at UACM, writes in La Jornada that the tragic events and public uprisings have become intimately connected and are unified in an invisible way. He also writes that the protests are a sign that the public is weary of the inaction, sick of the the impunity, and disgusted with the ready dismissal of the public by its own government. But he also warns us that even though the level of anger is great, and growing, it may not make one iota of difference. (http://www.jornada.unam.mx/2014/10/18/opinion/019a1pol De Ayotzinapa al Politécnico)
    “Ayotzinapa está haciendo converger, en una corriente cada vez más poderosa, cuestiones que son parte de la material histórica fundamental de la que está hecho este país. Esa modesta normal rural, entre cerros secos y agrestes, es hoy, al mismo tiempo, muchas cosas. Ayotzinapa es parte innegable del legado campesino e indígena con siglos de explotación y marginación. Es parte extrema del desamparo que vive la mayoría de los jóvenes mexicanos, circundados, además, de hostiles políticas sociales: poca escuela, menos empleo y un ambiente de persecución y agresión desbordada. Que en medio de la indignación nacional por la represión en Iguala un destacamento de la policía estatal de Guerrero decida ametrallar un vehículo con estudiantes del Tec de Monterrey en plena Autopista del Sol (y herir a uno de ellos) habla de que a pesar de su intensidad las protestas no han logrado cambiar un milímetro las intolerables prácticas policiacas.”
    “Ayotzinapa is bringing together —in a wave that is growing stronger by the day — questions that are linked to Mexico’s fundamental material history and which have made our country. This modest rural teacher college, located between dry hills and rough terrain, is today at the same time many things. Ayotzinapa is an indelible part of our campesino and indigenous past and has experienced centuries of exploitation and marginalization. It is part of the extreme helplessness experienced by the majority of young Mexicanos, surrounded by hostile social politics: little schooling, less work and an environment of persecution and unbounded aggression. And who could imagine that even in the middle of this widespread national indignation about the repression in Iguala there would be a local squadron of Guerrero State police who could think that they could shoot (machine-gun) another car with students from Tec de Monterrey right on the major Autopista del Sol (and wound one of them) is evidence that nothing will change one iota in spite of the extent and weight of such intolerable police practices” (translation by JC).
    The level of protest is growing, but so is the intransigence of those in charge – and it is they who have the weapons and the legal authority to react with impunity. This only points to a dangerous tension and frightening possibilities.
    October 18, 2014

    Jorge Carrillo Olea, a retired General and former Governor of the state of Morelos, published a highly appreciative review of John Bailey’s book in La Jornada (May 14, 2014).  You can access this review here.

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